Star Stories – 5

Liveblogging from a show. Not sure about the etiquette of this, but I’m being dreadfully discreet.

Órla McGovern is not an elderly working class Dublin widow with a naughty sense of humour, but she plays one perfectly on stage. Niceol Blue – whom I’ve mentioned before – really is a singer-songwriter born in one of those Bible-belt US States you only run away from. They make an eclectic partnership, and form the core of The Spontaneous Theatre People, a company that devises plays.

The show is about stories. About stories about stories. The actors play storytellers, playing characters. One enchanting tale, told by Zita Monahan, is of a woman who was hairdresser to an international spy. Another was about an unhappy wife who went into space, launched by… But that would give it away.

I’d tell you to come and see it, but it’s a run of one performance. You can catch it though at the Electric Picnic.

In space there’s a spaceship chip shop, that sells spaceship-shaped chips.

Galway’s Other Arts Festival

There’s a TV ad running for the Galway Arts Festival. I don’t recall its wording exactly, but I’d almost swear it was something like “for all your arts and culture needs”. I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, the Festival has become too commercial.

There have been a number of attempts to get back to its roots, though generally they come from outside the organisation. Project ’06 showed that the community spirit was still there, but it was never intended to compete. More has been achieved perhaps by starting other, more focused festivals at less coveted points on the calendar. Most successful of these would probably be the Galway Theatre Festival, but we are certainly not short of small interesting celebrations.

Some though still go for the big one. The Colours Fringe Festival is attempting the whole shooting match – a festival of theatre and film and music and literature and the visual arts. Yes it’s small and maybe a little disorganised, most of the acts involved are local, some aren’t even professionals. But that’s exactly what the Galway Arts Festival was like, back when it was cute and loveable.

I should have written about this sooner, it’s running right now. In particular I’m going to blatantly plug some friends of mine, the Spontaneous Theatre People, who are doing an hour-long show called “Star Stories – 5” at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon in Kelly’s on Bridge Street, but there’s a full calendar of events over the next two days.

Details at: http://coloursfringe.blogspot.com/

No Alternative to the Arts Festival

This is a Galway Hooker
This is a Galway Hooker. Get over it.

Back in March I told you about a competition to name a new Galway-brewed beer. I didn’t enter myself, there seemed no point. I predicted on the spot that no name except “Galway Hooker” could possibly win.¹

You can now get Galway Hooker beer in a few pubs around town. It’s good. As an ale, it’s a (very distant) relative of Smithwicks. There are some key differences however, chiefly the same as those between a chemical factory and an actual brewery. Hooker has a smoky, hoppy flavour that balances the bitter and the sweet. My Japanese friend Kiyoko thinks it has a slight bouquet of berries, but she’s a girl. I think it makes you drunk. Having tested it extensively though, both by itself and in combination with other drinks, I can attest that it is easy on the head the next morning. Both Neachtain’s and Roisin’s got though their supplies ahead of schedule, so it seems to be going down okay.

Any problems? Well, that name guys… Gag names compel people to make the obvious jokes, and that gets tedious fast. I just hope that doesn’t put too many people off.

Speaking of homebrewed solutions, Project 06 is looking good. We are carefully assured that this is not an alternative, rival, or fringe to the Arts Festival. Nobody wants to tread on toes. But it needs to be said – Project 06 is what the Arts Festival was meant to be.

The official Festival is spectacular and highly professional, but at some point it got out of scale. Once, most of the emphasis was on bringing locally created art to the people of Galway. Now it seems to be more about attracting people from overseas to come and see art that is also from overseas… Part of the tourism industry, in other words. Once too it acted as a bridge between Galway and the world stage, telling people “Yes, we can do it here, you can aim that high”. Now you need to be pretty famous already just to step onto that bridge. Arguably it actually competes with local arts.

Project 06 goes back to the original idea, attempts to create a festival with a more local, community feeling. To this end they have found an amazing number of small but useful venues all over town, in places you’d never expect art to occur. A huge amount of effort and material has been volunteered. Yeah, like the old days. I think this speaks volumes about the level of respect and admiration Galway has for people like Ollie Jennings and Padraic Breathnach.² It may all be a bit dreamy and idealistic, sure. But it was dreamy and idealistic the first time.

  1. It’s the name of a traditional Galway boat design. (See pic.)
  2. Founders, respectively, of the Galway Arts Festival and Macnas street theatre company.