Fergal McGrath is Venue Director of the Town Hall Theatre Galway. A native of Tuam and a graduate of UCD, Fergal has worked in the cultural sector for the past 28 years and is closely associated with the growth and development of a number of leading Irish companies and organisations including Galway Arts Festival (1992-2002 including the establishment of Baboró Children’s Arts Festival in 1997), Druid Theatre Company (2002-2007), Town Hall Theatre (2007-2010 and 2013 to date) and previously the Irish houseplant division of Fyffes Plc (1985-1992). From 2010 to 2013, Fergal was MD of FMG Management and provided a range of consultancy, project management and business development supports to the cultural, tourism and services sectors.
The Town Hall Theatre is Galway's premier performing arts venue and a welcoming place at the heart of Galway's cultural activity. Incorporating the 400-seater main auditorium and the 52-seater Studio Space at Courthouse Square, and the nearby multi-purpose Black Box Theatre with capacity for up to 600 seated and 800 standing – the Town Hall venues are open 7 days per week, 52 weeks (except for Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day!) and each year present an extensive mix of theatre, concerts, musicals, dance, film, comedy, family and community shows. In 2019, the Town Hall Theatre programme featured 600-plus performances, screenings and events and included work from 54 theatre/dance companies and 27 community organisations.
What was the artistic event/exhibition, organised by you, that gave you the most satisfaction?
DruidSynge - the first ever staging of John Millington Synge's entire theatrical canon. Described by The Irish Times as 'one of the greatest achievements in the history of Irish theatre', DruidSynge premiered at the 2005 Galway Arts Festival, opening at the Town Hall Theatre in July, followed by performances in Dublin (Olympia Theatre) and the Edinburgh International Festival (The King's Theatre) before concluding its 2005 run with a week of stunning performances on the Aran island of Inis Meáin in a range of locations including an open-air setting at Dún Chonchúir (a large circular walled fortress). Directed by Gary Hynes, DruidSynge involved a company of 19 actors performing 43 roles across the repertoire of 6 plays in 8.5 hours of theatre. In 2006, DruidSynge toured to Lincoln Centre Festival in New York and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis where it was the opening production of their new facility.
Which artist /arts organisation / artistic institution inspires you the most?
Playwright Tom Murphy.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in your role?
Developing new, diverse audiences.
What is the best piece of professional advice you received?
"Luck happens when good preparation meets opportunity" — Seneca.
How would you say the Town Hall Theatre affects the local community?
Town Hall Theatre is at the epicentre of Galway’s cultural activity including the city’s major festivals such as Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Film Fleadh, Cuirt, Galway Theatre Festival, SUBTITLE Film Festival, Junior Film Fleadh, Baboró Children's Arts Festival, Galway Comedy Festival and Music for Galway Mid-Winter Festival. Productions from Galway’s own Druid, Decadent, Fregoli, Fibín, Branar, Brú, LJ Nee, Moonfish and others play a critically important role in the venue’s programming and engagement. And as well as many visiting national and international companies and artists, the venues’ programme proudly features the work of a host of (professional and amateur) performers, companies, societies and arts organisations from across the city and county. Many people in Galway gain their first experience of theatre and of participation and public performance at Town Hall Theatre venues. So we are right in the thick of things! Every day, every week, offering Galway audiences and Galway artists something to be proud of and enjoy. In a city of circa 80,000 population, annual attendances here typically exceed 100,000 confirming high levels of participation, ownership and support.
In what ways do you think Arts Council Funding has an impact on the work of the Town Hall Theatre?
Town Hall Theatre is the busiest Arts Council-supported venue outside of Dublin and Cork, a vitally important piece of the national cultural infrastructure for touring productions and one of the main showcases for theatre in the regions.
Our mission is to create engaging experiences of, and empowering opportunities in the performing arts in Galway. We endeavour to achieve this by engaging and developing a wide and diverse audience for an extensive, ambitious and quality programme of theatre and arts events in Galway and by providing a platform and supportive environment for artists and arts organisations. We simply couldn’t do this with the support of the Arts Council.