By Charlotte Cox
Special. It's a word that I keep coming back to when thinking about The Hydra at Osea. Special, in that it's held on a private isle, hidden off the coast of Essex. Special, in that you can only access it twice a day, when the tide goes out to reveal a causeway from the mainland. Special, in that only 500 festival-goers are able to make it across in that time. And extra special, in that for them, a carefully curated line-up of the coolest DJs in house-tech awaits. The whole effect, it's just so… well, you know.
This shouldn't have been a surprise. After all, the prospect itself sounded pretty unusual. The Hydra, the London club brand known for its on-point bookings policy and ferocious sound, is definitively a night-time (as in ALL night) and urban (the industrial Studio Spaces) affair. So the idea of picking this up and moving it to the green surrounds of Osea island, during the daylight hours? See, unusual.
More unusual still is that the island is only accessible for eight hours a day – the rest of the time, you're cut off by the sea. During those 16 hours, what goes on the island, stays on the island… Including you, should you miss the transport window back.
'It's about going to a new place, where you wouldn't normally have a party, experiencing something amazing for the day – losing yourself in that one moment,' I'm told by organiser Alex Beattie. 'It makes for a great party atmosphere, because at Osea once you're on, you're on – there's no getting off.'
And we were most certainly ON. After a quite amazing drive to traverse the looping, seaweed-lined causeway, when we arrive on the island we're told, quite simply, to explore. For the next 12 hours, this is our own (very tiny) country: Osea, population 500 ravers. Bikes are dotted around for our use – we have the run (or, more accurately, the cycle) of the place.
It's most definitely worth a look around. A former secret WW1 naval base, rehab centre and home to wallabies until the 1950s (really), nowadays Osea island plays host to a rather more exclusive crowd. The likes of Poppy Delevingne, Jaime Winstone and Sienna Miller have all ventured here – drawn, no doubt, by the unspoilt beaches, huge skies and luxe manor house and cottages.
But today, it all belongs to us, and The Hydra. Rumbling beats fill the air from 11am, drawing party-goers irresistibly back from the beaches and jetties to the tree-lined courtyard that forms the dance floor. Electro specialist Marcus Worgull starts proceedings off amiably enough, but it's when German house-tech duo Ame take the decks – splitting up to play successive solo stints – that things start to get REALLY interesting.
The increasingly hazy afternoon light bounces from disco balls hanging from the trees overhead; the increasingly up-for-it partiers start to hold hands aloft. The inaccessibility of the island and the revered nature of the DJs mean that the crowd is undeniably headsy – but there's a real sense of a love of the music. And with such a small capacity in such an intimate setting, there is – at the risk of sounding cheesy – a vibe of being in it together. Or to put it another way: it's like London clubbing, only without the idiots.
As darkness falls, Dutch DJ Job Jobse keeps energy high with two hours of booming house-tech (another advantage of having your own island: you can play the music LOUD), and when all of the days' DJs unite for a final, back-to-back set, the crowd is hanging on every beat.
The unmistakable opening chords of Underworld's Born Slippy reverberate among the trees, a huge cheer rises and every single arm is in the air. I look up and the refracted lights from the hanging disco balls shimmer and skip through the trees. This is that moment I'd been told about, I realise.
And there's only one word for it. Special.
FANCY GOING IN 2017? HERE'S HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF OSEA:
- Ride a bike, find a beach. Chances are, you'll be the only one there – it's a beautiful and serene start to your day.
- Talk to a stranger. There's a shared ethos here: everyone's on for a good time, loves the same music, wants to chat.
- Get a grilled cheese club sandwich from Room Service, the party's food truck. You need fuel, and what better way than with gooey fromagey goodness?
- Be in the middle of the dance floor at dusk. The lights begin to dance in the trees, the atmosphere starts to come together. It's magic.
- Have a swim in the pool. Because hell, why not?
Tickets are priced at £85 and include return coach travel from London to Osea island. Details are not available as yet for 2017's event, but check here for updates.
For information on upcoming Hydra nights in London, see here