First: The UK 1998 Leonard Cohen Meeting, Lincoln...

Then: Montreal 2000 – The Leonard Cohen Event...

And now:

The Leonard Cohen Experience – Hydra 2002

Photo © Rauli Arjatsalo

Read how our project started:

Why to meet on Hydra

Original memo by Jarkko Arjatsalo (August 2001)

More than 200 Leonard Cohen fans participated in The Montreal Event in May 2000 – this was the biggest fan gathering so far. The program in Montreal was very comprehensive. The city of Montreal of course provided a lot of extra excitement. It is clear that it would be difficult to put together a better program.

I think there is no need to arrange a similar Event. Our next event on Hydra is going to be a more relaxed, informal gathering. With more time to meet the other participants, to just spend time together. And sing together, dance, drink, flirt.

The Open Mic Session in Montreal exceeded all expectations. We had to limit the songs of each performer to one, and even the number of volunteers. The quality was stunningly high.

With all this in mind, I suggest that the Hydra Experience will be based mainly on amateur performances. Nobody gets paid. A number of well-known performers will be invited to join us, at their own expense. This reduces or totally eliminates the financial risk.

Why Hydra - and when?

Hydra is the obvious choice for the next Leonard Cohen Event:

- Hydra is at least as interesting for Cohenists as Montreal was. Leonard wrote Beautiful Losers, a number of poems, and several songs here, in his house.

- The island is most beautiful and has been able to preserve the original environment, and the peace and exoticism of its past – and in spite of this it offers a modern environment for today’s travellers.

- The 2000 gathering was in North America, why not to come to/stay in Europe this time!

- The Greeks are very friendly, the food is delicious, the climate is perfect for late night sessions in the open… I spent a week there in August 2000 and can assure you that it would be difficult to find a better place!

In July and August Hydra is very hot (sometimes over 40 Centigrade or 100 F in August). In September and October the weather would be nice but too many participants cannot leave their jobs in the Autumn. That’s why we have chosen early June – just before the most hectic tourist season begins. At that time of the year:

- The weather is already warm but not too hot; the nights are very pleasant

- The water is warm enough for swimming (although there are only rocky beaches in or next to the Hydra city… but there are sandy beaches on the other side of the island)

- The busy tourist season has not yet started; but all taverns, bars, hotels etc. are already open

Who helps us with the arrengements?

One of the main problems in Montreal was the fact that we did not have any helpers in Montreal. Everything had to be organized from distance.

This time we are lucky to have local people who are willing and able to take care of the organizing. David Fagan and Kelsey Edwards operate a tourist office on Hydra. David has been living there for almost 20 years, and is a personal friend of Leonard.

David and Kelsey (see photo!) are able to negotiate special accommodation prices for the participants. They have a very informative website with details on all hotels etc.

There are 26 hotels on Hydra (most of them VERY small), and numerous houses and rooms available for rent. These are in all price categories. Air conditioning is available in some hotels/houses but not in all. All these are located very near the harbour.

All participants will be able to reserve hotel room or a house through Saronicnet for any period. David and Kelsey are also going to take care of any other individual needs the participants might have. They have a special information package they send to all their customers.

Kelsey writes: "David and I thought that it would be a good idea to have a meeting place in the centre of the port. Jorgos at the Sailing Cafe would be happy to host it. The Sailing is open from 8:00am each day until well after midnight. We could have a notice board with a copy of the agenda for the official and unofficial events and a place for delegates to post messages to each other. David and I would be pleased to print message slips that delegates could fill out and leave on the board etc. We could also man the 'office' at different times during the day to answer queries in person. Perhaps a Breakfast Meeting could be organised at the Sailing Cafe when announcements for the day could be made. I'm sure we could get Jorgos to organise a LC breakfast for a special delegate price. We would also be happy to have our telephone numbers given to the delegates so that they have a contact number for emergencies."

Photo(by Kelsey): Eija and Jarkko with Bill Pownall, a well-known painter, at the Sailing Cafe. Bill is an old friend of Leonard, and he lives on Hydra. The only truck of Hydra is also shown! Donkeys carry all baggage and merchandise on this island!


The Event starts on Friday (June 7) and ends on Sunday (June 9). However, many participants want to reserve extra days before and/or after the event, so some other activities will take place also beyond the official days. We could for instance hire a boat (or ship) to sail around the island to the best beaches and have a picnic there.

There are numerous good taverns and restaurants on Hydra, for any number of participants. These can be reserved for Evening sessions without any charge (if the participants dine there). All bigger restaurants have their own musicians who could help with the program. There is also a movie theatre with 200 seats and stage, and it can be rented.

This will be a fan gathering. The event has already Leonard’s blessings but he is not going to attend.

The program will be based on amateur/volunteer performances, movies, contests etc – and just spending time together. Here are just some initial thoughts:

- Artists who have covered Cohen will be invited to join (at their own expense). I'm pretty sure that some familiar faces from Montreal are going to show up, and more! Jan Erik Lundqvist, our Swedish troubadour who was so popular in Montreal, has already promised to come and sing ALL Cohen songs he knows!

- Open Mic session – the participants are invited to perform their favourite songs, not to forget the sing-along and dancing!

- The bouzuki players of the taverns play with the participants

- Hydra Walking Tour, guided by one of Leonard’s artist friends still living on the island

- The sunset poetry jam – we watch the sun go down to the Mediterranean and hear participants to recite their favourite poems (and hear some recited by Leonard himself, from tape – or we can play the unreleased songs!)

- Afternoon Movie showings (for instance “Ladies and Gentlemen”, or “Bird on a wire”, the song videos, or “Leonard live in San Sebastian in 1988”, the only existing professional full length concert film – we have a lot to choose from! Including the road movie (30 min) “Film from a room” – a story about two guys who travelled to Hydra to see Leonard’s house!!!

- Cohen contest – name the songs (a selection of LC cover songs – It won’t be so easy!!!)

- A marketplace for trading books, albums, collectors’ rarities

These were just some of my own ideas – I’m sure we get more good ideas from our participants!

This will be a low budget program as suggested above. We anyway need money for the rents of venues and other premises, printing the program/souvernir booklet, sound, light, video etc. equipment (none available locally, we have to rent everything with staff from Athens). More information about the registration fee and how to pay it on other pages of this Hydra section.