From Lisa Hannigan to Lee “Scratch” Perry – the highlights of Body & Soul,
Body & Soul grew from a seed planted in the minds of two friends to become first an add-on to knowing festivals such as The Big Chill and Electric Picnic and then a unique stand-alone festival in Co Westmeath. Its co-founder tells Tony Clayton-Lea how it
E GOT THE idea in San Francisco about 15 years ago,” says Avril Stanley, festival director of Body & Soul. “A friend and I had just come back from Burning Man, and it blew our minds wide open and, in the desert, my friend and I shook hands, and said this was what we’d do for the rest of our lives. It was a naive, open-minded, but committed plan. We started doing parties in woods and deserted warehouses. It wasn’t about building an empire; it was purely a passion we had.
“I ended up in England, where I trained as a shiatsu practitioner and a contemplative psychotherapist, which is a Buddhist form of psychotherapy. But I also went to festivals, and during one – The Big Chill – I detected a gap in what they were doing, and I offered to run an area within it called Body & Soul. So we started doing a healing area there, and it went from a small space to quite a substantial area. After a while we wanted stages and bigger budgets. We wanted to expand on the idea of what Body & Soul was all about.
“Ultimately, though, we wanted to get away from the idea that Body & Soul was just a healing area for holistic arts, well-being and chilled-out music. It was at this point – about eight years ago – that Electric Picnic asked us to run Body & Soul within the festival.
“What are we about? Daring to be different, but not so different that it marginalises anyone. The holistic side of the event? Well, it isn’t like you have to find your inner child or heal your deep traumatic wounds. The doorway to that is left ajar, and if you want to walk through it you can. If you just want a deep-tissue massage that gets you ready for a night of dancing that’s there too.
“There is nothing holier-than-thou, nothing dogmatic, nothing religious at all. There’s a place in Body & Soul where if you want a moment away from everything and everyone you can do that. If you think that’s a load of la-la, then ignore it and enjoy all the other stuff that’s on offer.”