Muck and magic make the mix at Body&Soul


YOU CAN’T beat the views and the surrounding landscapes for natural beauty at Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, but there were times on Saturday – the first day of the Body & Soul boutique music festival, now in its third year – when you wished it would just stop raining.

By mid-afternoon, the 5,000-capacity crowd was soaked at the second Irish open-air music event in June to have taken a drenching – Forbidden Fruit in Dublin at the start of the month had also seen the heavens open.

There was a sense this weekend that rain would stop some sections of play: there were deep ruts in the one-lane approaches to the public car-parking areas, and we were informed by a friendly but frustrated steward that sections of the camping site had been flooded and that, you know, we really shouldn’t park our car on the golf course, and could we please move on further down the mud track?

The golf course? God forbid anyone had taken out membership recently, because on the walk down to the festival site we witnessed what presumably were once manicured lawns transformed into churned up ground, made worse by people carting along wheelie luggage, tents on sleds and rain-protected buggies carrying sleeping babies and toddlers.

The rain pelted down and the muck was ploughed as the crowd made its way to the site. Here was where Body & Soul started to make its presence felt, particularly on entering the woodland area, where a philosophical gent on the Wanderlust stage was exhorting visitors to “remind yourself that you are human”.

Onwards into the belly of the beast, and we came upon a hula-hoop class and various “wellbeing” tents that offered the services of massage therapists and acupuncturists. Opposite the sights of flesh being gently pummelled was the event’s upmarket restaurant tent, the Faoi Thalamh, where for €50 diners could partake of a four-course gourmet meal. Every time we passed by on yet another meander, in vain attempts at keeping dry, the tent was jammed. Recession? What recession?

Certainly, music aside (and the music line-up across the two-day event was top notch), there was much to do, see and experience, notably in the beautiful walled gardens area and in tiny venues such as Radio Shack and Casa Habana. “There’s such a magical atmosphere here,” as 25-year-old Meath woman Emer Touhy put it.

But not everyone was overly swayed by the attractions Body & Soul is now well known for.

Dubliner John O’Meara raised his eyes to the wet and windy heavens, saw multicoloured umbrellas hanging from tree branches and sighed: “What a load of pretentious shit.”

There you have it. In fairness – pitiless weather notwithstanding – grumpiness seemed to be in the minority here, and we’re delighted to report that from yesterday afternoon the rain packed its bags and went elsewhere.

And so Body & Soul ended with generally positive, sunny vibrations, particularly at the woodland-situated Port Royal Jamaican Village.

There was one funny thing, mind: on the Body & Soul website it stated, “The smell of authentic Caribbean cooking fills the air.” What wafted up to the nostrils was the pungent aroma of something rather different to authentic Caribbean cooking.

Perhaps, though, the woodland fairies and nymphs were playing tricks on our senses again?

For a full review of Body & Soul music, see Laurence Mackin’s blog postings on pursuedbyabear/

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