If you’re lucky enough to be in Dingle this weekend, you will no doubt be enjoying the unique atmosphere that comes with the annual music gathering that is Other Voices. If you haven’t made it to Dingle this year, don’t fear – our guest writer, Tony Clayton-Lea, is on hand to bring you all the details – from the famous St James’ Church performances, to the growing Music Trail. From new sounds in the IMRO Other Room to Banter sessions and the newly created Ireland’s Edge.
It’s the day, evening and night before Other Voices officially starts, and the mood in Dingle is so warm and cosy (even though it’s very, very chilly outside) that it’s like a Christmas movie right in front of your eyes. For those who have been here before, the vibe is well known. For those who are new to Other Voices (and this year, the event’s 13th, there are more people than ever experiencing it for the first time), the overall sense is that this is something they should have been coming to for years.
The atmosphere? It’s a bit like a reunion of emigrants that have come home for a family gathering: people that haven’t seen each for many months greet one another like long lost friends. The people you have kept in touch with by email or Twitter/Facebook are now right in front of you. Babies that winked at you last year from their carrycots are now taking their first steps. People that were single last year are now married. People change but not the work – in fact, the people involved work just as hard, if not harder, to get the event off the ground, onto television, and into the ether.
What has changed radically this year, however, is the profile of the Music Trail. A recent addition to Other Voices, the Music Trail (now in its third year) is overseen by Martin Byrne, a dab hand at sussing out music talent, and an even more experienced person at corralling that talent in a way that puts many other people at the same game in the ha’penny place. There was a time in the life of Other Voices when it might have seemed as if the event was an open door to music industry and media people and a closed shop to everyone else – you can only fit so many people into the beautiful but low capacity St James Church, after all. Over the past five years, however, what with live streaming of the church gigs in numerous pubs around the town, and the aforementioned Music Trail taking place in many venues, the reach of the event has really broadened out. On checking into my B&B accommodation on Thursday, I asked what the buzz around the town was like. There isn’t a room to be had, I was informed. The reason? The success of the Music Trail.
In other words, people are now coming to the town not just for the estimable gigs at St James Church. The amount of music acts playing the Music Trail has increased by 50 per cent in the short space of three years, and we won’t be surprised if it increases slightly further. What is amazing about the Music Trail, however, is the wealth of genuine talent on display. Today, for example, there are eleven acts performing in various venues from 5pm (Sorcha Ni Bhriain at Coach House) to after midnight Rusangano Family at An Chonair). Tomorrow (Saturday), the Music Trail commences at 1.30pm (Conor Walsh at The Lab) and over 20 music acts later finishes at 12.30am with New Jackson/Simon Bird at An Droichead Beag.
Life goes on, of course, but for many it seems as if the Other Voices event has an internal dynamic, an informal community, perhaps, of its own. It feels good, frankly. And it’s not just because cosy/comfy Christmas is a few weeks away, either – this is an event that justifiably feels good about itself, and because of that all but the obstinate or ungracious feel that way, too. What’s crucial to note, however is that the words ‘Other’ and ‘Voices’ are really just that. It might be seen by some as a brand, but if you parse the words that’s exactly what this event is about. New voices. Different ways of saying things. Original perspectives. You might not agree with all that’s being offered, but you can’t deny that it does exactly what it says on the biscuit tin. You’re looking for the usual suspects? Move on, ambulance chasers, there’s nothing for you here.
No, we’re more into the unusual suspects, and having a gander at what’s out there that doesn’t always stick to the tried and tested formulae. This year, for example, for the first time there is a conference element to Other Voices. Titled Ireland’s Edge, it’s part Think Tank and part showcase. On one hand you have chaired discussions about creativity, cultural remits and emigration, while on the other you have special music performances (specifically Shakey Graves and Richard Hawley) and interviews (specifically with musician Hawley, and with editor of The Observer, John Mulholland). We see Ireland’s Edge as being the beginning of a TedEx/SXSW-style strand to Other Voices, so it will be interesting to see how it develops in years to come. Also on the subject of talking, don’t forget Banter, a series of fireside chats in Foxy John’s pub, host by Irish Times writer Jim Carroll. Running on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, expect smart, provocative and insightful dialogue, as well as special guest music appearances.
Did we mention music? Yes, we did, and this is where IMRO gets involved. The organisation has been a willing supporter of Other Voices for many years, and tomorrow IMRO’s Other Room once again gets an opportunity to shine. Taking place at An Chonair, from 12.30pm, IMRO’s Other Room features Saint Sister, Talos, Hawk, Bitch Falcon, Gavin Glass and Saramai (the recent winner of the IMRO Other Room Open Call, and, just in the case you don’t know, the sister of Lost Brothers’ member Oisin Leech).
Until tomorrow’s blog posting (which will include a run through of what took place at Ireland’s Edge, a few Music Trail performances, and the St. James Church gigs), stay safe, stay warm, stay tuned!