Case,  Open-Air,  Performance,  Young Audience

GIAF, Festival of the People (Galway, Ireland)

This case study, the impact of Covid-19 on the Galway International Art Festival (GIAF) has been analysed and evaluated. To welcome live audiences back into venues, GIAF has worked around the clock to ensure the continuance of over 500 events and activities planned, while facing the most challenging circumstances. In addition to an altered live program, GIAF delivered the biggest ever digital program in the history of festivals. To achieve all this, GIAF had to be incredibly creative as this was a new situation for all people involved in the organisation of the festival.


The organization organizes the world-famous Galway International Arts Festival. It features Irish and international work of the highest quality. During GIAF, the organization wants to give artists a large stage to show their arts and crafts.

To obtain a varied international program, international artists are targeted and contacted. Nowadays, it is an honour for many artists to perform during GIAF, and the organization receives many requests from artists themselves. To approach artists globally, GIAF works together with several national organizations (Galway International Arts Festival n.d.)

The idea to start this festival initially came from a group of Irish artists in 1978, who wanted to attract global artists to Ireland through this festival, while giving Irish emerging artists a global platform. Over the years, the festival has grown tremendously and gained a huge reputation. In 2019, the festival welcomed 260,000 visitors from all over the world. The festival helps Galway become more internationally renowned as a tourist city for cultural tourists and art organizations.

The festival is organized for a certain target group. Everyone is welcome, but the acts and shows during the festival are mainly aimed at people between 16 and 50 years old. This can also be traced back to the sponsors of the festival, such as Heineken. (Galway International Arts Festival n.d.)
GIAF makes use of the knowledge and skills of professional performers, the artists, and employees. Furthermore, they take care of the execution of events, shows and storytelling. The festival uses a complex but stable environment as they take advantage of the Galway area. This can be on the water, in an extensive landscape or in a city. To protect the environment, special complexes must be built in addition to the use of lighting, sound, audio techniques and visual material.


Galway International Arts Festival organizes an annual 14-day festival with all art forms such as theatre, music, visual arts, street spectacle, dance, and comedy. In addition, GIAF presents a major discussion platform on creativity and innovation. Since 1978, the festival has contributed immensely to putting Galway on the map as a cultural tourist destination and cultural center.

© Galway International Arts Festival / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The mission and main goals of the organization are to be a 21st-century pilgrimage that organizes world-class festivals and events for as many people as possible and to be an artistic leader in the presentation and origination of work.

GAIF’s vision is to embrace people’s passions and inspire new ways of thinking and acting. They see themselves as creative makers who make connections between the arts, between audiences and artists, between Galway and the world (Galway International Arts Festival sd).

GIAF has heritage values in different areas. The organization of the festival aims to create an infrastructure of art in Galway (Galway2020 2019). They want to continue this in the coming years to the succeeding generations. They do this by using and involving the entire city in the festival. GIAF works with local businesses to support the Galway economy. And they are improving themselves every year to be as sustainable as possible. This festival was conceived 40 years ago and today the festival has a great worldwide reputation. (GIAF 2021)

© Tourism Ireland / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

GIAF consists of a huge organization with many participants. Every year there is a large team of volunteer’s local businesses and sponsors who participate. Local companies can apply to become a so-called Business Friend of GIAF. On the website, GIAF states: Your loyalty entitles you to a host of benefits, including complimentary tickets, priority booking, access to the best seats, and exclusive invitations, to name but a few.

Several sponsors have been regular sponsors for years. Sponsors have continued to be added over the years. The sponsors can be divided into three groups, namely: Government Support, Media Support, and Business Support. In the image below is an overview of the sponsors of GIAF in 2020 (Galway International Arts Festival sd).


Despite all the challenges due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the festival team has delivered an extraordinary program.  GIAF 2021 welcomed the audience back to experience the thrill of live performances and delivering their largest digital program ever. This included a 24/7 live stream of the virtual performance shown on Mirror Pavilion’s LED screen, accessible from anywhere in the world; as part of the Courage series with several artists; and the very first theatre livestream. (GIAF shines through despite covid-19 challenges, n.d.) The program of the festival is a mix of show and events with the richness and diversity of Galway culture to the people. 

© Peter Clarke / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

It is a celebration of Galway city, islands, language, and people. It provides visitors with the best work of local, national, and international artists (Galway International Arts Festival, 2021). Worlds, cultures, and dreams come together and inspire people with their passion, creativity, and a new way of thinking. Through culture and art, cultural capitals improve the quality of life and strengthen the sense of community. 

Due to the current corona measures in Ireland, the festival date has been changed from July till the end of August and the beginning of September. They had to make changes to the program. There was more room to organize a mix of live and online events by extending the festival to 3 weeks (Galway International Arts Festival, 2021) 

GIAF is proud of the impact they make on other people’s lives, but also recognizes that festival activities can have a big impact on the environment, such as sustainability. The GIAF festival is supported every year by many organizations. Due to Covid-19, the received support was substantially less than previous years. GIAF also contributes to the economic development of Galway, with an estimated economic impact of €34.4 million on the local economy. They ensure that local businesses and the local population also benefit from the festival, through promotion on their site and during the event.

Sustainability is important. GIAF requires from their partners to promote sustainability by working with local companies as much as possible. They also try to find alternatives for transportation to the festival by working together with transport authorities.


Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the organization and outcome of Galway International Art Festival. The organization had to deal with cancelled and altered events, learn to host online events, adjust their marketing communication, and basically replan every aspect as covid measures changed over time. However, the impact was not solely negative. The successful digital program and the subsequential wider audience will most likely have a lasting effect. Therefore, Galway International Art Festival 2021 was exceptional.


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