No Alternative to the Arts Festival

This is a Galway Hooker
This is a Galway Hooker. Get over it.

Back in March I told you about a competition to name a new Galway-brewed beer. I didn’t enter myself, there seemed no point. I predicted on the spot that no name except “Galway Hooker” could possibly win.¹

You can now get Galway Hooker beer in a few pubs around town. It’s good. As an ale, it’s a (very distant) relative of Smithwicks. There are some key differences however, chiefly the same as those between a chemical factory and an actual brewery. Hooker has a smoky, hoppy flavour that balances the bitter and the sweet. My Japanese friend Kiyoko thinks it has a slight bouquet of berries, but she’s a girl. I think it makes you drunk. Having tested it extensively though, both by itself and in combination with other drinks, I can attest that it is easy on the head the next morning. Both Neachtain’s and Roisin’s got though their supplies ahead of schedule, so it seems to be going down okay.

Any problems? Well, that name guys… Gag names compel people to make the obvious jokes, and that gets tedious fast. I just hope that doesn’t put too many people off.

Speaking of homebrewed solutions, Project 06 is looking good. We are carefully assured that this is not an alternative, rival, or fringe to the Arts Festival. Nobody wants to tread on toes. But it needs to be said – Project 06 is what the Arts Festival was meant to be.

The official Festival is spectacular and highly professional, but at some point it got out of scale. Once, most of the emphasis was on bringing locally created art to the people of Galway. Now it seems to be more about attracting people from overseas to come and see art that is also from overseas… Part of the tourism industry, in other words. Once too it acted as a bridge between Galway and the world stage, telling people “Yes, we can do it here, you can aim that high”. Now you need to be pretty famous already just to step onto that bridge. Arguably it actually competes with local arts.

Project 06 goes back to the original idea, attempts to create a festival with a more local, community feeling. To this end they have found an amazing number of small but useful venues all over town, in places you’d never expect art to occur. A huge amount of effort and material has been volunteered. Yeah, like the old days. I think this speaks volumes about the level of respect and admiration Galway has for people like Ollie Jennings and Padraic Breathnach.² It may all be a bit dreamy and idealistic, sure. But it was dreamy and idealistic the first time.

  1. It’s the name of a traditional Galway boat design. (See pic.)
  2. Founders, respectively, of the Galway Arts Festival and Macnas street theatre company.
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5 thoughts on “No Alternative to the Arts Festival

  1. Galway Hooker beer has been around for about 5 years. (Unless there are now two beers called “Galway Hooker”, which is unlikely.)

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  2. You’re right – and that’s when I wrote this. Last night I uploaded a bunch of old columns on the Arts Festival, Project ’06 and related topics (like beer). But I forgot to turn off Twitter post notification. It must have appeared like I wrote a couple of thousand strangely outdated words in the space of a few minutes…

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