There’s a lot of living to be done in three days, if you can find the right time and place to do it. Lay on rolling meadows, tidy gardens, lush forests and a generous lashing of sun and blue skies and you might be surprised at what you can manage.
As a canvas, Ballinlough Castle in county Meath is virtually unsurpassed. The house and gardens come alive each year at the turn of the solstice when the demesne is populated not only with revelers seeking the sesh, but with an abundance of art and architecture.
Body & Soul is a gem of a festival, and its reputation has been well earned in the yeas since it’s earliest incarnation as a series of garden parties. Despite all other facets which make up the jewel in the crown of the Irish festival circuit, the greatest treasures of all to be found are on walls, in trees and on the water. The installations which pepper the estate though are the single highlight which sets the festival apart from all others.
Sadly, Body & Soul is dead. When Electric Picnic winds down in September and the last of its 50,000 attendees stumble out the gates, the 2015 incarnation of the solstice festival will be buried. The plan for 2016 is being mapped out now, and shortly it will become obvious in what way the perennial festival will stand on the shoulders of its predecessor.
But for now, there’s much to think about.
Hangovers are receding and those who’ve been scagging to bits are returning rapidly to normality. With this, the highlight reel starts to play, projected as it always is against the back of the mind. For those who made the best of the weekend, the many who thronged through the forest ebbing and flowing on the hour, there’s a lot to look back on.
The beauty of any festival, not just B&S, is its ability to make attendees feel that all’s well in the world – even if only for a weekend. Good weather and a great lineup made for an excellent all-round weekend in Meath.
From the constant bouncing of the Midnight Circus, to the altogether more relaxed Body Holidays, right the way down to the bells of the sanctuary tucked away beside the lake and walled gardens, there’s somewhere for everyone. Those willing to take a punt, or more likely those looking to duck in out of the showers will find a plethora of acts to tickle any fancy.
Body & Soul tries to be all things to all people, and it does a damned good job of it. Musical highlights included Dan Deacon, Kuenta I Tambu, Donal Dineen, Leftfield, Tiga, and King Kong Company among many, many others. While each turn of a corner brings some new work of creativity to absorb, analyse, or, as was the case with many chemically inclined revelers, stare at in awe.
Art and culture is everywhere with installations in any space they fit, and some they don’t. At various points over the weekend you are likely to find parents showing their children through the plethora of colours the festival adds to the forest, dancers weaving through crowds, scores of people seeking thrills, spills, laughs and love.
Veteran festival goer Michael Douglas spoke highly of the experience, noting that he had visited the festival annually since its inception.
“It changes every year really, it’s kind of funny. the older crowd see it as getting younger, the hippies see it as becoming mainstream and younger people see it as an opportunity to get high and dance through the night – so no change there actually. If you step back though, or even just sit down and watch what’s going on you can’t help but feel a little smile coming up.”
Organisers state their goal as being to stage a festival which “carves an alternative world for artists, musicians and like-minded people to get together, to share ideas and stories that result in a unique and indescribable magic.” They’ve managed this spectacularly.
Opportunities are few and far between to find a space which offers us to shape our entire experience as we please, but for one weekend a year you can. If you want to sit in a wood fired hot tub in a forest clearing and listen to music drift away on the breeze, you can. If you want to lie in the hot sun and watch the world pass by, you can. It can be all or nothing, even sometimes both.
See you there in 2016.
- Seán O’Reilly, Editor