Featuring an extensive range of arts performances, participation events, well-being workshops and discussion programmes, the bank holiday weekend (May 22 to 24) saw the successful launch of the inaugural Inside Outside Festival curated and delivered by Fermanagh-based Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre.

Born from the need to reimagine an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Rural Needs funded project, the Inside Outside Festival provided unique, creative, cultural and participatory experiences which were delivered directly to people via a range of digital platforms.

This allowed audience members from Fermanagh to join with those from across the island of Ireland, Scotland, England, Chile, America, Germany and Spain in the viewing experience, offering a sense of togetherness from a distance.

Highlighting the diversity of the digital festival’s programme, Artistic Director Dylan Quinn said: “We were delighted to be able to offer a wonderfully diverse programme featuring five well-being and participation events, three social political discussions and 14 performances and exhibitions. This included four newly commissioned works specifically for the festival from Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, Liv O’Donoghue, Helen Sharp and Kat Woods.”

The eclectic programme offered something for everyone. Each morning started with a well-being event, featuring nutritional advice from Hannah Curr Nutrition, Yoga with Jenny Ecke and a Somatic session with Nicola Curry. The participatory ‘Dance on Your Doorstep Challenge’ inspired the spirit of dancing across local communities and beyond, with Devenish Partnership Forum and Jets Cheer Leading getting involved by dancing to the popular song ‘Dance Monkey’.

Friday evening seen Exit does Theatre showcase their specially commissioned short adaptation of the play ‘Hairy Jaysus’ with performer Patrick McEneaney.

The first day of the festival came to a close with an exclusive theatrical piece written by Fermanagh’s very own award winning playwright Kat Woods.

The 25 minute monologue ‘Dirty Flirty Thirty plus VAT’ was commissioned for the festival and featured Kat successfully acting in her own work for the first time.

Saturday night was alive with the return of Mirage nightclub with local DJ Aidy Kelly, for one night only. The virtual dance floor was bouncing as people from across the UK and Ireland danced in their living rooms and collectively in the Zoom nightclub. In reflecting one of the festival themes ‘From Our Home to Yours’ two of Fermanagh’s best known sons provided beautiful intimate poetry readings from their respective homes in London and Dublin, with Adrian Dunbar reading Frank Ormsby and John Kelly reading from his own collection ‘Notions’.

Friday night saw a magnificent traditional Irish music session with Jim McGrath and family direct from his home in Monea.

Dylan commented: “I wanted to try and create a sense of occasion when attending the performances/events. Audiences were directed to the Zoom ‘theatre lobby’ to meet before performances. They were then ‘transported’ digitally to the performance event. After each event finished, audience members returned to the Zoom theatre lobby to share their appreciation with the artists and engage in discussion.”

He continued: “Seeing and interacting with each other before and after each event was fundamental to the success of the festival, both in appreciating the work and in helping to ease feelings of isolation for those living alone, or struggling with the enforced separation from others.”

Dylan added that ticket prices were kept to a minimum, with some events offered free of charge: “However, we wanted to demonstrate a value for the work of the artists involved and felt it was important to contribute by purchasing tickets.”

As a locally devised and curated festival that has achieved national and international reach, Inside Outside was committed to connecting with and highlighting local business by offering some support during these challenging times. Each event was virtually ‘hosted’ by local businesses, helping to raise their profile through the promotion of their associated event alongside their business on various social media platforms.

Reflecting on the festival, Dylan said: “There has been a clear appreciation for the sharing of the collective creative social experience and whilst I had hoped this festival would achieve that, I have to be honest, the need was greater than I had thought and the appreciation for the opportunity greater than I had imagined.”

“I hope we delivered on it and can find a way of continuing to do so in the future. This was a unique festival, offering unique experiences and we are delighted that it started here in Fermanagh,” Dylan concluded.