THIS weekend thousands of music fans, many of them from Limerick, will kick start the festival season by making the pilgrimage to the Body and Soul festival in Ballinlough Castle, Co Meath, the second year that the music and arts event has been held.
Body and Soul sprang up at short notice last year, the organisers finally fulfilling a long-kept goal of running a stand-alone festival separate from Electric Picnic, which has hosted a Body and Soul area - essentially the beating heart of the Stradbally fest - since its inception.
The brainchild of Avril Stanley, last year’s Body and Soul was a triumph, scorching weather, a superb and eclectic line-up and surprises around every corner making it the festival of the summer. It returns again this year with a magical labyrinth of gardens, winding pathways and woodlands, and “even more magic and mischief to seduce and excite you”.
The musical line-up - “acts that we have seen, danced to, experienced,” says Avril - features Lisa Hannigan, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Nicolas Jaar, Delorean, Lamb, Mount Kimbie and many more - but for most, the line-up is almost irrelevant, the vibe is the crucial element, while theatre, comedy, food stalls, a masquerade ball, and a ‘Soul Kids’ area all form part of the two day festival.
Talking to City Life just a week before Body and Soul is set to take place, Avril Stanley admits to being “somewhere between rather calm and rather stressed - a terrifying place to be!”
The origins of Body and Soul go way back, as she reveals.
“I’ve been planning for about 12 years for this, it is a lifelong passion,” she explains.
The idea was borne of attending the Burning Man festival in Nevada, and later at festivals in San Francisco and on to England, with the therapist focusing on a “healing area” and holistic arts - essentially what Body and Soul is at Electric Picnic and in its stand-alone form last year.
“Like anything in life you start getting itchy feet and you can’t fit into that box and the gigs started happening, theatre and performing arts, and before we knew it, it was art and sculpture as well - that is one of things that we get to commission these incredible artists to create this one off pieces - it is almost like an outdoor art gallery,” says Avril.
“When I went into Electric Picnic one of the deals I made with John Reynolds was that we would come and be part of this and we will always would, but I absolutely wanted to develop it as a stand alone festival, so we always had the encouragement to step out as and when we were ready.
“But it was terrifying, and everyone told me not to do it, everyone across the board. So it took a real leap of faith and it really was walking around Ballinlough Castle that I made the decision to do it, I decided the place was stunning and you can’t listen to other people.”
The venue is literally jaw-dropping, with stages, bars, hot tubs, banquets - “the most stunning location, it kind of has everything,” Avril agrees.
“You have the lake, you have this beautiful woodland, and you have these decadent walled gardens, in a way, you can kind of carve these different realities for people to experience around the festival. There are different spaces that people can go to, and that is a huge part of what we are about, it takes people on an adventure, out of the day to day and into something that has that sense of enchantment.”
Limerick’s Choke Comedy improv troupe are lucky enough to have been invited back to perform at the festival - at 1pm on Saturday in the Rose Garden - and Ann Blake agrees with Avril’s eloquent sentiment.
“It is fantastic, a gorgeous festival, it has come into its own and the venue is beautiful - quite magical actually,” she explains.
“There is a great feel to Body and Soul, it is a very nice, relaxed festival and people just want to have fun.”
The Body and Soul festival takes place in Ballinlough Castle this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets remain on sale, see www.bodyandsoul.ie.