SUMMER is a time when – if we are lucky – we might get further than the end of our street and perhaps even a festival might lure us away from our usual experiences.

At the Galway Folk Festival, I found the city changed since last visiting 25 years ago.  Large housing developments stand where once there were bogs and sand dunes. Yet the charm of a small village still exists and the festival itself circled around Munroe's, a pub complex with gluten-free pizza. Oh, how times have changed.

The variety of acts was interesting. Sally in the Woods are named after a woman in her forties who, after being widowed, went to live off-grid in the local woods. The band use tap dancing for their drumbeat.

The German/American duo the Trouble Notes stormed the stage with their high energy instrumental performance, mixing storytelling with amazing musicianship. 

Scottish folk band Talisk were the main pull of the night and the riffs and melodies kept everyone dancing for their full set. Apart from the music, what I noticed to be different from going to shows in Belfast is no-one in the audience was the worse for drink. They were drinking, yes, but the music was the first pull and dancing the second.

Some concerts were individually ticketed at €20 but there were loads of free sessions and opportunities to connect with music in different parts of the city. The Irish City Link coach company, based in Galway, says it's connecting Ireland's major towns and cities, but has left out Belfast. The connection from Dublin, though, made it a relatively stress-free journey.


Closer to home, Smile AI by Matthias Oostrik is cooking up a storm in Riddle Warehouse as part of the Belfast Photo Festival. The opening night consisted of lots of people standing before the camera to be captured in all their glory and then watch as artificial intelligence software takes over to smooth out the wrinkles, maybe change the hairstyle and eventually make you smile with what can only be described as American teeth. There was lots of laughter as the transformed images scattered across the sphere.

The images raise the question, with beauty always being venerated in magazines and film, what currency will it have if AI can make everyone into a cover star? The younger people trying it with braces and awkward smiles became shocked at their AI transformed image, perhaps glimpsing a not-too-distant future. 

The experience is good family fun, gives us all something to think about and is well worth visiting. It's open Friday 1pm to 7pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 7pm until June 30 at Riddle Warehouse.