Imagine a Dutch festival that requires you to take three trains and a boat from Amsterdam to a small island where you might see a string quartet in underwear under a tree in one spot, a modern dance company set against the ocean backdrop, or a gripping play in a historic barn. Sounds like a groovy, Northern European version of Mayberry RFD. Since its beginning in 1982, the island of Terschelling in the Wadden Sea has been transformed into Oerol, a unique natural stage for dance, theater, street theater, music, and site-specific art installations. The shows are crafted to match the surroundings and the resulting experience is awe-inspiring and breathtaking. It’s both intimate and communal at the same time with interactive installations in the dunes, on the beaches, in the woods, in sheds, next to dikes, and just about anywhere you roam from morning to night on this artistic island.
An Artistic Oasis
Oerol means “all over” in the local dialect and took its name from the tradition of allowing cattle to roam freely on the island. “All over” describes the nature of this festival. Your very affordable festival entranceband allows you into almost any art installation or performance, although some of the theater requires a separate purchased ticket. Tickets are sold in the form of passports. There is music every day on the stage at the Groene Strand, the most beautiful live music stage in the Netherlands, as well as at the festival center Westerkeyn, just east of Midsland where people tend to gather and share stories of what they’ve seen around the island. If you’re someone who suffers from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), you may have FOMO Fever at Oerol as, at any moment, there can be artists doing remarkable things all over the island. Just breathe deeply and appreciate that you’re in one of the most artistic habitats on the planet for a few days and just appreciate what serendipity is going to bring you. This is a festival for curious and patient souls.
The Oerol Tradition
Joop Mulder became the barkeeper of Café de Stoep on the island of Terschelling in the early 1970s. Mulder organized monthly concerts accompanied by poetry, theater, and visual arts and, in June 1982, he created the first Oerol street festival. Oerol reminds us that life is a stage and the permeable boundary between actor and audience is one of the more provocative, existential questions. This festival attracts heady folks who like to ask big questions and it also attracts those who enjoy communing with nature and riding a bike. Similar to Burning Man where the sheer size of the venue and the amount of art to digest is so large, a bike gives you the freedom and speed to experience even more. More than 50,000 people attend Oerol’s 10-day festival each year, so having a bike allows you to experience the island a little more intimately.