Galway Arts Festival Archive

Repository: NUI Galway JHL

Identity Statement

TitleGalway Arts Festival Archive
Archive ReferenceIE JHL/T5
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1978-2004
Extent Medium33 boxes + 210 posters


Creator(s): Galway Arts Festival directors and committees

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Galway Arts Festival was first staged in 1978. It grew out of the University College Galway Arts Society. Ollie Jennings became auditor of this society, taking over from Garry Hynes, who became one of the founders of Druid Theatre Company. This new group set out to become a voice for the Arts in Galway and strove to find a permanent home for a dedicated Arts Centre in Galway City. Further to this was the aim of setting up an annual Arts Festival for Galway City. The first Galway Arts Festival was staged from the 6th to the 12th April 1978. The central venue was one of John Murray's converted antique rooms between Raftery's Store and the old Genoa (Nora Barnacle's) The line-up at this original Galway Arts Festival included readings by John McGahern, Paul Muldoon and John Hewitt, the opening of film by Bob Quinn entitled Poitin, installations from visual artist James Coleman and puppet theatre from Jay Murphy and Brian Bourke. Following the success of this first Galway Arts Festival, it was expanded in 1979 and received an increased grant from the Arts Council. Druid Theatre company produced a new play entitled 'Island Protected by a Bridge of Glass', which was written and directed by Garry Hynes, beginning a long association between the company and the festival. The 1981 Galway Arts Festival also saw the first of many productions by Footsbarn Theatre Company. Irish traditional music band De Danann also began their association with the Galway Arts Festival in 1981. For the next two years, Festival Director Ollie Jennings left Galway to tour America with De Danann. Following his return, Jennings initiated a push to broaden the programme for the Galway Arts Festival, meaning to include a wider variety of theatre, performance art, comedy, music and literature. Over the coming years of the late 1980's headline acts including Els Comediants, Druid Theatre Company, Footsbarn Theatre Company, author John McGahern, singer Lou Reed and poet Paul Durcan. The £100,000 budget for the 1987 Festival was more than double the budget for the 1984 Festival. A key aspect of the Galway Arts Festival was its connection to the city, communities and people of Galway. What typified this was the annual Galway Arts Festival parade which meandered through the streets of Galway city every year. Designed and presented by Macnas performance group, the Galway Arts Festival parade became an annual highlight of the Festival. Throughout the 1990s new events and additions to the Festival kept its profile growing. The Sessions music events, the Festival Big Day Out, the Festival Big Top and an ever expanding range of venues, performance spaces, types of works and new performers ensured a festival that evolved with the times. The impact of the Galway Arts Festival on Galway City and surrounding areas relating to tourism is documented within the archive especially in the press files and in the Studies and Theses. The Galway/Baborò Children's International Festival and the Galway Film Fleadh were independent events that were associated with the Galway Arts Festival and were often staged immediately preceding the Galway Arts Festival or were staged shortly after. Records of both these events are documented and included within the papers of the Galway Arts Festival. Ollie Jennings stepped down as Artistic Director of the Galway Arts Festival in 1990 and was replaced by Galway City native Trish Forde. Forde served in this role for five years until she stepped down as Director of the Galway Arts Festival. Artist and painter Ted Turton was appointed as new Artistic Director in 1996 and he held this role for three years until stepping down in 1999. Limerick native Rose Parkinson was appointed full-time Artistic Director of the Galway Arts Festival in August/September of 1999 and held this position until 2004. Fergal McGrath was General Manager of the Galway Arts Festival from 1992 – 2002. The Galway Arts Festival is recognised globally as one of Europe's largest and most successful multi-disciplinary Arts Festivals and is a highlight of Irish Cultural year.
  • Archival History ↴

    The Galway Arts Festival archive has been held by the Galway Arts Festival administrative management.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Galway Arts Festival directors and committees ↴

    The archive of Galway Arts Festival includes a detailed record of administration, productions and events held during the Galway Arts Festival since its inception in 1978. The collection includes records which document the establishment and early years of the Galway Arts Festival and follows its growth and expansion into one of Europe’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festivals.

    In the administrative records there are editions of minutes from Galway Arts Festival committee and management meetings 1980-1982. Financial records from this time also document the income and expenditure of the Galway Arts Festival and the Galway Arts Group as well as detailing levels and requirements of sponsorship for the Galway Arts Festival.

    The production files include a high volume of excellent quality photographs from full productions and events across all disciplines in the Galway Arts Festival. The photographs are black and white and also colour and cover theatre, comedy, dance, music, literature, visual art, street events and children’s events. These images are printed on good quality photographic paper and range in size. A series of slides also present a visual element to this collection.

    The Galway Arts Festival archive boasts a large volume of posters and other promotional ephemeral material. This outsize material relates to full productions in the Galway Arts Festival and also publicity material issued by the Galway Arts Festival.

    The series of press files contain records of local (Galway and West of Ireland) press cuttings of interviews with and features on members of Galway Arts Festival directors and management, reviews of productions and events at the Festival and news on Arts, theatre and culture in general nationwide around Ireland. This series of records is complemented by a series of press releases that document the information given to media at the outset of the Galway Arts Festival.

    A detailed and comprehensive list of events in various codes including theatre, music, visual art, children’s events, literature provide an account of all acts which performed each year at the Galway Arts Festival. Copies of studies including PhDs provide examples of where Irish and international studies have focused on the Galway Arts Festival, its growth and contribution to Irish culture and tourism. The Galway Arts Festival archive is completed by housing records of associated events and festivals including the Galway Film Fleadh (1989 – 1997) and the Baborò/Galway International Children’s Festival.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The Galway Arts Festival archive is arranged into various series of records. Original order and arrangement of the records as they were received was respected as much as possible and where this allowed for an accurate system of arrangement and for ease of access of associated records. The series of records are as follows: Administration, Correspondence, Production Files, Photographs, Slides, Press Files, Press Releases, Studies and Theses, Lists of events, Baborò The series of records which contain a variety or high volume of records are further broken down into sub series and sub-sub series. The series Administration is broken down to two sub-series: Minutes of Meetings/Reports and Finance. Production Files are broken down into a group of sub-series, with a sub-series for each individual year for which records are included. Photographs are recorded similarly with each year represented by a unique sub-series. Press files are broken down into two sub-series: National and Local. These two sub-series are in turn broken down into sub-sub-series for each year of which press files are included. The series of posters is broken down into sub-series which include posters relating to the Baborò Galway International Children’s Festival and also other Posters, not directly related to the Galway Arts Festival. All material is arranged chronologically within these individual series, sub-series and sub-sub series.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions The Galway Arts Festival archive is available to all bona fide researchers, and subject to the conditions of access governing consultation of archival material at the James Hardiman Library. For a full statement of these conditions see: Any application for access must be made through the archivist. All reproductions are subject to conditions of access. The Galway Arts Festival archive is in very good condition with no immediate conservation issues arising. For further information contact archivist Barry Houlihan: barry.houlihan[at] or email specialcollections[at]
Conditions Governing ReproductionAll reproduction enquiries must be made to the archivist.
Creation Dates1978-2004
Extent Medium33 boxes + 210 posters
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialDruid Theatre Archive, James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway. T2

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteBarry Houlihan
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions2011