Galway International Arts Festival Autumn Edition

Mirror Pavilion, a major new commission from internationally renowned Irish artist John Gerrard
Sep 04 2020 Posted: 09:23 IST

GIAF’s once-off autumn programme welcomes audiences to safely experience visual arts, music, theatre, and talks live in person while facilitating those who may prefer to engage from home

Galway International Arts Festival’s Autumn Edition began on Thursday 3 September, with an exciting programme which includes both live arts and an enhanced digital component, giving audiences a choice as to how they wish to engage with it, in person (both indoors and outdoors) or at home digitally.  The aim is that while moving forward and bringing live experiences back to the fore, no one is left behind, especially those who are unable to travel to Galway or are currently staying at home.  Acutely aware of public health concerns, the programme is designed to be presented within public health and Government guidelines, allowing for limited attendance and social distancing.

The centrepiece of the programme will be the world unveiling of a major new visual arts commission for Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture. Presented outdoors in Galway city and in Connemara, John Gerrard’s Mirror Pavilion installation, using cutting edge digital technology, will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever to be seen in Ireland and will be in situ on the Claddagh Quay from 3-26 September (this will move to Connemara in October).

From 5 September at the Festival Gallery explore new work from Hughie O’Donoghue and Three Women from American video art pioneer Bill Viola.

The first weekend of First Thought talks will take place 5 & 6 September.

A mix of live in-person, from the Black Box Theatre, and other online talks will explore the big issues and challenges of 2020 including:  Pandemic Reflections 1: The Spanish Flu: Dr Ida Milne, Fergal Bowers  Dr Catriona Clear / Pandemic Reflections 2: Covid-19: Prof Luke O’Neill, Dr Catherine Motherway, Prof Paul Moynagh, Dr Mary Favier, David McCullough / Black Lives Matter: Experiences of Racism in Ireland: Tobi Lawal, Felicia Olusanya, Amanda Adewole in conversation with Roisin Ingle/ The State of the UK: John Lanchester, Fintan O’Toole, Martina Fitzgerald/ Bloody Sunday 1920: Prof Paul Rouse, Associate Prof Anne Dolan, Prof Diarmuid Ferriter/ Climate: What has changed or can change?: Includes Minister Eamon Ryan, Tara O’Neill, Mai Sheehan / What May The Post– Pandemic Future Hold? Fintan O’Toole in conversation with Catriona Crowe / Italia 90: Colm Toibin, Eamon Dunphy, Mark Duncan.

Meanwhile host Tiernan Henry talksfavourite music and memories with special guests  in a new series of live Vinyl Hours conversations at Róisín Dubh, Dominick Street, on 6 September the first of his guests, renowned Irish conductor and GIAF regular with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra David Brophy will be talking all things music.

The full programme is available at

"While this has been a very challenging time for everyone, we were determined to present a programme in Galway this year despite everything and we are set to do just that with our Autumn Edition. We wanted this to be a love letter from the arts to our audience during a very difficult period for people. We have had to radically rethink how we do things but one thing's for sure, we look forward to safely gathering again to celebrate great art with everyone - either in person or online – this Autumn.”John Crumlish, Chief Executive, Galway International Arts Festival.

“Over the last few months the importance of culture has been more evident than ever before as we all embraced our favourite art forms to help us through such a difficult time. We are hugely excited to re-establish live experiences between artists and audiences alongside online experiences for those who cannot join in person. As the country emerges from lockdown, we hope Galway International Arts Festival will help elevate the mood of the nation and enrich many hearts and minds as we present this Autumn Edition. It will also be a particular thrill to unveil the spectacular Mirror Pavilion by John Gerrard on the Irish landscape.”Paul Fahy, Artistic Director, Galway International Arts Festival

Attend and experience in person, in Galway: 

Galway International Arts Festival Autumn Edition will kick off on 3 September with the unveiling of Mirror Pavilion, a major new commission from internationally renowned Irish artist John Gerrard known for his spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in the Coachella desert, California. Presented by GIAF and Galway 2020 as part of Galway’s European Capital of Culture.

The Pavilion is a beautiful and striking structure, with three sides and the roof clad in a highly reflective mirror and the fourth wall a high–resolution LED wall. This structure will host two new artworks Corn Work and Leaf Work which will unfold on the LED screen presented in two locations; Corn Work at the historic Claddagh Quay in Galway City (3-26 September) and Leaf Work at the spectacular 4,000–year–old Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara (11-31 Oct). The works reflect and respond to the landscape of both locations.

Mirror Pavilion is a response to the escalating climate crisis and fearlessly pushes the boundaries of digital art using simulation. Gerrard has taken digital technology, usually employed by the commercial gaming industry, to create virtual worlds that simulate extremely detailed and authentic landscapes. The characters and landscapes we see on the LED screen may look like video or film but they are not. Commissioned by Galway International Arts Festival for Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, the Festival is delighted to honour that commitment to premiere Mirror Pavilion in Ireland this year. Watch John Gerrard in his studio, talk about creating Mirror Pavilion in this short video.

A ‘one-night-only' peek at a new Enda Walsh play, Medicine, at a work-in-progress stage. Medicine will see Domhnall Gleeson return to the stage, alongside Clare Barrett, Aoife Duffin and jazz percussionist Sean Carpio.  Produced by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, Medicine is devastatingly funny and profoundly moving, and examines society’s response to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance. Please note this development showcase will not be streamed and there is a limited audience capacity to facilitate social distancing.  (26 September, 4pm, Black Box Theatre – SOLD OUT)

Visual arts programming is always a key element of the Galway International Arts Festival programme. Last summer GIAF moved into a new Festival Gallery space in the heart of the city centre. Housed in An Post’s network of buildings just off William Street, the unused space behind the main GPO was completely transformed by the Festival team. GIAF is delighted that An Post has made the space available again and will this year host a major new exhibition by celebrated Irish artist Hughie O’Donoghue. This exhibition features a number of large-scale works. (5-26 September, Festival Gallery). 

Internationally acclaimed video artist Bill Viola’s work focuses on the fundamental human experiences. Audiences this Autumn can explore his workThree Women, which is part of the Transfigurations video series (5-26 September, Festival Gallery).

There is a new Room to explore, Changing Room written by Enda Walsh and designed by Paul Fahy, the seventh in their series.This latest addition to the evolving Rooms series sees Enda once again collaborate with GIAF’s Artistic Director to share the story of a character who has inhabited that room. (9-20 September, Bank of Ireland Theatre, NUI Galway – SOLD OUT).

Always a hugely popular part of the festival, First Thought Talks returns exploring the big issues and challenges of the day with speakers including Samantha Power, Professor Luke O’Neill, Marion McKeone, Colm Tóibín, Gaia Vince, Eamon Dunphy and Fintan O’Toole.  A selection of talks will be live-streamed and some guests will join by video link. First Thought Talks are presented in association with NUI Galway.

Meanwhile host Tiernan Henry talksfavourite music and memories with special guests Julie Feeney, David Brophy and Liz Nugent in a new series of live Vinyl Hours conversations. (6 & 12 September, Róisín Dubh, Dominick Street). These will be available to listen to on the Festival’s new First Thought podcast.

Experience through headphones, as you walk through the streets of Galway, Cascando by Samuel Beckett directed by Gavin Quinn, from Pan Pan who make their long–awaited GIAF debut this year. The audience are led through the city streets, the unhurried pace of Andrew Bennett’s deep and riveting voice provide a rhythm for their steps, as they listen to Voice’s struggle to tell a story. Along this journey, the tremendous pulse of Jimmy Eadie’s music threatens to overwhelm, rising in a wave of crashing strings. (17-20 September, 1pm, 4pm & 7pm and 19 September, 11am, 1.30pm & 4pm. Meeting point at the Galway Rowing Club, Wood Quay – SOLD OUT).

To celebrate 250 years since the birth of Beethoven, ConTempo will perform a series of live concerts featuring some of his most-loved pieces for strings quartets. (22-25 September, St Nicholas’ Church).

Experience GIAF online at home:

Galway International Arts Festival is acutely aware that some may not be in a position to experience these in person in Galway this autumn. With that in mind the Festival presents an enhanced digital programme for audiences who cannot visit Galway to attend in person this year, or may prefer to engage from home.

A selection of these will be live streamed on our online platforms, some digital only. Additional events will be presented on Facebook Live and Instagram. Check the Festival’s online platforms for regular updates.

Watch a Mirror Pavilion video series on the ‘Making of Mirror Pavilion’ featuring stunning footage from both locations at Galway City and Connemara, allowing you to experience this groundbreaking work from the comfort of your home.

Continue your exploration of visual arts with a virtual tour of Hughie O’Donoghue’s new show as you are ‘walked’ around the stunning Festival Gallery space and watch a conversation with the artist discussing his spectacular new exhibition.

GIAF also welcomes back renowned photographer Sarah Hickson who has been working on a festival commission around those who have lived / are living in Direct Provision in Galway. This online only exhibition brings together photographs that resonate with the theme of ’home’ and explore personal stories of displacement, migration and belonging. This Festival commission will conclude in 2021. (Experience online only from 14 September)

A number of First Thought talks will be broadcast across GIAF’s social media channels and on YouTube. For full details see This year the Festival is also launching a First Thought Podcast series, which invites listeners to discover new perspectives, people and more, through conversations on creativity and the big issues of the day. Pop your headphones in and listen anywhere. 

Galway International Arts Festival would like to acknowledge the support of its principal funding agencies the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Education Partner NUI Galway, Festival Energy partner Flogas and Drinks Partner Heineken®.



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