Incognito Autistic… at the Galway International Arts Festival. Part 1: Insects

Every year, Galway holds an Arts Festival for two weeks in July. And every year I try to go to at least one event. For the last few years, the free family-friendly outdoor spectacle has occurred at night. And put off by the inevitable crowds, especially the drunken crowds associated with Galway by night, I have regretfully avoided them.

But this year, reading about giant robotic insects swarming down the main street, I knew I had to at least attempt to go. It was on over two nights, and the first night we were all exhausted and it was raining, so we gave it a miss. We nearly missed the second night too, as again we were exhausted. But somehow, at the last minute, we got a second wind of energy and headed into town. Which, lucky for us, is a five minute walk.

The streets weren’t too crowded when we arrived. We found ourselves a perch on a window ledge in front of one of the many pubs that line the street. And, even luckier, we happened to be sitting right under a heat lamp. Which was very welcome since it was a cool night, typical of Ireland in July. Also lucky was the fact that the rain stayed away.

Even with a sort-of-seat, I found myself fading after a few minutes. Especially as I’m always on high alert in crowds. I can’t just relax and enjoy the atmosphere, my fight-or-flight reflexes kick in almost immediately. But the kids were happy, hubby went to the shop and brought back crisps and drinks, and I knew I could get through it.

After about half an hour of waiting, the first of the fantastic beasts crawled towards us, in time to some loud but lovely techno beats. It was a giant ant, powered by a lady pedalling ferociously underneath. Another ant followed soon after. Behind that, was a praying mantis, and a spider, which veered off down a side street before it had reached us. But nevermind, we knew where it would end up so we headed in that direction. We were not disappointed, as the ants and other creatures converged, and had a stand-off of sorts, before joining up again and heading down another street.

At this stage, we thought we’d be clever and take a short cut, so we could catch up with the action again. However, we misjudged it completely and ended up losing them. It was clear, though, that the best of the show was over and it was time to go home. It had started drizzling by this stage too. The kids were a bit disappointed, as they were still hyped up and overstimulated, but had calmed down by the time we got home.

All in all, it was a success. I survived the crowds, I enjoyed myself and, though exhausted, I was glad we went. I still won’t make a habit of going out much at night, but future excursions won’t seem so daunting.

[image of a crowded, narrow pedestrianised street. In the background are the windows and doorway of a grey, limestone building. In the foreground are several people with their backs to the camera. They are looking at, and taking photos of, a giant red ant, which seems to be made of paper and a metal frame. Only the head and antennae of the ant are clearly visible.]

[image of the same ant, taken on a different street. This time, the whole ant is visible, as is the wheeled, pedal-powered contraption, including driver, that powers it. Volunteers helping to push it are also visible, as are crowds of onlookers in the background. Also in the background is a car driving slowly, indicating that we have now left the pedestrianised heart of the city centre.]

[image of a giant black spider, again made of paper and a metal frame. The most visible part of the spider are its white eyes, three of which are visible, and it’s white pincers. There are crowds of people in the foreground, partially obscuring the view.]

[image of the side profile of a giant praying mantis. Again, it is made of paper with a metal frame. It’s body is green and its eyes are pink. Visible from this profile is a light shining out of its eye. Again, there are crowds of onlookers watching in wonder and taking photos.]

[image of the same praying mantis as before, but this time from the front. From this view, the full height and size of the creature is apparent. ]

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