CC: [To Paul] The partnership and, in particular, the SELECTED programme has facilitated NUI Galway students to gain on-the-ground experience with the festival, which contributes to developing a sustainable career. What impact has this programme had on budding artists and curators?
PF: SELECTED was set up because there was nowhere for people to go and train to be an artistic director or chief executive of a festival. We wanted to offer insight to graduates coming out of college who are interested in taking up this kind of career – to offer them a 360° view of what it takes to run a festival – both the glamorous and unglamorous parts. The idea is that after the three weeks, they would either say, ‘Watch out, I want your job,’ or run a mile.
For people starting out in arts careers, the programme allows them to get to know the [industry] and the ways in which people are trying to run the industry more sustainably. We will have those conversations with the SELECTED participants this year. As well as explaining how the festival works, we will be responding to questions like, ‘Why did you make the decision to make this? Is it worth the material requirements?’
It can be a tough life in the artworld; we need to try to make these careers more sustainable in terms of providing opportunities for people to be able to present their work. That’s another aim of ours: to provide that platform for younger [artists and creatives] to get involved in a bigger international festival.
One of the first things we do with the SELECTED team is to talk about the artwork – it’s just fascinating every year to hear the new insights. ‘Why did you do that? Why wouldn’t you look at doing something like this?’ It’s fantastic to be challenged and learn from each other, whether you’re learning from somebody with two PhDs or a student in their twenties who is going to be a great theater maker.
The number of NUI Galway graduates that have worked with the festival, whether through SELECTED or previous programmes, is amazing. [The partnership is also important] in animating the grounds of the university as a cultural stage in the city centre, because Galway is starved of cultural infrastructure. To transform the Bailey Allen Hall, an educational venue, into a performance space for the world-class opera like The First Child [is a brilliant opportunity].
One of the biggest assets that NUI Galway has is the endlessly fascinating [range of knowledge]. There are many interwoven skillsets in this partnership, and the brain power of the university’s lecturers and professors [helps to drive] our First Thought Talks programme. I’ve always felt that Galway has been a city with two things at its core – one is education, primarily through the university; the other is culture through the likes of ourselves, Druid and Macnas. It’s fantastic to have a city that celebrates and expresses itself as a town for learning and culture. When those two pillars of a city come together as a unit, powerful things can happen.