The annual winter outpost of Other Voices in Dingle in west Kerry wrapped up its 22nd year on Sunday night, ostensibly filming a music television programme in a small church. But it has become a multifaceted festival with the bonus of a stunning setting, local creative culture, some of the best pubs in Ireland, engaged and attentive music fans, and extraordinary performances.
Fans booked accommodation a year in advance, coveted Other Voices scarves sold out on the festival’s second day, and getting a decent viewing spot at gigs and talks required planning and punctuality.
Saturday morning saw people arriving into Foxy John’s pub two hours before comedian, actor and writer Aisling Bea’s conversation with Jim Carroll for his Banter series of talks. Bea reserved special praise for RTÉ's Fair City, one of her early acting jobs, which the broadcaster is cutting to three shows per week.
The memory and influence of Shane MacGowan hung in the air, with historian Donal Fallon drawing links between the impact of Brendan Behan on The Pogues, and the band’s resonance in London-Irish culture.
Later, the author and essayist Mark O’Connell discussed the complex nature of his relationship with convicted murderer Malcolm Macarthur, the subject of his book, A Thread of Violence.
On Friday night a mini silent disco spilled out on to Dingle’s main street, while music fans squeezed into Music Trail gigs in venues ranging from tiny pubs to a large marquee, an immersive arts space in a former fish processing plant, and the Dingle Distillery.
Golden tickets to performances in St James’ Church can only be won through competitions, often with a treasure hunt element. Two lucky attendees sitting up front for BC Camplight, the opening church act of the weekend on Friday, found tickets wedged in the windscreen wiper of a parked car.
Before the Irish alternative folk band ØXN, made up of Katie Kim, John “Spud” Murphy, Radie Peat of Lankum and Eleanor Myler, took to the church stage, fans had already scrawled the band’s name in dirt on the back of a nearby van.
One of the most anticipated performers of the weekend was the Irish pop star CMAT, who journeyed to Dingle following four sold-out nights at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. But the name on everyone’s lips was Kae Tempest, the singular London musician, poet, playwright and novelist. Tempest’s conversation with Jim Carroll in Foxy John’s on Sunday left some audience members in tears following a stunning spoken word performance of their work People’s Faces.
That particular piece was requested by Other Voices’ music producer, Aoife Woodlock, who was another focal point of the weekend, as she moves on after two decades with the organisation. Woodlock is highly regarded in the Irish and international music industries for her capacity to identify emerging talent, as well as her jovial and persistent power of persuasion in attracting major acts to the small confines of St James’s Church.
Tempest regaled the crowd with a story of an approach by Woodlock at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas many years ago, with the invitation to attend Other Voices finally coming to pass this year.
Woodlock’s departure, recognised by the large Other Voices crew at a private presentation in the church on Saturday night following a performance by the Dublin post-punk band, Gurriers, is yet another evolution in a constantly morphing festival and entity, which continues its story next year.
- Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date