The integrity of the soul
Avril Stanley didn’t intend for Body & Soul to be the typical music festival experience – and she still doesn’t, she tells JIM CARROLL
WHEN AVRIL Stanley talks about the inspiration for her festivals, she talks about her childhood. Events such as next weekend’s Body & Soul festival and the alternative nirvana of the same name at the Electric Picnic came about from trying to recreate childhood experiences.
“I lived in Ireland and spent my summers in Canada,” explains Stanley. “I had normal life and school here and this other world over there, running around a lake for months on end, bonfires, toasting marshmallows, sleeping in a tent. It was that side of life. This is what you do here, and then you go somewhere else and there’s all this.
“As a kid, that was a real adventure, going from one reality to another.
“Now, I enjoy that sense of stepping out of everyday life and trying something else and being someone else and experiencing something new.”
The desire to create such alternative realities for others is what has drawn Stanley to festivals. “It’s not the rock’n’roll or bands or main stages,” she insists. “I genuinely don’t care about that at all and would love to get to a place where that’s just a part of it, but not the main attraction.
“Everyone wants to know who is playing and that’s fine and I understand it, but I would like to move it on from that and redefine what festivals are. I think they’ve got pigeon-holed and I’m not sure why.
“When we get feedback from people about Body Soul, it’s rarely about the headline acts. It’s about the guy playing the fiddle at 5am in the bog cottage, it’s the pop-up party in a tent, that’s what people report back.
“That’s the part I love to tap into. The festival should be about the memories you leave with, and we’re trying to make those memories as good as they possibly can be, so there’s something there for everyone.”
The Burning Man event in the heart of the Nevada desert was a catalyst for Stanley in what a festival could be about. “People spent an entire year planning their art for their space in such depth and with such attention to detail and then, everything was burned and nothing was left. I was there for three weeks and it was amazing to see that process. I wanted to experience that more often in my life.”
After living in Calfornia for a few years (“I was putting on parties for 200-300 people based on the Celtic calender in old warehouses, and was on a real roll, having a great time”), visa issues brought her back to Ireland.