Monday, July 27, 2020

Riders Upon Galloping Horses - The Galway Races from the Archive

Cover of programme, Galway Races, 1969
An evening at the Galway races over a century ago inspired the poet W.B. Yeats to write a poem especially to mark what he had experienced. Written at the home of his friend and collaborator, Lady Augusta Gregory, Coole Park, in county Galway in 1908, "At the Galway Races" sums up the spectacle, passion and revelry that the unique annual Galway race meeting brings. 

A series of watercolour sketches by Jack B. Yeats, depicting various scenes from the Galway races, race meetings, as well as horse and trade fairs in the West of Ireland, dating from 1900, are on display in our Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.

At Galway Races
There where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
. . . .
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,

And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses."                                  

Within our collections is a race card from the centennial meeting of the Galway Races. The 1969 meeting marked 'a century of racing at Ballybrit' and in particular, its centerpiece event, the Galway Plate. The programme includes a note on the history of the races written by Christy Townley, then Librarian of the Hardiman Library, U.C.G., as the University was then known. 

The runners and riders for the centennial plate race are listed - thirteen listed starters in all. The prize money is detailed and the distance noted as being "two miles and about five furlongs". The owner of the race-card lists the placed finishers with the winner of the 1969 Galway Plate being "Royal Day", owned by Mr. P. Dunne Cullinan and trained by P. Sleator. (there is no evidence that this race-goer had the winner backed!)

Entrants in Galway Plate, 1969
Also of note on the back cover of the programme is a tip for "an essential for Galway Week . . ." and being "a credit or deposit account with Tote Investors (Ireland) Ltd." Hopefully that 'credit account' did not grow too large. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

CFP New Journal Issue: 'Performing in Digital' - Archives and Education

Druid’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, in a version by Tom Murphy, directed by Garry Hynes. 2020.

Call for Papers - Themed issue of RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance

Title: Performing in Digital

Key words: archives, performance, theatre, universities, memory, education

Guest Editors:
Dr. Barry Houlihan and Dr. Catherine Morris, NUI Galway

The global virus pandemic transformed lives tragically and accelerated the world into a digital co-existence at multiple heightened levels of interdependencies. In this new context that took Higher Education, Arts Institutions, educationalists, artists and cultural workers by surprise almost over-night, performing in digital became a new way of life. The boundaries of private spaces became blurred with public spaces of cultural production. Home spaces became points of public broadcast that were often at once live in the immediately intimacy of the local community while simultaneously being received globally. From March 2020, epic scenes of emotional turmoil were matched with instances of opera sung from balconies in Italy. Filmmakers, photographers, documentary makers and writers began communicating a collective art of living in lockdown. The inequalities of access to digital and indeed to home space and income became very apparent across the global spectrum. The concerns of the artist and teacher in the socially distant but technologically present era raises concerns for the meaning, production and distribution of culture within performance and education settings.

From performing in digital to existing in digital, current practice in theatre-making and education is increasingly presented and mediated through digital means. Documentation as the process of archiving now records an archive of society and theatre and performance practice in action. This is a multifaceted performance archive often born digital or re-animated through the digital. This in turn has reconfigured the learning process and engagement with the archive of performance in education and practice. The tensions between ‘live’ and ‘liveness’, ‘presence’ and ‘absence’ become porous within the digital archive and within this new dynamic learning and performance space. This Themed Issue will address the tensions produced within a theatre education context in which potential digital barriers and borders emerge in terms of access, curation, ownership, copyright and use in teaching.

We invite contributions that will respond to or question how digital theatre archives are utilized within a theatre education context and within applied theatre development. Recent scholarship addressing the uses of digital performance, the ethics of theatre historiography, as well as new media in/as dramaturgy provide a foundation in which to situate this themed issue.[1] The digital archive, while redefining the documentation of work and labour of current practitioners, repositions the training and educational possibilities of future theatre makers. We welcome contributions on any of the following topics from academics, theatre-makers, policy makers, curators, artists, cultural workers, archivists, specialist librarians and others who engage with archives of performance in education settings.

Sample topics and questions to address include:
  • Kinetic Archives – Teaching past performance through sound, vision, and embodied archival performance
  • Ownership, copyright and performance as art-work and education
  • Devising and the Archive: Ensemble collaboration in digital learning
  • Archives and the Curriculum – questioning the canon on issues of sexuality, exclusion, race, gender and minorities
  • Digital Performance and Digital Pedagogy: New learning interfaces
·         Capturing virtual & augmented reality and virtual classrooms within applied theatre learning spaces
  • How have digitized performance archives directly generated new forms of teaching and learning practice?
  • What are the challenges for digital archive partnerships between universities and theatres?

We gladly invite the following forms of submissions:

·         Research articles of between 6,000-8,000 words.
·         ‘Document Essays’ of between 3,000 and 5,000 words with curated photo-based material.
·         Recorded-media-based responses/provocations
·         Interviews with practitioners/artists/researchers also welcome

Potential contributors are required to submit an abstract of 500-700 words, along with a biography of maximum 250 words.

Please send any enquiries and abstracts to the editors:

Deadline for submissions of abstracts: 21 August 2020

Contributors will be notified by: 18 September 2020

Full papers will be required by: 26 January 2021

[1] Such publications include: Rob Roznowski, Transforming Actor Education in the Digital Age, Theatre Topics, 25.3 (2015); Sarah Bay-Cheng, Pixelated Memories: Performance, Media, and Digital Technology, Contemporary Theatre Review 27.3 (2017); Sarah Bay-Cheng, Digital Historiography and Performance, Theatre Journal 68.4 (2016); Claire Cochrane and Jo Robinson, eds., Theatre History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth (2016); Peter Eckersall, Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer, New Media Dramaturgy: Performance, Media and New-Materialism (2017); D. Dean, Y. Meerzon, and K. Prince, eds., History, Memory, Performance (2015); and Toni Sant, ed., Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving (2017).

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Galway International Arts Festival - An Archive of Stories and Spectacle

Mid-summer in Galway has become synonymous with one thing. For forty years the Galway International Arts Festival has grown to become not just the highlight of Galway's cultural and artistic calendar but also to be one of the largest cultural celebrations in Europe. 

The archive of the Galway International Arts Festival resides within the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway. The GIAF archive is a detailed record of the history and achievements of the festival, as well as an account of its establishment and its growth over many years. It offers a record of how GIAF engaged not just the best of Irish artists and performers of all kinds, but also brought leading international artists to Galway each year. The archive consists of over thirty-five boxes of manuscripts and documents, comprising some of the first minute books of the Festival committee, correspondence with leading artists, programmes and posters for various events, an expansive photographic collection, press cuttings, and of course the famous Galway Arts Festival posters.

The archive includes a detailed record of administration, productions, and events held during the Galway International Arts Festival since its inception in 1978. Within the administrative records, there are editions of minutes from Galway Arts Festival committee and management meetings 1980-1982. The production files include a large volume of photographs from productions and events across all disciplines in the Galway Arts Festival. The photographs document events across theatre, comedy, dance, music, literature, visual art, street performance, and children's events. The images are also a record of the audiences and experiences of GIAF - those who each year return, witness, enjoy and take part in a celebration of the arts in Galway and which ripples outward into the world. 

The archive also includes a large volume of artist and event posters and other promotional ephemeral material. The series of press files contain records of local (Galway and west of Ireland) press cuttings of interviews and features with artists, members of Galway Arts Festival directors and management, reviews of productions and events at the festival and news on arts, theatre and culture in general nationwide around Ireland. The press files also offer a detailed and comprehensive list of events in various codes including theatre, music, visual art, children's events, literature provide an account of all acts which performed each year at the festival. Hearing the stories of visiting artists as well as local and Irish artists gives an indication of what it meant for a practitioner to have their work as part of the GIAF as well as collecting the many voices and stories of those who make the festival programme a special experience each year.

The records show how the people of Galway, the west of Ireland and from much further afield have been an active part of the spectacle of the festival. Images of crowded streets and venues across the city show how audiences have been enthralled by all the Festival has to offer for all tastes and interests. The archive also compliments other related local artistic and cultural archives, such as those of Druid Theatre Company, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Macnas and many others, building a comprehensive memory of the Arts in Galway for over the past four decades.

A full listing of the Galway Arts Festival archive is available on the Archives online catalogue

For any visitors to the Galway International Arts Festival and are curious about this amazing archive collection, please contact the Archives service for information on access.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A (Staycation) Travel Miscellany - Sources for History of Travel in Ireland

As we are allowed to expand our horizons to travel anywhere in Ireland from 29 June, it is worth looking back at some of the tourist accounts and travel guides relating to Ireland published during the twentieth century. The first half of the century witnessed the zenith of the Irish railway network when the whole island was connected by rail. In 1906 a map was published to accompany the report of the Vice-regal Commission on Railways in Ireland. It is contained in the Commission’s full report which is available through the House of Commons Parliamentary papers database on the library website or the Enhanced Parliamentary Papers Ireland website at You can also access the map on Wikimedia Commons at

The Midland and Great Western Railway Company’s branch line to Clifden ran through our university campus. When you walk from the library towards Distillery road, you are walking on the railway! If you would like to read some of the guides to excursions on this and other West of Ireland lines you can do so at We have the original edition of the Midland & Great Western’s detailed handbook from 1900, Ireland from Sea to Sea but sadly that’s not yet available digitally.

While lots of travel guides for 19th century Ireland have been digitised and made available online, fewer volumes from the 20th century are on offer yet, mostly because quite a lot of the material is still subject to copyright. You will have to wait for the reopening of the Archives and Special Collections Room, hopefully in the next few months, in order to read these volumes for yourself but here are a few illustrations from them to whet your appetite!

O’Neill Lane, T. Round Erin or Highways and byways in Ireland (Abbeyfeale, County Limerick: [the author], c.1900).
Irish Tourist Authority. Ireland: Official Guide (Dublin, c.1946),
Bord Fáilte. Illustrated Ireland guide. (Dublin, 1968),
Newby, Eric & Petry, Diana. Wonders of Ireland: a personal choice of 484 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1969)

In the meantime, though, you might like to try Thomas O’Neill Russell. The beauties and antiquities of Ireland (1897), and Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Guide to Ireland (2012), the full text of which is available through the library catalogue. If you would like to read more about Irish travel writing the journal Studies in Travel Writing devoted a special issue to the subject in 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 2) which can also be accessed via the library catalogue. Enjoy your trips and stay safe!

Swords Round Tower

Monday, July 13, 2020

Remembering 'Big Jack'

The recent passing of the former Irish football team manager, Jack Charlton, has prompted an outpouring of memories and tributes from many who fondly remember 'Big Jack'. 
In the archive of the Galway International Arts Festival is this press cutting from the Galway City Tribune with an image of a sculpture of none other than Jack Charlton. The sculpture was made from discarded oil drums by Galway city motor mechanics Gay and Patsy Farrell. It was placed outside the Kenny Art Gallery, then located in Middle Abbey Street during the Heroes and Heroines exhibition in conjunction with the 1994 Galway Arts Festival. Ireland was in the grip of World Cup fever in the summer of 1994, as well as Arts Festival fever at this time, so it is no wonder ‘Big Jack’ made an appearance on the streets of Galway that summer.