GAF 2012: Keywest in Monroes on July 28th

Live music has always been a key part of the Galway Arts Festival line up and this year is no different. Next Saturday, 28th July, Dublin band Keywest play Monroes. After forming in a shed in Artane just a few years ago, the lads have completed the critically acclaimed album The Message, played on national TV and radio and on stage for the likes of Oxegen and Arthur’s Day, plus they were nominated for a 2010 Meteor Award for Most Promising Act. Fans of rocky pop will not want to miss this one nor should anyone who likes good live tunes with their pint. We’ve got a few clips of the Keywest lads in action below and don’t forget to check out for more info.


GAF’s First Thought Talks: Mary Robinson in conversation with Fintan O’Toole

First Thought Talks is a fresh addition to GAF, bringing great minds to Galway for a series of talks, lectures and events to stimulate and explore the nature of creativity. The full line up is available from but for now, we’re going to focus on what will be a meeting of two great Irish minds: former Irish president Mary Robinson in conversation with the assistant editor of the Irish Times,  Fintan O’Toole, which takes place on Friday July 27th at 6.30pm in the Town Hall Theatre.

Few can truly claim to have changed the political landscape of their country but Mary Robinson did just that when in 1990, after a career as a barrister, academic and campaigner, she became Ireland’s first female president, changing forever the role of women in Irish public life. In 1997, she became the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position she held until 2002. Since then, Mary has continued to campaign for human rights and environmental protection, chairing the International Institute for Environment and Development and establishing the Council of Women World Leaders. A visionary, an advocate and a truly wise, powerful woman, Mary Robinson has earned herself a place in Irish and international history.

Fintan O’Toole has been named among the top 300 British intellectuals, although he is very much Irish, having been born in Dublin and now working as the assistant editor of the Irish Times. In recent years, he has been vocal in his condemnation of Ireland’s political system, reform for which he outlines in his 2010 bestseller, A New Republic. Fintan has written extensively on history, politics and the arts. His conversation with Mary is sure to be riveting and one of the major highlights of GAF 2012.  One not to be missed.

Think Differently: The Trailblazery presents Trailblaze at Galway Arts Festival

Trailblaze is a unique event, taking place at NUI Galway’s Aula Maxima at 8.30pm on Saturday July 28th . If you’ve ever longed to make your corner of the world that little bit better but had no idea of how to begin, then Trailblaze might just provide the inspiration and guidance you’re looking for.  Showcasing ideas, action and creativity, Trailblaze brings together a group of social pioneers including activists, musicians, educators, social entrepreneurs, provocateurs and artists from all kinds of backgrounds and persuasions. For a flavour of what to expect, take a look at the profiles below:

Trailblazer's Dylan HaskinsDublin born Dylan Haskins may only be twenty five but he has packed a great deal into his young years. Dylan unsuccessfully ran for office in the 2011 general election but his campaign attracted huge national and international attention. It wasn’t the first time Dylan had turned heads. A few years earlier, his former home became known as the Hideaway House, a venue for intimate music gigs and Dylan’s label Hideaway Records, which released the debut album of the band Heathers, whose single I Remember When has since become synonymous with Bord Failte advertising. In the past, Dylan has worked closely with the Project Arts Centre to develop a number of exhibitions and debates. He also finds the time to broadcast on the likes of RTÉ’s Arena.

Colm O’Gorman is the executive director of Amnesty International, Ireland. A survivor of clerical sex abuse, Colm spoke out about his experiences and went on to form the charity One in Four, which supports women and men who have been sexually abused or who have been the victims of sexual violence. Colm continues to campaign tirelessly for the rights of those abused by the Catholic Church and for the protection of human rights internationally. He has also served in the Seanad.

Sunny Jacobs is an incredible woman. After spending seventeen years in jail for a crime she did not commit, she found the strength to forgive and to forge a new life for herself in the West of Ireland. In 1976, Sunny and her partner were wrongly implicated in the murder of two policemen. Like Sunny, Jesse Tafero was sentenced to death. He subsequently died in a horrific botched execution. By the time Sunny’s conviction was overturned, her little children were fully fledged adults who barely remembered her while her parents had died in a tragic airplane crash. Instead of riling against the cruelty of those who robbed her of so many precious years, Sunny forgave those who wrongly imprisoned her, wrote a book about her experiences and began campaigning to eradicate the death penalty, a cause she continues to fight for to this day.

Dylan, Colm and Sunny are just a few of the inspiring people featured in the Trailblazery’s Trailblaze, which is sure to be a very special event. For more info on it and everything GAF related, check out

She’s the One: Lisa Hannigan Plays the Big Top

Lisa Hannigan plays the festival Big Top on Thursday, July 26th with James Vincent McMorrow and Elaine Mai.

Lisa Hannigan has come a long way from the shy, beguiling girl who lent her stunning vocals to the Damien Rice’s juggernaut album, O. Lisa took her time before stepping into the spotlight solo, quietly honing her craft away from the media glare. A few years later, her caution paid off in spectacular fashion. Her debut album Sea Sew was a critical and commercial success, turning Lisa into one of the biggest artists in Irish contemporary music. Similar success followed with her second album Passenger, which spawned the feel good hits What’ll I Do? and Knots.

Lisa has been nominated for the Choice and Mercury music awards and has played to rapturous reviews everywhere from the UK to the US. We are very proud of her. Lisa recently supported the Frames in LA and will be touring with former Pulp member Richard Hawley, who she memorably sang with during RTÉ’s Other Voices series, covering Hushabye Mountain to spine-tingling effect. Lisa is known for playing intimate gigs but as her fan base has grown, so has her confidence as a performer so seeing her take to Big Top stage after her incredible successes to date will be something very, very special indeed.

Lisa will play the Big Top on July 26th, along with James Vincent McMorrow, another Irish musician creating major waves plus up-and-coming Galway girl Elaine Mai, who is hotly tipped for great things. This is a powerhouse of a line-up and tickets, unsurprising, are selling fast. To get yours and for more info on all things GAF related, check out right now.

We’ll leave you with a few of Lisa’s best bits, of which there are so many it made choosing three almost impossible…

Food for Thought : GAF 2012’s Trad Lunchtimes

Making time to treat yourself and get away from it all is difficult in this twenty four seven world of ours, especially during the working day when most people eat lunch at their desk if they eat it at all. Isn’t it about time you stepped away from the computer and made the most of your down time? We certainly think so.

Here at GAF 2012, we have an excellent way for you to unwind during your lunch hour: treat yourself to a Trad Lunchtime in Monroes (they have incredible pizza there too, so if you’re feeling peckish…). It’s scientific fact that good tunes help us relax and improve our mood, so you’ll be skipping rather than trudging back to work. For those of you lucky enough to be heading off to sample more of the amazing GAF 2012 lineup after your lunchtime session, we say ‘enjoy!’

Here’s what you can expect from Trad Lunchtimes this week:

Thursday 26th July, David Munnelly and John Kilkenny    

Mayo natives David and John duel it out on the box and the fiddle, trad style. David has travelled all over the world playing music, most notably with the Chieftains. He and John are sure to add a musical highlight to your Thursday afternoon, so order a coffee and soak up the tunes.

Friday 27th July, Verena Cummins, Julie Langan and Padraig O’Brian

Fiddle, accordion and guitar combine to make a special lunchtime gig. Verena is well known for her skilful accordion playing. She and Julie (on the fiddle) have recorded together in the past, which makes this one time reunion all the more exciting. Padraig joins Verena and Julie on guitar.

Saturday 28th July, Tara Connaghan and Derek McGinley

Donegal’s finest Tara and Derek bring the music of their beautiful native county to life. Both are accomplished fiddle players, so you can order a side of great tunes to go with your sandwiches and tea. Perfect.

For more info on Trad Lunchtimes and for ticket purchases, check out to avoid disappointment.

Where to Begin? Highlights of GAF 2012’s Week One…

Writing in the Irish Times on Thursday, Laurence Mackin said of this year’s festival offerings, ‘An embarrassment of riches, but what else did you expect from the GAF?’ What else indeed. This year’s incredible line up keeps rolling on – check lest you miss out – but here on the GAF blog, we’re going to take a moment to appreciate what has been a magnificent opening week for GAF 2012. In no particular order, here are a few of the many highlights…


Oh, what a night it was in the Big Top on Thursday, when Nile Rodgers and Chic turned the Galway into a 21st century Studio 54. Rapturous cries of recognition from the crowd filled the starry night air as the hits kept coming from David Bowie to Madonna to glorious days of disco. You had to ask yourself, ‘is there anything Nile Rodgers hasn’t produced/written?!’ Even the sun showed up for proceedings. Before the gig, the legendary Mr. Rodgers tweeted to say, ‘Galway is FANTASTIC.’ It’s fair to surmise that the admiration was very much reciprocated, with many revelers declaring Chic to have been the gig of the year.

John Mahoney and Rondi Reed give an acting tour de force in the deeply moving The Outgoing Tide.

The Outgoing Tide

Bruce Graham’s The Outgoing Tide opened in the Town Hall Theatre to rave reviews and standing ovations. Starring John Mahoney and Rondi Reed, stage veterans and actors of immense talent and skill, the play moved audiences to tears. If art is an expression of what it is to be human, then The Outgoing Tide invites us to consider what we would want for ourselves and our loved ones as we and they move ever closer to the twilight of our lives. Powerful, deeply affecting stuff.

David Mach’s Precious Light

The crowds thronging the opening of this year’s Absolut Festival Gallery put paid to the notion that ‘most people don’t visit art galleries’. Simply put, when galleries are easily accessible, beautifully constructed and packed with incredible work as the Absolut Festival Gallery is (and will be through out the festival), people will come in their droves. The centerpiece, David Mach’s Precious Light, invites us to look at how the bible has impacted on our every day lives  and also the entire course of human existence. The Irish Times described Precious Light as ‘epic’, which also applies to the experience of seeing it. Not to be missed.

Artistic Director Paul Fahy with artist David Mach, creator of Precious Light at the Absolut Festival Gallery during its transformation from one time furniture shop to world class gallery.

Christy Moore with Declan Sinnott

After Chic, it was going to take something really special to raise the roof off the Big Top. Thankfully, an Irish man of legendary standing took to the stage on Friday night: the one, the only Christy Moore and what ensued had Twitter alight with praise and joyous outpourings. With support from Four Men and a Dog, Christy played a blinder and the crowd gobbled it up. In the words of a showband man, ‘send them home sweating!’ That’s exactly what the man from Clare did. A triumph.

The Great Goat Bubble

Economics can be hard to grasp. Nevertheless, after the financial turmoil of the past few years, more and more people are attempting to wrap their heads around the complexities of the financial markets. The Great Goat Bubble looks to continue that education in economics and reminds us of the dangerous forces at play when we invest everything we have in the pursuit of unlikely riches. Playwright, novelist and one time Galway resident, Julian Gough comes up with a novel device to explain the intricacies of the market: goats, which you can trade, sell and of course, buy far too much of at exaggerated, unsustainable prices. A cautionary tale if there ever was one, packed with wit and insight, The Great Goat Bubble (playing at the Druid Theatre) was a winner with audiences  and critics this week.

What do goats have to do with our economic collapse? All will be revealed in the Great Goat Bubble by Julian Gough.

We could, as Mrs Doyle might say, go on and on and on – but we won’t. Plenty of time to blow our own trumpet before the festival is out. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has enjoyed the festival so far. We hope you continue to do so. For those of you who haven’t managed to sample the delights, there’s only one question to ask: what are you waiting for? GAF 2012 won’t be around forever! Check out and enjoy yourself.

See Things Differently: Visual Art and GAF

Maya Angelou once said, ‘life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will be able to treat life as art.’ All too often, our lives feel like something we endure rather than enjoy but escaping from the humdrum is easier than you think, particularly when Galway Arts Festival is in full swing.

Lynne O’Loughlin and Pete Ray’s Ghost Train

At some point over the next week, why not claim a day for yourself, steal away and wander through the city, taking in this this year’s visual art exhibitions as you go. Feed your mind and your soul for free. Here’s what we recommend:

Start: The Kenny Gallery in Liosbaun Retail Park showcases an exhibition of limited edition prints by Dublin’s Stoney Road Press. Artists featured include Louis le Brocquy, Dorothy Cross and Alice Maher among many others. The Kenny Gallery and Bookshop holds a special place in Galway’s artistic history, making it the perfect starting point.

Next: The Absolut Festival Gallery at the Galway Shopping Centre, where you’ll see David Mach’s brilliant Precious Light, Brian Maguire’s haunting Prison Paintings, Joe Comerford’s Roadside, Lynne O’Loughlin and Pete Fay’s Ghost Train, an affecting trip through post Celtic Tiger Ireland; and also Marina Abramovic and Charles Atlas’s SSS. The gallery was specially created for this year’s festival – it was a former furniture shop – and is quite simply stunning. A visual feast, once you’ve finished dining, go into the shopping centre for a quick refuel at the Gourmet Tart Company and then head  toward NUIG.

Jennifer Cunningham’s Just Add Water

Next: holidays – we love them, especially when it comes to memories of Irish childhood holidays. In the NUIG Art Gallery, Jennifer Cunningham’s Just Add Water looks at the once popular now dilapidated Irish holiday resorts of Galway, Dublin and Sligo’s Coney Island. How times change.

Continue to: just across the road from NUIG is the university hospital, which houses Between Worlds, an exhibition that brings together the work of artists Emmet Kierans, Seán Guinan and Ramon Kassam. Each artist uses paint to examine different realities which exist both in the world around us and within the practice of painting itself. When finished, cross over the Corrib and head in the direction of Dominic Street.

Continue to: Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominic Street where you can enjoy The Performance Collective, a piece that critically engages with how live art is presented in a gallery context through improvisation and collaboration. Afterwards, if you’re feeling peckish and fancy a little bit of something French and fancy, check out Rouge, 38 Dominick Street.

The Performance Collective

Continue to:  beautiful Salthill, where you can take in a walk on the prom and visit the Norman Villa Gallery to view award-winning Mick O’Dea’s work. Mick’s art has been exhibited all over the world and features in many major collections. He is also a sought after portrait artist.

End: after all that walking and art appreciating, you’ve earned yourself a pint in Neachtain’s, so head back toward the city. If you’re feeling up for it, you can also check out The Bureau of ‘We Will Point You in the Right Direction’ in the Dock’s Shed, Middle Pier and if you like your art with a good dash of satire, check out George Grosz’s The Big No at the Galway Museum, which is right beside the fantastic Nimmos, which is always good for grub.

For more info on our visual arts programme and all things festival related, check out:

Giggling at GAF: Gerry Mallon’s Laughter Loft

Secrets can be very hard to keep, especially the good ones. Thankfully, word has filtered out about Gerry Mallon’s Laughter Loft, which takes places every lunchtime throughout the festival in the Ruby Room at the Kings Head. Where else would you get the biggest names in comedy performing in such intimate surroundings at such an early hour? We’d like to think ‘nowhere’ and we might just be right.

Gerry will be introducing the likes of Dave McSavage from RTÉ’s very popular the Savage Eye, Maeve Higgins, Karl Spain and Colm O’Regan ( the guy behind the hilarious Irish Twitter phenomenon known as ‘@irishmammies’ ), plus loads more, yet-to-be-revealed comics. There is a new line-up every day, so for a measly ten euro, you get a bonanza of Irish comedy plus a surprise – and we all know how much we looked forward to our Christmas surprises back in the day.

To avoid disappointment, be sure to get to the Ruby Room in plenty of time as demand for the Laughter Loft is always huge – see what we mean about great secrets always leaking out? If you love it once, why not go again as the line up changes every day. Tickets are available on the door. For more info on this and indeed all the brilliant comedy acts in Galway over the festival, check out

Live at the Róisín Dubh: Fred

When it comes to crafting bright, snappy pop music, Cork band Fred have got it going on as you’ll see on Saturday 21st when they take to the Róisín Dubh stage. If you’ve been near an Irish radio over the past view years, you’ll surely have heard and hummed along to their one of their hits including The Lights, Skyscrapers and Running (all below, for your listening pleasure), taken from their popular 2008 album Go God Go.

In addition to recording (four albums and counting!), Fred have played all over the country from lives sets on TodayFM to the Electric Picnic, Oxegen and Hard Working Class Heroes. They also featured in RTÉ’s the much admired Other Voices series. Critical acclaim for their most recent album Leaving My Empire has been huge, with Hotpress declaring it to be a ‘…new level of brilliance…’ while the Irish Independent described the album as, ‘…sprawling, ambitious and intoxicating…’ Leaving My Empire was recorded with Howard Bilerman, former member of Arcade Fire at his studios in Canada, which is fairly impressive to say the least.

Fans of Fred can look forward to them blowing the roof off the Róisín Dubh this Saturday for what promises to be a great gig. For more info on Fred and for all things festival related, check out

A Moveable Feast: James Vincent McMorrow

The star of Dublin’s James Vincent McMorrow continues to climb and we’re delighted to be welcoming him to this year’s festival Big Top on July 26th. After the critical and commercial success of his debut album Early in the Morning, James has toured the world and played support to the likes of Al Green, Bon Iver and Iron and Wine. Not too shabby for a young fella who used to make his living pushing trolleys around Dublin airport.

James recently featured in the Guardian due to his participation in Bands in Transit, a web series looking at the role of humble transit van in the life of musicians, who use them to traverse the globe. Sure how else could you cart around all that gear? Like other artists featured in the series, including the chart topping Rizzle Kicks and the hotly tipped Ben Howard and Kyla La Grange, James performed in the back of a transit van, which you can watch below for a beautiful rendition of his hit, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree.

Thanks to GAF and the Róisín Dubh, James plays the festival Big Top along with Lisa Hannigan and Elaine Mai on July 26th. Tickets are flying out the door for what will be an incredible evening so to secure yours, check out

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