The Galway International Arts Festival is over once more. If you missed any of the action, fret not, our Galway Corespondent Aisling Daly has chosen her best bits from the fourteen days of fun and frolics.

For Galwegians and visitors alike, it’s the time of year that everyone looks forward to – welcoming artists, street performers, musicians, and visitors to our wonderful city. Truth be told, we kind of do this all year round, but this particular time of year is probably the best opportunity to show-off all of the wondrous attributes our city has on offer. The Galway International Arts Festival turns the city into a place of wonder and merriment for 2 glorious weeks in July. The erection of the Festival Big Top, complete with flags and twinkling lights, marks the arrival of something truly special – 2 whole weeks of music, visual arts, theatre, street spectacle, First Thought Talks and dance. The city turns into an extravaganza of craic and ceoil (as if it wasn’t already).

Nestled exactly 1 week after the renowned Galway Film Fleadh and just before the Galway Races, GIAF attracts an incredible array of people who turn our already vibrant city into a bustling fairground of glee! Most Galwegians will have been burning the candle at both ends the last 2 weeks, so much so, that most of us are puddles of wax on the floor. Fresh faced visitors arrive to the city to punctuate our tired and hungover, yet faithful appreciation for the incredible forms of art that we can feast our eyes upon.

Unfortunately, the weather hampered a few exhibits in the first week, making it particularly difficult for festival organizers, having to move some spectacle performances to different venues. There were cancellations from Sinead O’Connor, complaints about Exhibit B and, of course, Damien Rice’s *ahem* ‘episode’, but all in all it made for an excellent 2 weeks and sure, what’s an arts festival without a bit of drama!

Here are Nitelife’s top ten events from the Galway International Arts Festival 2015.

10: The Giant Divas & Le Tambours (Street Spectacle)

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Despite the atrocious weather, people flocked to the streets to see these three giant ladies make their way from Eyre Square to Spanish Arch, delivering atmospheric operatic melodies. They lit up the streets with their amazing dresses and were joined by the Tin Soldiers’ Band of Drummers; the perfect amount of whimsy for a Saturday evening!

9: The Sky Conquest (Street Spectacle) POGO-STILTS! Pogo sticks are tricky enough, attach them to stilts, a story, and heart-in-mouth acrobatics – there you’ve got yourself one serious street performance.

8: Little Shop of Horrors (Theatre, music, film) An incredible 4-D movie experience. The performers play multiple characters and create live sound effects while ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ plays in the background. Who doesn’t love a bit of live cinema?

7: Damien Dempsey (Music) No one does a sing-song like Damo does a sing-song! Who doesn’t love this guy? From the first note, he had the audience captivated. Telling stories and anecdotes, riling up the crowd, encouraging everyone to sing with him. Just, wow!

6: Luck Just Kissed You Hello (Theatre) A very honest, sometimes funny, and quite moving portrayal of the complicated issue of gender identity and how a sex-change surgery is not the only part of the transition.

5: St. Vincent (Music) This was our first visit to the Big Top during GIAF ’15 and we were not disappointed. It wasn’t a sell-out crowd, and the weather wasn’t great, but boy, does that girl put on a show!

4: Patricia Piccinini: Relativity (Visual Art)

Held in the amazing venue of the old Connacht Tribune Printing Press i.e The Festival Gallery, this body of work from one of Australia’s most acclaimed artists left us feeling equal parts uneasy and charmed. It explores the connection between science, art, and popular culture. What would have happened if we evolved in a different way? There are creatures who are half-animal, half-human, humanized scooters in love and lifelike children embracing unsettling creatures. Truly spectacular.

3: SkyWhale (Spectacle)

Also a creation of Patricia Piccinini, SkyWhale hovered over the city for the first festival week, being equal parts cute and disturbing. When it took flight for the first time from NUIG, the crowd were in awe, not just of its sheer size, but of how a gigantic piece of silk could suddenly be turned into an almost life like giant.

2: John Grant (Music)

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Unfortunately, for fans of our dear Sinead, she cancelled last minute, leaving one of our other favorite musicians to head up the Festival Big Top stage as the headlining act. Considering there were ructions earlier in the week with a certain Rice cake, the general feeling was of uncertainty for John Grant. Do enough people know him? Will he get a good crowd? Will the crowd like him? All of the above and more questions demanded an answer. Grant answered, taking to the stage like the charismatic living legend that he is, embracing the Galway crowd and dedicating songs to O’Connor, praising us for our ‘Yes’ vote in the Equality campaign and generally being an all-round nice guy.

1: Exhibit B (Theatre/Installation) Hands down the most deeply moving and challenging live installation that GIAF has ever hosted. Critiquing racism, these thirteen live performers create what can be best described as a human zoo, whereby the spectators gaze is returned. This almost forces visitors to hold the gaze and look back, challenging their own thoughts and feelings that are evoked by the colonial atrocities and the plight of racism in our own society today. If the posts on Instagram and Twitter are to be believed, Exhibit B kept the daytime drinking trade of Galway going for the week for sure – as everyone needed a little ‘settler’ following such a powerful exhibition.

It is with sadness in our hearts that we say goodbye to Galway Arts Festival 2015. Goodbye to the street spectacles, exhibitions, giant whales with boobs in the sky, tourists holding up queues in corner shops, and the bright yellow beacons of the festivals, that were the volunteers, guiding the way to the various GIAF venues. Farewell ‘till next year!

Aisling Daly – Galway Correspondent