Body & Soul: a few more bodies, a little less soul

Boutique festival loses just a bit of its magic with jump from 10,000 to 15,000 attendees


Body & Soul’s boutique status is a big part of its charm and what makes it a firm Irish festival favourite. With a focus on arts, discovering new music and celebrating life in general, it has a lovely vibe about it.

“Have you seen two crazy weirdos?” asked one girl who had lost her friends. They could have been anyone, such was the extravagant nature of this year’s costumes.

Despite organisers saying they wouldn’t, an online petition persuaded them to arrange for Saturday’s Ireland v Belgium match to be shown in the Midnight Circus tent.

“It’s at 2pm? What time is that in festival time?” one man shouted to his friend on hearing the news.

The idea that Body & Soul operates in another time zone is not that ridiculous. Its programming and ambience give the impression that you have entered another world. This is especially true in the walled gardens and woodlands of Ballinlough Castle in Co Westmeath. It’s a very hip fairytale setting for a very hip festival.

However, the jump to 15,000 attendees from 2015’s 10,000 has seen Body & Soul lose just a bit of its magic. While interesting acts still trump the A-list stars, the sheer volume of people is noticeable when attempting to explore the festival’s nooks and crannies.

Queue management

However, crowd control was cranked up several notches. This meant that the moment a tent even seemed to be reaching capacity, a near-zero tolerance policy on letting people in went into effect, regardless of who was moving in and out at any given time.

The site showed signs of strain last year, and organisers addressed this by moving the Reckless in Love stage from the Woodlands and out into a field of its own, expanding it massively. In general, there was a bit more space around the site, making for better free-flow and traffic control.

With such large numbers, the expansion is obviously necessary. But it does change the atmosphere of the festival.

Kormac, on the Absolut Stage, provided the surprise of the weekend by stealing the night from bigger names. So did Saint Sister on the intimate Woodlands Stage; they could have held the audience standing in the rain all night.

The Gloaming on Friday drew an ambivalent crowd, but there was no faulting the show they put on.

Laughs aplenty

Edwin SammonEleanor Tiernan

The rain began on Saturday evening and became heavier yesterday. Crowds were looking a little worse for wear as the site turned to a sea of muck with few places to shelter. Sunday ticket holders who arrived at lunchtime looked like they’d been camping all weekend within an hour.

As yesterday evening fell, the forecast was for slightly drier weather, marking good omens for Santigold’s anticipated closing set on the main stage.