Galway International Arts Festival
October 21, 2018
Outline the vision and mission of the Organisation
Galway International Arts Festival was established by a group of fledgling and experienced artists who, sitting around a kitchen table one afternoon in 1978, dreamed of bringing world-class artists to Ireland while also supporting Irish artists and showcasing their work on the world stage, creating unique and wonderful experiences for all... and so they did.
Since then, Galway international Arts Festival has developed a significant international reputation, placing Galway firmly on the map as a key cultural destination for visitors from all over the world. The Festival now attracts an attendance of 252,000 and contributes €40.2 million to the local economy. It has provided opportunities for thousands of Irish artists as well as cultural producers, workers and enthusiasts, but perhaps most importantly for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to enrich their lives through engagement with arts and culture. This the Festival will continue to ensure and develop.
GIAF’s mission is to be a 21st-Century Pilgrimage that delivers a world-class Festival experience and is an artistic leader in the presentation and origination of work. Its values are rooted in delivering the best possible cultural experience for as many people as possible through the cultivation of Irish artists, the showcasing of inspiring international work and the development of new work for the benefit and enrichment of all.
It will continue to develop and deliver large-scale, real-time communal experiences that bring people together in a world increasingly dominated by technologies focused on automated, individual digital experiences.
How has the Organisation developed and tackled issues?
The organisation has developed exponentially from its beginnings in 1978 such that it had 252,000 attendances at over 200 events in 32 venues in 2018. This is in spite of significant challenges such as an ongoing lack of adequate cultural venues and infrastructure in Galway, fluctuating state support for the arts and the 2008 recession which substantially affected and sometimes decimated arts organisations in Ireland.
GIAF has responded to the venue deficit by converting supermarkets, shops, industrial storage units, garages and even the Printworks for the Connacht Tribune newspaper into performance and exhibition spaces. It also partners with NUI Galway to utilise various spaces on campus, and in 2006, the organisation bought its own Big Top tent in order to deliver a large capacity venue that allows thousands of people each year to experience the best of both Irish and international music.
Given the nature of arts funding, the Festival has for many years adopted a mixed income model, which provides for income from sponsorship, box office and merchandise as well as touring of its productions and a Friends donation scheme. This diversification provides the safeguard necessary to ensure that the Festival continues to develop even if one source of income decreases.
2008’s global recession negatively affected all arts organisations in Ireland. Instead of scaling back efforts, however, and reducing offerings that provided much-needed solace to many people during this difficult period, the Festival further developed. It supported this desire for growth through a number of strategies including significantly expanding the programme, developing a number of co-producing partnerships, increasing the number of free events and cultivating more earned income. Because of the success of this strategy, the Festival is now better positioned to deliver on its objectives.
What has the overall impact of the work been?
Galway International Arts Festival works to impact lives by ensuring access to arts for all. 25% of the Festival programme is free and open to the public, with a number of concession tickets subsidised and offered to senior citizens, full-time students and the unwaged. The organisation also ensures that tickets go to various disadvantaged groups and to its volunteers.
GIAF strives to incorporate educational opportunities into its programming and activities and currently runs two internship programmes to help aspiring cultural workers build skills, knowledge, networks and experience necessary for career success. Additionally, Children’s Craft Times encourage children and families to engage further with artwork in the Festival Gallery while the Festival’s 1,000-strong volunteer programme provides personal development opportunities. Further educational impact will result from GIAF’s multi-year partnership with NUI Galway.
In 2018, the Festival had an economic impact of over €40 million. This is felt both locally and regionally as many businesses in the hospitality sector in Galway and along the Wild Atlantic Way receive a boost in patronage due to Festival tourism. GIAF has contributed to the well-being of local residents by providing cultural enrichment opportunities plus those for social inclusion through its volunteer programme and internships, which encourage participation from special needs individuals and residents of Direct Provision.
GIAF’s impact can be felt around Galway during the Festival and has been lauded by such publications as the Irish Times, New York Times and the Guardian. It is perhaps best summed up by The Observer: “The spirit of Galway International Arts Festival is all-inclusive, accessible and always open to suggestion. Contemporary festivals fall over themselves to state their commitment to both street and ‘high art’. The difference in Galway is, that ambition is realised.”
What makes this Organisation unique?
Galway International Arts Festival is not simply a Festival; it is a cultural organisation whose reach extends well beyond Festival season and the events that take place within it. GIAF’s staff works year-round not only to present a full, diverse programme of summer events but to develop and tour new Festival productions, promote creativity and thought leadership through its First Thought Talks programme and conceive new ways of enriching the cultural experiences of Irish and international citizens.
GIAF’s future includes ambitious plans to contribute even more meaningfully to the well-being of citizens by creating as much access to arts and culture as possible for the largest amount of people possible and encouraging more participation from marginalised groups. It will continue to advocate for the delivery of better cultural infrastructure for Galway and further develop its educational activities. It will partner with organisations who also wish to promote a creativity agenda and will deliver the resources to successfully achieve these goals.
How can the public support this work?
GIAF seeks to involve and engage the public in as many ways as possible. Individuals can participate through attendance at events, by joining the festival volunteer programme and even through participation in the programme itself (both the 2017 and 2018 programmes featured participatory artworks called The People Build in which 400 members of the public worked together to create massive outdoor sculptures).
The Festival increases its volunteer force each year, taking on 1,000 volunteers in 2018. Not only do its volunteers help bring cultural enrichment to thousands of visitors, volunteers themselves are beneficiaries, receiving access to new, impactful work and becoming part of a diverse social group united by a love of the arts. Anyone over the age of 18 can become a volunteer, with applications opening in May of each year.
Individuals and organisations can also contribute to the Festival’s work through donations, sponsorships and the Friends scheme. GIAF’s continued growth is hugely dependent on this support.
How is the Organisation transparent and accountable?
Information about the Festival’s staff and Board, as well as our governing document, can be easily accessed at the organisation’s website: www.giaf.ie. The Board of Directors is made up of seven community members, chaired by Padraic Brennan, working in diverse fields and with a wealth of experience and expertise.
The organisation’s most recent audited financial statements are available at www.giaf.ie as well as on the website of the Charities Regulator (www.charitiesregulator.ie). These statements are compliant with the Statement of Recommended Practice for charities and not-for-profit entities as developed in the UK in 2005 (SORP), which is currently accepted as best practice in Ireland. GIAF maintains strict financial controls and keeps detailed records of accounts.
The Festival is a registered charity (Registered Charity number 20026196; CHY number 10298) with a registered trading name of Galway Arts Festival CLG. We have embarked on the journey of compliance with the Governance Code as well as the Statement of Guiding Principles of Good Fundraising developed by Irish Charities Tax Research Ltd (ICTR).