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This Is The Modern World


The title of this exhibition is inspired by The Jam album of the same name. This title reflects the societal and musical changes happening in Ireland during this period. Lyrics such as ‘Septic Isle, Suffer in the Screaming sea ‘by The Boomtown Rats in their 1981 hit ‘Banana Republic’ echoes the anger felt by the youth in a conservative Irish society. There was an increasingly visible feminist movement and Irish people had begun to question the political and religious establishment.


These posters represent a moment in time before Irish bands such as U2 emerged on to the international music scene. Changing musical tastes sounded the decline of the Irish showband scene, as discos and bars replaced dancehalls and ballrooms. The late 1970’s also witnessed the birth of Hot Press magazine and a growth in pirate radio stations.

At this time, despite its peripheral location and small size (around 40,000 in 1981) Galway hosted the cream of Irish and international musical acts. This selection of eye-catching posters, each one an artwork in its own right, show the breath of talent that preformed in the town between 1977 and 1982.

To compliment the exhibition, the curator has created a Spotify playlist so that visitors can immerse themselves in the full sensory experience of the era. Please scan below.

U2 at Galway Bay
U2 Galway Bay 1980.  Image courtesy of Colm Henry.

Tom Prendergast of Buzz Promotions was a central figure in the Galway music scene of the 1970s / 1980s.   Here he shares some of his memories of the poster period in Galway:

“It’s two in the morning – a relatively safe hour to take to the streets. Posters under one arm, bucket, paste and brush in the other. Streets, poles, and billboards already selected, so off I set, on foot.  Living at that time at the top of Taylor’s Hill, it was quite a walk into town. Once I got the hang of it the job could be finished in three hours, so I was back in bed by 5am. Next day, I’d walk the same route to check that the posters were still in place. This was the cheapest and quickest way to get the word out. Job Done! Now all I had to do was wait for a full house.

When I first started promoting gigs in Galway in the late 1970’s it was at The Castle in Salthill with Billy McGrath, a promoter from Dublin. We promoted among others, Roogalator (who were managed by Robin Scott of M and Pop Music fame), Cado Belle, Jimmy Slevin, and others. Ollie Jennings was promoting bands, mostly in college before, and long after my efforts.

Later, I set up a promotions company called Buzz Promotions with Aidan Cosgrave, a Galwayman living in Dublin. Our most notable gig was The Jam in Leisureland just before they released their hit single “Down in The Tube Station At Midnight”. A month or two later and we could have sold the place out, but it wasn’t, and we didn’t!

Posters were the best way to spread the word about an event. Aidan was working in RTÉ at the time so had access to in-house designers. I then took the design to a local printer, got 200 posters printed and was ready to go. Ten days to two weeks was a good lead time for promoting a gig.

The best poster I believe we ever did was the one announcing the actual promotions company. It simply stated Buzz Off on a plain black background, with the company name on the bottom. The people of Galway woke one morning to find their town festooned with these posters – Buzz Off – what did it mean?

All was revealed in the following weeks.

I love the power of the poster – you can always tell when the circus is in town – the posters are everywhere.  I appreciate a good poster whether it’s for The Novena or for Féile na Gréine, for me it is still the best.

Long live THE POSTER!”

These posters are part of the Galway City Museum collection with a few additions on loan from Charlie Byrne.  Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the full gallery HERE or plan a visit soon.  The exhibition will run from today, Wednesday, 7 June until Saturday, 23 September 2023 and admission is free.

UPCOMING TALK  on The Galway Live Music Scene of the 1970s & 1980s on Saturday 1 July, 2pm – 3pm at the museum! Booking advised.



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