I took on Body&Soul 2014 with a spirit of total, reckless adventure. Ballinlough Castle is located roughly twenty minutes from my house (as the crow flies) so not really that reckless… rather a controlled and considered adventure. But it is to the organisers’ credit that upon entering the main area that the 20-minute distance suddenly seemed much more vast. It began as a collection of finely-tuned details and art installations, and from there Body and Soul had a surprise around every corner.
From dancing to some obscure band in Midnight Circus to actually finding one of those aforementioned artists in your midst (his name was Aidan, he did that sculpture over there and, no, it didn’t actually take that long) the festival had a closeness that I have never experienced before. The acts may not have been headliners but that lent a certain spontaneous atmosphere to proceedings. Plus, it took the pressure off. Nothing like one of those heavily-highlighted timetables to make you want to go home and listen to the most un-hip music on repeat for hours. Still, Goldfrapp know how to please – an electrifying frontwoman churning out disco beats for the glitter enthusiasts. They rounded out the Saturday night and from there it was deep into the woods. Here, you could take your pick between the more laidback and chilled My House tent or the full-on, relentless Mother camp. Most people went for a bit of both and stumbled back to their tents, in the early hours, fully sated.
On Sunday feeling I could do little for the body at this point (there were murmurings of early morning yoga) I decided to indulge the soul instead. The Wonderlust stage is a place for reasoned intellectual debate, helping to rid the mind of all the gibberish nonsense spoken the night before. ‘Food: The Ties That Bind’ explored the unique relationship between food and family. Featuring several brave siblings and partners, who took the step of opening a food business together it highlighted just how intense, and nourishing, maintaining a business can be. Following that was Una Mullally speaking all the sense and succeeding in getting even the most sensitive heads nodding in vigorous agreement.’21st century activism’ explored not the abstract and tired notion of ‘change’ but rather the sustainable steps young people can make towards achieving it. Like voting. A choice quote? ‘It is not about individual goals. People can change things and platforms facilitate that change.’
Speaking of change, Body and Soul will hopefully prompt a few in Ireland this summer. Festival fashion is dead. No-one will weep over its ridiculously attired corpse. The hotpants and headbands were few and far between in Ballinlough. If I were the type to say ‘Kudos, ladies’ I would say it right now. The food in campsites does not need to be the horror story I once believed. My experiences were so positive I may only eat from food vans in the future.
By the end I was haunted only by the things I had not achieved – the glorious hot-tubs for instance or joining the National Clown Orchestra of Ireland (one of my favourite early morning finds). Body and Soul, my faith in all festivals has been restored. Thank you.