AMID the noisy marketing campaigns during Europe’s summer festival season, it’s refreshing to discover that an event exists outside of the news cycle, offering instead a fiercely independent roster of artists in a setting that defies comparison. (When – on the official schedule – you’re invited to “swim in the sea and stare at the stars”, you know you’re somewhere truly unique.) Festival promoters take note: Ireland’s Drop Everything is everything that you are not.
Set on Inis Oirr – the furthest flung of western Ireland’s Aran Islands – this brilliantly eclectic biennial was founded in 2012 by visionary Irish curator Mary Nally, who has succeeded in rallying a roster of creative minds from Ireland and further afield for a weekend of art, music and merrymaking like no other, all of which begins with a picture-perfect journey.
A brief but beautiful flight or ferry from the Irish mainland – with the angular Cliffs of Moher visible in the distance – brings Drop Everything’s 300 patrons to the island, more than doubling its population for the weekend. This, the third instalment, was Nally’s most ambitious event yet, spreading a packed schedule of top-class talks and performances across the island from its pubs to the rocks, down to the beach and up to the arts centre, which boasts stunning views back to the mainland.
Opened by renowned experimental documentary maker Vivienne Dick as the sun set on the Friday evening, the weekend saw performances by the effervescent New York alternative hip-hop artist Zebra Katz, who brought his dynamic, alternative take on hip hop to the island’s tiny school hall, and multifaceted Icelandic musician Mr Silla, who evoked emotional tears of joy among a hushed crowd.
Elsewhere, Inish Oirr’s geography and culture were expertly weaved with boundary-breaking art, with video installations taking over the handball alley, spoken-word events lent gravitas by the rusting hulk of HMS Plassey and the allure of the beachside sauna – itself a custom-built temporary installation – providing respite from the still-pretty-frosty Atlantic sea.
High-end cuisine from Dublin’s culinary collective Fumbally, which hosted a spectacular brunch on the rocky headland, young Irish chef Katie Sanderson and Galway favourite Ard Bia meant that revellers were impeccably fed throughout, helping to balance the hedonism with wholesomeness.
Following a weekend blessed by clear skies, Galway collective Alice alongside Berghain DJs Steffi & Virginia hosted the closing party in the Tigh Ned beer garden and as the sun set on the gathered crowd, the weekend’s most beautiful moment unfolded with one of the region’s most renowned traditional musicians joining in for an impromptu (and perfectly executed) tin-whistle-meets-techno collaboration, proving the perfect crystallisation of Drop Everything’s raison d’etre that serves as a beautiful blueprint to inspire those that follow.
by Ben Olsen
Photographs: Conor Horgan, Sharon Greene, Doreen Kilfeather