If time machines existed, I would almost certainly travel back to Paris in the 1950s and check in at the Beat Hotel. It was a run-down old hotel situated at 9 Rue Gît-le-Couer in the Latin Quarter that left little to be desired in terms of cleanliness (bed bugs were a problem in the City of Lights back then too!) but was populated by the kind of crowd you’d certainly want to get locked into late night conversations, or roped into wild creative projects, with – you know, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Harold Norse and the like. It was a place where you could pay your bar tab with a manuscript (imagine!), where you could paint your hotel room to suit your style and where you could let your creativity run wild.
It’s also the place that inspired the concept of the Beat Hotel roving arts, music and culture festival in 2011– a festival that returned to one of its spiritual homes (Ibiza, obviously!) last week. Given that science and technology have yet to work out a way to transport me back to the Paris of the Beat Generation (and the fact that I am also quite partial to good personal hygiene), I felt compelled to attend the special Beat Hotel presents Island Times event at UP at The Standard, Ibiza, where a collective of artists from different disciplines congregated for a night beneath the stars that incorporated cuisine, music, literature and more – a contemporary take on the idea of a hotel serving as cultural and creative (and very clean!) meeting point.
In case you haven’t heard, Ibiza is having an unseasonably warm autumn (fab for an extra-long summer season, slightly scary in terms of climate change) which meant it was the perfect temperature to be milling around on a stylish rooftop in the balmy evening air, no jackets required! There really is no better place (in my opinion) to watch as the kaleidoscopic colours of sunset swirl around the iconic Dalt Vila skyline than the rooftop of The Standard, Ibiza. As soon as you step out of the elevator and arrive at UP – high above the hubbub of the main square of Vara de Rey – you feel an instant sense of calm, gazing across at the old town. The chic restaurant space was filled with friendly and familiar faces as the who’s who of Ibiza and the jetsetting music industry were milling about, buzzing with anticipation of what was to come.
As we scooted to our front-row seats (thank you Beat Hotel!), we were served a zesty Paloma cocktail as Andy Wilson of Ibiza Sonica took to the cosy little stage – styled to be all homely with books, lamps, ceramic Tanit busts, houseplants and vintage TV sets – introduce the very first guest, prolific author, part-time DJ and long-term Ibizaphile, Irvine Welsh. Having read his novels over and over again, listening to Irvine’s Scottish lilt in real time as he recounted some stories of his experiences in Ibiza almost felt like the narrator of his books was leaping from the pages.
Dubbing himself a ‘seasonal hedonist’ (he’s been a regular in the summer since 1985), Irvine – in conversation with NTS Radio host and DJ Zakia Sewell – Irvine traversed topics from his writing process (be it therapeutic or triggering), his failed attempts at becoming a musician, the mundane elements of living in Ibiza year-round (hello bank and post office), his wildest times at the Manumission Motel, Acid House brokering the peace deal in Northern Ireland, the way island icons like Tony Pike and Javier Anadon cultivated relationships with creatives, and even a sneak peek into a potential television project he dubbed a ‘political techno drama set at the fall of the Berlin Wall’, there was no shortage of topics and he didn’t shy away from the taboo either. I only wish, in hindsight, that during the audience question time I’d thought to ask him his thoughts on AI!
At the end of the hour-long conversation, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few people craning their necks (and their phones) over Irvine’s shoulder, towards the view of Formentera in the distance. What could be so interesting that you’d divert your attention from the stage, I wondered? And then I saw it. The full moon, rising dramatically from the sea, floating into the hazy pink sky and hovering over Dalt Vila, illuminating the whitewashed buildings with its soft glow, as if someone had switched on a giant lamp in the sky. When Ibiza puts on a show, it really puts on a show.
Speaking of shows, Beat Hotel presents Island Times was far from over! After a brief interlude, Italian composer and ambient musician Gigi Masin, whose dreamy soundscapes are regularly set to Ibiza sunsets, stepped up to the stage for his first ever Ibiza performance. This was the musical performance that had brought the heads out in droves, eager to catch the man himself playing live in such a stunning setting – and he didn’t disappoint. Meanwhile, there was another creative whipping up some magic behind the scenes – Michelin-starred chef (and self-confessed raver) Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley, who was invited to take guests on a culinary journey over the course of the night.
His menu was designed to follow the course of an Ibiza night out, with courses dubbed ‘The Welcome’ – a plump and zesty oyster ceviche with caviar, and the seriously finger-licking good CBC’s Fried Chicken – and ‘The Warm Up’ (a red prawn and lobster cocktail) setting the scene for things to come. As we tucked into our starters, the delicious Ojo de Ibiza vino (my fave!) flowed freely, and local DJ and Namaste resident Gaya Brisa stepped into the booth to signify the transition from day-to-night. As the evening went on, tables of like-minded strangers naturally began joining together as guests became newfound friends, like a game of very well curated musical chairs orchestrated by Beat Hotel.
The next course was called ‘The Main Event’ and the incredible local black pork and sobrasada tacos and OSDB Acid House Hot Sauce (Chef Carter’s own brand) lived up to the name. With Acid House being at the forefront of conversation as well as in our taco salsa, it made perfect sense for the inimitable Luke Una to take his place behind the Beat Hotel booth with a laid-back change of tempo, spinning a very Balearic soundtrack that seamlessly skipped from Brazilian to disco and e-soul as the moon continued its ascent above the old town. The DJ booth was abuzz, with music aficionados and fans stopping by to doth their hats to the musical maestro, who graciously accepted compliments without ever skipping a beat.
As the night drew to a close – with the final stage of the menu called ‘The Cool Off’ – a local fig tart with fig leaf ice cream plus a Patron espresso martini on ice – I was struck yet again by just how magical full moon nights in Ibiza really are. Who needs 1950s Paris when there’s a modern-day incarnation of the Beat Hotel right on my very own doorstep? If anything, I’m thinking about a time machine to fast-forward us into the future, for the next instalment of the Beat Hotel in Ibiza (as long as it doesn’t age me!).