Last chance of a proper summer festival

If you thought the last chance of a proper festival had gone for this year, worry not. The Big Think – a festival of talks and ideas to fill you with inspiration, insight, hope and joy – comes to Galway later this month.

Galway Summer Garden provides the perfect festival vibe for this Indian summer of enlightenment and laughs taking place from September 18 to 20.

The central outdoor stage is encircled by a panopticon of beautifully-appointed bell tents (each with its own dedicated loo!) from which you can ‘contactlessly’ order your food and drinks delivered to the door.

On Saturday (September 19), national treasure Panti Bliss will present Panti’s Afternoon Tea, reflecting with panelists Cait O’Riordan (ex-The Pogues), Mark Graham (King Kong Company), Nadine O’Regan (Sunday Business Post) and special guests on how culture and art can help us through these times and give us hope for the future.

Panti’s Sunday Brunch, meanwhile, promises a freewheeling, light-hearted review of the Sunday newspapers, with chat, comedy and music from Professor of Economics at UL, Stephen Kinsella, and comedian and best-selling author Colm O’Regan, who will also present The Long March, an hour of hilarious stand-up in these post/mid/pre-Covid times.

On Saturday, one of our country’s great science communicators, Professor Luke O’Neill, will feature in Life Beyond Covid, a conversation about where we are at with the Covid-19 pandemic and what hope and trust we can have in science and society for a better future.

One of Galway’s most celebrated literary heroes, Mike McCormack, whose award-winning novel Solar Bones was recently adapted into a stunning new theatre show presented against the odds at Kilkenny Arts Festival. On Friday evening (September 18) he’ll be talking to Constellations author Sinead Gleeson about their respective life and work. On Saturday, Sinead will also talk to another great Galway writer, Elaine Feeney, about her acclaimed new novel As You Were.

This Is Not A Mass Gathering on Sunday (September 20), from 12, will open the day with an uplifting assembly of joy, thanksgiving and laughs hosted by poet and storyteller Marty Mulligan and musician Paddy Cullivan with very special musical guests.

The Irish Music Industry Podcast will have a special live edition hosted by Mark Graham with special guest Edison Waters, manager of Gavin James.

Could Game of Thrones have been filmed in Galway? And which came first – the Tribes of Galway or the roundabouts they are named after?

Paddy Cullivan brings you on a surreal journey through the relics of Galway’s future inspired by the ideas of Mark Fisher and Paddy’s own Galway roots in FESTAVIA: a Hauntological History of Galway on Friday. Paddy returns on Sunday with his new show Covid Live to Party: A Covidy of Errors exploring the insanity of pandemic life and its effects on life and the arts though his musical pandemic-sona, ‘Professor Patrick’, talking bat-eating Pangolins, Universal Basic Income and #Golfgate.

Every evening of the weekend is rounded off with some great music featuring the eclectic big sounds of The Converse Allstars, Big Jelly and John Conneely Inc., supported by summer festival favourite DJ Will Softly, with saucy pop-up performances by The Dirty Circus and drumming workshops.

Bring your pod of family and friends together for a last chance of a festival feel. Tickets start at €60 for Friday and cost €90 for Saturday and €90 Sunday per person in tents of six people maximum, and can be booked on In addition, a ‘substantial meal’ from festival restaurant partner The Twelve is also pre-paid at the time of booking, featuring picnic boxes or brunch boxes during the afternoons and a BBQ on their custom grill in the evening. Uniquely, you’ll also be able to tune in to everything happening on stage through a set of sterile wireless headphones provided for your personal use throughout.

The Galway Summer Garden is an ‘arts and dining’ hub perfect for soaking up the festival style atmosphere from the luxury of your own private bell tent overlooking Galway Bay. There are 30 luxury bell tents that can be booked for groups of up to six for an afternoon or the entire evening. In addition to The Big Think, its summer/autumn programme includes The Dirty Circus Garden Party (September 10), Maria Shiels & Anna Mullarkey (September 12), and Playboy of the Western World – The Musical (September 15 to 17).

*Pictured above, Professor Luke O'Neill is one of the stars attending The Big Think in Galway later this month.

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