West gripped by festival fever as revellers turn out for arts events
WHAT do you do with those vacant, unsightly shop units that litter every town centre? One town has turned them into pop-up art galleries and is inviting people to follow a 'walking craft trail' through its streets.
It's just one of the fringe attractions at this year's Boyle Arts Festival, which was launched on Thursday night by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan and continues until July 30.
For a small voluntary committee with a tiny budget, the Boyle Arts Festival punches well above its weight and has attracted some of the country's best known artists, musicians, singers and writers.
Singer Cathy Davey entertained a capacity crowd in the town's main hall last night .
Author Colm Toibin, soprano Donna Malone, lectures, drama and storytelling for the young and old completed yesterday's packed line-up and it was still only day-one.
Unusually, the Roscommon festival goes head to head with Galway Arts Festival but organisers believe its appeal is the contrast.
"It's never been a problem because a lot of people prefer the smaller, more intimate festival and the town is very compact as well so people can stroll around and visit an exhibition before enjoying a concert or a reading," festival chairwoman Irene Madden told the Irish Independent.
Boyle Arts Festival has been on the go for over 20 years and in that time has accumulated over 250 paintings and sculptures in a civic collection that any major city would be proud of.
The pieces were selected and compiled by former arts festival curator Fergus Ahern, who died last year and to whom this year's festival is dedicated.
Part of the civic collection is on display all year round at King House, also the venue of the main visual arts exhibition, which attracts the country's best-known artists including John Shinnors, Basil Blacksaw and Vera Gaffney.
Up to 10,000 visitors are expected to attend festival events during the week, giving a welcome boost to the local economy.