Galway's got the vibes as punters flow west for film and arts festival
As part of our Spirit of Summer series, Brian McDonald drops in on the City of Tribes
IF you haven't bumped into a Hollywood actor, tripped over a renowned painter or spotted a rock star having a quiet pint, then chances are you've not been to Galway this week.
The 'City of the Vibes' is brimming with talent right now as the international Film Fleadh gets into full swing and the Arts Festival is revving up for its spectacular weekend kick-off.
Yesterday, the horsey set was also in town, raising the white flag for Galway Race Week.
Star-spotters were torn between staking out the Black Box Theatre where heart-throb Cillian Murphy and playwright Enda Walsh were polishing 'Misterman' -- the anchor show of the Arts Festival -- the ever-so-posh g Hotel where Brendan Gleeson and Pat Shortt were holding court just before the Irish premiere of 'The Guard', or the Town Hall Theatre where director Keith Allen was introducing his compelling but banned-in-the-UK movie 'Unlawful Killing' about the death of Princess Diana.
Meanwhile, the tills are happily ringing in the hotels, restaurants and pubs as the crowds seem to have taken the Government's advice about spending their holiday cash at home.
The Arts Festival and Film Fleadh are worth a combined €25m to the local economy, while the seven days of racing at Ballybrit are worth multiples of that figure.
Brendan Gleeson told the Irish Independent that he reckoned there was something particularly special about the place.
"I've always liked Galway. It has a particular spirit and tends to reinvent itself. They seem to be up and at it in Galway."
Pat Shortt added that he had been coming to the Arts Festival "ever since I was a kid".
He said: "There was nowhere like it and they were always bringing people from all over. There's a mighty crew here."
Flying into Galway late yesterday was film-maker and director Keith Allen, father of singer Lily Allen. His controversial documentary on the death and inquest of Princess Diana drew a big crowd to its first public screening.
Michael D Higgins took a break from his presidential campaigning to launch the Film Fleadh, which is showing a total of 300 films.
The Arts Festival proper gets off to a flyer on Monday and close on 200 shows and performances staged across almost 30 venues will be viewed by the time the curtain comes down on July 24.
Now firmly established as the biggest arts festival in Europe, punters will once again be spoilt for choice with performances by artists such as Blondie, Afrocubism, Propeller Theatre Company, De La Soul, Bell X1, Corcadorca and ThisSideUp Acrobatics.
For most, however, the festival highlight will be the annual Macnas street parade, which takes place in the city centre on July 17.