As Ireland heads to vote in the referendum on abortion, participants at the contemporary cultural biennial, Drop Everything, stand on edge in anticipation of the results.
Inis Oírr is the smallest of the Aran Islands. Lying just off the west coast of Ireland, this blustery three-kilometre-wide rock is home to a permanent population of 260 people. But on the occasion of Drop Everything, a contemporary, multi-disciplinary biennial that brings together national and international participants from a cross-section of creative industries, the island’s population doubles to over 400 people. Now in its fourth edition, this mixture of arts, talks, food and music, culture and parties has developed quite a following.
When I asked organiser, Mary Nally why, way back when in 2012, she decided Inis Oírr would be the best place to host Drop Everything, she explained that her decision was prompted more by a feeling of the place, rather than “a conscious thought decision.” Seeking to encourage and instigate creative exchange between artists and audience alike, Nally explains that the very “nature of a small island demands collaboration and you have to help each other out to make things work in a location like this.”
Solely accessible by ferry or by plane (providing you have enough people to charter one that is), the seemingly cut-off environment is a defining characteristic of the Drop Everything experience. Accessibility to and from the island is not usually a major concern for Nally. However, this year it takes precedence; with Ireland’s referendum on abortion falling on the first day of the Drop Everything line-up.
While a ferry operates between Inis Oírr and the mainland once in the morning and again in the evening, Nally has expressed much concern over how the Irish participants from other parts of the country will be able to place their votes. In order to accommodate voters, Nally has asked the ferry company to operate an extra boat on the day of the referendum and has as such, programmed this as part of the weekend’s line-up.
“Voting takes precedence over our event”, says Nally. “It is important [that our Irish artists and crew can vote] in so far as this referendum is going to be incredibly close, so every vote counts. The divorce referendum was in 1995 [50.28% to 49.72%.], 20 years later we had the referendum on same-sex marriage [62.1% to 37.9%], both were hard won, and this is the last link in the chain of the catholic church controlling Irish people, particularly women's lives.”
For this year’s edition, Drop Everything will collaborate with designer, Harrison Gardener, one of the lead builders from Earthship global, and Manchester-based design studio DR.ME to build a fully-functioning, temporary library that will sit facing the Atlantic Ocean.
The library will house a collection of books and publications, and will be lent to the local school during Drop Everything's off years. The collection will include contributions from playwright, Edna Walsh, design writer Alice Rawsthorn, amongst others. As well as publications such as The Earth Issue, Hole & Corner and, of course, a few copies of Good Trouble!
With the first of Drop Everything’s events already under way, and with voting continuing across Ireland until later this evening, the island of Inis Oírr stands on edge in anticipation of the results from today’s historic referendum.
More information about the current and previous editions of Drop Everything here
Documentary photographer Olivia Harris has produced a photo essay on Ireland’s abortion decision. You can check it out here.
For more information on the Irish abortion referendum itself, visit here
London based Art Advisor, Researcher and Writer