How Fyre festival went up in flames

How did 2017’s Ja Rule-backed, Bella Hadid-endorsed festival go so spectacularly wrong? A new Netflix documentary chases some unanswered questions

“Just take it away and let me start a new beginning … it really pains me when I have to talk about it.” MaryAnn Rolle sits outside her restaurant on Great Exuma in the Bahamas, holding back the tears as she looks towards the camera.

Like many other Bahamians, she believed that a new luxury music festival organised by rapper Ja Rule and serial entrepreneur Billy McFarland would bring money and attention to the island. Instead, Fyre – which had been promoted by top models including Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, and promised acts including Migos, Drake and Major Lazer – became one of the most talked-about flops of the decade. In place of an opulent beach party, attendees at the April 2017 event were greeted with a barren, unfinished site, leftover hurricane tents and conditions that lawyers would later describe as “closer to The Hunger Games … than Coachella”, with ticket holders stranded on the island without food or water. Meanwhile, workers such as Rolle – who had spent $50,000 drafting in extra staff – were left high and dry. Although the event was swiftly cancelled, its dystopian scenes became a source of entertainment on social media, with umpteen jokes about its supposed rich-kid clientele. However, the dark side of the festival quickly emerged, with a fraud case brought against McFarland, who was sentenced to six years in prison last October.

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