• Esther Murbach

Galway - City of Festivals


In July, Galway is even more bustling than usual. You walk into the centre towards midday, have a glass of something in front of Nectain’s, and after a couple of hours you’ve bumped into a dozen of your best enemies and worst friends. No need to make appointments, they usually don’t work anyway. Human relations in Galway thrive on spontaneity.

Galway is the most incredible hub I know. No Metropolis, by international standards a only a small settlement perched on the western edge of Europe, with a population of about 80.000. If you walk from Galway straight over the Atlantic, you end up approximately in Boston/USA. Unfortunately, nobody really tries to walk over water these days in order to save the world, especially America, but that’s another story...

Let’s get back to Galway.

When I came into town at the beginning of July 2019, the Food and Craft Fair was celebrated in Salthill which is Galway’s holiday and fun resort to the west of the City. I don’t think I have to explain food and craft. Eat, drink, buy! Anything from homemade organic preserves to different objects of art. Yummy for your stomach and your eyes, not so much for your purse!

After a two day’s rest and a hearty belch, the city plunged into its 31st Film Fleadh (‘Fleah’ is Irish for Festival). Some people rushed with hanging tongues from one flick to another, commuting between Town Hall Theatre, Palás cinema and other venues in order not to miss anything from contemporary Irish works to international highlights on the silver screen. I saw two vintage black-and-white Agnes Varda movies which I had missed when I was young, and which are cult today. You wouldn’t believe it, but in the fifties of the last century Philippe Noiret was actually an attractive beau!

Another deep breath, and the City of Tribes was taken over by the Arts Festival. One highlight after another, like an exhibition of Sam Jinks’ incredibly lifelike sculptures, "In the Flesh", somewhat creepy but fascinating! Plays and concerts going on in all possible and impossible locations, amongst others the UK theatre company Kneehigh which performed an effervescent contemporary version of the old classic The Beggar’s Opera by the title of “Dead Dog in an Suitcase” (Text: Carl Grose, Music: Charles Hazlewood) in the University. In a huge blue tent on the University campus, pop music legend Burt Bacharach, still going strong at 91 years of age, took the stage to celebrate his own hits! On Eyre Square, children constructed a cupola from cardboard boxes and cellotape. Even more street acts than usual – musicians, jugglers, fire eaters, tap dancers – clotted the main artery of the city, the axis from Eyre Square down to the Harbour, on the fringe of the official events.

I’m leaving Galway by the end of the month full of new impressions and with a hanging tongue. I’ll have to pass on the Galway Races (29 July to 4 August) where Galway challenges Ascot with racehorses and racy ladies’ outfits. This event which will create even more jammed pedestrian zones, brimming pubs and blocked roads where cars kiss each others’ bumpers.

September should be nice again because after the school holidays the city will be returning to standard operation. Which is just the usual Galway brand of sligthly crazy but pleasantly invigorating. I might venture back by then.

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© 2019 by Esther Murbach