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ROLL up, roll up, the Galway Arts Festival is back. Starting today, the 35th annual jamboree is packed with 160 events in 27 venues over the next 14 days.
And, as Gay Byrne might say, there's something for everyone in the audience.
But you'd better be fast if you want to get your own golden ticket.
According to festival artistic director Paul Fahy: "Almost 50,000 tickets have already been sold. Sales for theatre shows are up on last year and we hope everyone will enjoy what is a fantastic two-weeks in Galway in July."
This multi-disciplinary arts celebration picks up the festival baton from a glittering 2012 Galway Film Fleadh, which drew to a close last night with a very special public interview with French film star Isabelle Huppert.
This was immediately followed by the launch of the new Absolut Festival Gallery and visual arts programme by author, playwright and musician Julian Gough, who was looking forward to the world premiere of his play 'The Great Goat Bubble' this evening. And the centrepiece of the new gallery is a truly spectacular sculpture by Turner-nominated artist David Mach featuring 20,000 wire coat hangers representing the crucifixion.
This dramatic exhibition, 'Precious Light', features 80 pieces, with the paintings alone weighing in at over six-and-a-half tonnes. Three years in the making, it is Mr Mach's reaction to the King James bible rather than his reinterpretation of it.
Mr Mach realised the bible would be 400-years-old in 2011 and he wanted to examine how its themes of war, famine, destitution were as prevalent and universal as ever through paintings and immense sculptures. It is estimated that at least 2,000 visitors will see this show daily.
The festival's opening ribbon will be formally cut this evening by two very familiar faces from American stage and small screen, John Mahoney of 'Frasier' and 'Mike and Molly' star Rondi Reed. Mr Mahoney and Ms Reed, friends for over 30 years, are both in Galway for the festival, where they perform in the European premiere of 'The Outgoing Tide', which opens at the Town Hall Theatre tomorrow night.
Mr Mahoney is also honourary patron of the festival.
"Whenever I do a new play, I don't wish for a Broadway transfer, I wish for an invitation to take it to Galway Arts Festival.
"I have been fortunate to participate five times in the festival... and the joy never palls. Galway is such a beautiful city and to be there during the Arts Festival is sheer magic," he said.
It is certainly a star-studded festival. Theatre highlights include an unmissable triple bill of Tom Murphy plays presented by Druid Theatre, The National Theatre of Scotland's production of 'The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart', a double bill of Shakespeare by acclaimed all-male theatre company Propeller, award-winning and eye-watering circus feats from France's Compagnie Ieto, Fishamble Theatre presenting the world premiere of Julian Gough's 'The Great Goat Bubble' and Northlight's production of 'The Outgoing Tide'.
There will also be music performances by Chic, James Vincent McMorrow, Lisa Hannigan, The Fall, The Coronas, Christy Moore and many more. And talks include Caroline Casey, Alex Ross and Mary Robinson. One of the festival's perennial favourites, the Macnas parade, will take over the city next Sunday, this year's spectacle bearing the title 'This Thunderous Heart'.
"The programme in 2012 is one of our most ambitious yet and we are projecting an attendance figure of 170,000," said chief executive John Crumlish.
"The economic impact on the local economy in 2011 was €17.5m and we would hope to build on this figure in 2012."
Paul Fahy added: "This day has always been one of my favourite days of the year, a day when artists from all over the world arrive in Galway to join forces with Irish artists as we offer to you our audience what we believe is our most exciting programme in the 35-year history of the festival."