Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Buzz of arts world lured John from steady jobJuly 12, 2012 - 9:37am
Spearheading a festival that costs €2million to stage and remains one of the biggest such events in the country is no mean feat.
Yet the man at the helm of the Galway Arts Festival which kicks off on Monday is as calm as a cucumber, even if there are 160 performances, talks and exhibitions in 27 venues around the city and county in the next 14 days.
John Crumlish, the Festival’s Chief Executive, says he works with “an excellent team” who have been supported fantastically by “a loyal and sophisticated audience” since the event was founded in 1978.
He admits he has “one of the best jobs in the world”, not only because he is involved with one of the best festivals in the world but because of the people he works with.
“I work with the nicest people and it’s a pleasure to come to work every morning because of that, not to mention the excitement of organising gigs, events, exhibitions, parades and concerts,” he says.
It sounds overwhelming but it’s all in a day’s work for John, who hails from Carndonagh in County Donegal and who came to Galway to study psychology in NUIG.
“I fell in love with Galway sure as soon as I got here. Derry was our nearest city at home but Galway had a buzz about it.”
He then went to Ulster University to do a Masters and after that taught psychology for two years in the North West College of Technology. He says he knew early enough that a life of teaching wasn’t for him.
“I was more excited attending gigs in Derry, where I first saw The Waterboys, The Undertones and Petrol Emotions. Some of the best gigs ever were in the Rialto Cinema in Derry.
“But I never got Galway out of my system and I jumped at an opportunity to return here when a friend, Declan Gibbons, asked me to write music with him for the summer. That was the summer Macnas put Gulliver on parade and then brought it to Dublin. I had never seen anything like it in my life. . . I was hooked.
“When Pearse Doherty, who is also from Carndonagh, was recruiting for volunteers to help with Gulliver, I said yes and that was the first time I took part in the Macnas Parade.”
John had commitments to his job so he returned to teaching but lasted just another year before he packed it all in to move to Galway full-time. By this stage, himself and Declan had their own band, The Sleepwalkers, which he felt justified his move to the City of the Tribes – though others might have thought it was a foolish decision at the time, leaving a full-time teaching post to write songs and play in a band!
Time has proven that John did the right thing when he moved to Galway and immersed himself in the arts to start a whole new career.
Leaving the North had nothing to do with The Troubles, which he describes as being “full on at the time, but it didn’t bother us”. The move was all about his new found ‘grá’ for Galway, which in turn has led to his love of the Irish language.
John sang with the band, which played pop music and some of its own original music. He describes it as “very enjoyable but definitely not profitable”.
So he joined Macnas full-time. “My technical abilities were limited so I got into management by default.”
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.