Gig of the week: Other Voices returns to its true home in Dingle
The celebration of left-of-centre songwriters continues to exceed expectations
St James Church in Dingle, venue for many sublime Other Voices gigs
What started off solely as a Dingle-based music event celebrating the emergence of left-of-centre Irish songwriters has, some 18 years later, morphed into a multi-pronged and well-travelled assault on the senses.
Matters cerebral, physical, emotional and anything else you care to shoehorn in between those states have been presented from Belfast to Wales (Cardigan), Ballina to the US (New York), Derry to Germany (Berlin). There is no doubt about it – against annual odds and the perennial plight of gathering funding and then juggling it, Other Voices has continued not only to protect what it does and how it does it (in essence, its brand) but also to exceed the expectations of it.
Of course, Dingle, Co Kerry, has always been – and will assuredly continue to be – the event’s true home, a safe harbour for those that want to grab chunks of pop culture and flex their intellects to a floating background of world-class restaurants, brilliant pubs and stunning scenery. Yet Other Voices in Dingle has now grown to a point where certain issues have to be considered.
What began about five years ago as a small sidebar, the Music Trail is now viewed (particularly by latter-day converts) as being as important as the music staged in St James Church. It is easy for newbies to forget that Other Voices began as, and remains, a television show. Tickets for the church gigs are still as rare as gold dust (and justifiably so – sometimes, magic really can happen in there), but when you’re seated on a church pew and an act fluffs a line or misses a beat you will have to grin and bear it while another shot at the song is taken.
The Music Trail (this year sponsored by Dingle Gin, and featuring over three dozen new, emerging and semi-established Irish acts), meanwhile, is all to play for. The growth of it and accompanying increase in popularity over the past three years has taken people by surprise; visitor numbers have swelled exponentially, leading Other Voices to put on extra events such as the After Dark club night (at the town’s Hillgrove Hotel) in order to alleviate the night-time crush.
That same crush needs to be dealt with. Many of the Music Trail venues are compact, to say the least. On one hand, the how-many-sardines-can-you-fit-into-a-tin-can approach does no one any favours; on the other, seeing a music act soar on a small stage and take the crowd with them is part of the sublime cultural experience Other Voices delivers on a regular basis. Balance is all.
And speaking of balance, what was once an exclusively music-oriented festival now runs in parallel with Ireland’s Edge, a focused socio-political event that takes place over two days (Friday, November 29th and Saturday November 30th) at the Dingle Skellig Hotel. This year’s title – Endings and Edges, Bonds and Borderlands – features discussions around “Brexit, Ireland’s place in Europe, the climate emergency, mass migration, immigration, and the role and impact of the digital revolution”. Speakers include Carole Cadwalladr (The Guardian/Observer), Donie O’Sullivan (CNN), Sinéad O’Carroll (The Journal.ie) and historian Christopher Kissane.
More conversation occurs in the centre of Dingle, at Foxy John’s pub, where RTÉ Brainstorm editor, Jim Carroll, presides over two afternoons (Saturday November 30th and Sunday December 1st) of fireside Banter chats that are increasingly difficult to get even standing room for (in other words, get there early).
The music? Ah, right – those that don’t have a ticket for the evening St James Church gigs can take comfort in the fact that the music will be live streamed into various pubs and bars across the town. Anything else? Yes – pace yourselves. TONY CLAYTON-LEA
Other Voices, Dingle, County Kerry, Friday November 29th-Sunday, December 1st; othervoices.ie