Mahoney and Reed, friends for over 30 years, are both in Galway for the Festival where they will perform in the European premiere of The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham which opens at the Town Hall Theatre tonight.

The National Theatre of Scotland is also taking part in the festival after a successful tour of North America with The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. The play also opens tonight at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Musician Daniel Figgis and Jack L, artists Brian Maguire, Joe Comerford and Jennifer Cunningham and the new Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride also attended alongside a number of international festival directors.

Actor and Honorary Patron of the Festival, John Mahoney commented "Whenever I do a new play, I don't wish for a Broadway transfer, I wish for an invitation to take it to Galway Arts Festival. I have been fortunate to participate five times in the festival over the years, and the joy never palls. Galway is such a beautiful city and to be there during the Arts Festival is sheer magic."

Speaking at the opening, Festival Chief Executive John Crumlish commented "The Festival Programme in 2012 is one of our most ambitious yet and we are projecting an attendance figure of 170,000 approximately. The economic impact on the local economy in 2011 was €17.5 million and we would hope to build on this figure in 2012. There are 160 shows, exhibitions and talks in 27 venues over 14 days from the 16th to 29th July and we believe there is something in this programme for everyone to enjoy."

The Festival's Artistic Director, Paul Fahy added "This day has always been one of my favourite days of the year, a day when artists from all over the world arrive in Galway to join forces with Irish artists as we offer to you our audience what we believe is our most exciting programme in the 35-year history of the Festival."