The woodland sanctuary at the heart of Body&Soul
Sustainability takes centre stage at next week’s Body&Soul festival. We met festival director Avril Stanley to hear what’s ahead and why the Woodland Stage is one of her favourites
Avril Stanley: “It’s about being a conscientious camper. It’s about leaving all the packaging at home, packing up the tent, and binning or recycling your rubbish”
It’s easy these days to create an image of being environmentally conscious, without actually doing anything in reality.
With a leave-no-trace campsite, recycled stages, and a requirement that vendors sign up to the festival’s sustainable ethos, it’s evident that Body&Soul’s organisers are serious when it comes to environbmental sustainability.
The festival, which takes place in the surrounds of Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath next weekend, is a stunning mash-up of decadence and well-being. Festival goers love the fact that they can party late into the night at carefully curated events and then indulge in a seaweed bath or a hot tub to rejuvenate and purge the excesses the following day.
Festival founder and director, Avril Stanley is passionate about also giving back to the land and with this year’s event just around the corner, she talks about what it takes to make Body&Soul the rich, colourful kaleidoscope of events that it is, whilst also staying true to her sustainability ethos.
In setting up Body&Soul, Stanley took inspiration from, among others, Shambala Festival in the UK and the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia. She was blown away by the latter’s efforts to create a sustainable environment, she says, and the fact that they have a 500-year vision for the land.
“They have replanted 80,000 trees; set up their own sewage system; collected rain water throughout the year, and built their own bridges and infrastructure. We think we’re great with a vision towards 2020,” she laughs. Stanley says organisers are working hard to achieve a zero footprint festival by 2020.This involves being audited by A Greener Festival who track their progress, and has culminated in three Greener Festival awards.
“It’s been challenging because it’s not something that’s a pre-requisite within festivals and it’s not something that’s supported through any government regulations or funding. In a way it’s up to the festival organisers if they want to take that path and it’s a challenging path to take.”
We’re looking for people to come on board to support us with that message of sustainability and to try to change the disposable mindset that people have
Stanley says it’s also important that they collaborate wisely. “The campaign for Bord na Móna last year caught my attention and it was clear they were on a sustainability journey similar to the festival.
“We’re both trying to effect change. We’re looking for people to come on board to support us with that message of sustainability and to try to change the disposable mindset that people have”.
As a result, Bord na Móna is this year’s sponsor of daytime activities at the Woodland Stage and Stanley says she feels this partnership is a good fit. “Bord na Móna has a strategy towards 2030 and sustainability is the heartbeat of their business with ambitious renewable energy targets.”
But how easy is it to achieve that? For campers, after a weekend of excess, many don’t want to undertake the task of packing up a tent. For this reason Stanley set up “Us and You” five years ago, a leave-no-trace campsite.
“It’s about being a conscientious camper. It’s about leaving all the packaging at home, packing up the tent, and binning or recycling your rubbish.”
Stanley says she’s not trying to dictate to patrons and it’s a personal choice, however Us and You has gone from 500 campers in year one to 5,000 this year.
“It’s our aspiration that this keeps growing and as long as the demand is there we’ll keep increasing the size with the hope that by 2020 our whole festival has signed up for that and we are supporting one another to be more conscientious.
“We’re inviting people to this place of stunning natural beauty and creating an impermanent village in the middle of a greenfield site and so much effort and love goes into it. We’re saying if you love this festival, from the 17th century walled gardens to the oak woodlands, the natural amphitheatre with the beautifully commissioned wooden stage, through to the lakeside, then help us.
“For us to continue to come back here we need to protect the land and if people come on board and help us, I believe we will be the most phenomenal force to be reckoned with. Ironically, there will also be far greater budgets to go back into the arts and people’s experience.”
So what should revellers look out for next weekend and what is Stanley most excited about?
“I’m most inspired by the fact we have a new main stage and we recycled the wood from it to build a new stage in the woods. The sanctuary area is just gorgeous; it is dedicated to well-being with a mix of workshops, yoga and meditation. Thirty different types of therapies go on there. I love the Woodland stage and there is some really beautiful Irish talent performing there.”
She says Body&Soul is about that “unexpected moment when you meet a girl in the hot tub, who becomes your best friend and you end up going to Croatia with her.”
For Stanley the festival is more about “atmospheric engineering than main attractions and hype”. She says she is most looking forward to Saturday night’s masquerade ball, taking place in the Food on Board area. “It’s for people who want to dress up in a tux they haven’t worn since their Debs, or their wedding dress because they fancy taking it out for a tour and don’t mind getting it covered in glitter. It’s about frivolity and shaking off that 9-to-5 vibe.
“There’ll be champagne and a great lineup of acts and DJs; that is going to be a highlight for me.”
In terms of the musical line up, Stanley says this year is her favourite to date.
There’s a real sonic adventure to be taken across the entire site, there’s such richness in that and to have that soundscape as the backdrop to the festival is great.”
Her festival picks include Bonobo performing their new album Migration; Austra at the Body&Soul arena; The Moonlandingz live show as well as a political debate with Blindboy Boatclub from the Rubberbandits.
So will she get to enjoy any of the events or is it all work? “I’ll be running around like a lunatic. It’s a different kind of enjoyment, seeing other people’s faces and their playfulness and seeing them relax over the weekend. I love that.”
Bord na Móna: towards a more sustainable Ireland
Bord na Móna, one of Ireland’s most iconic brands, has been unveiled as a sponsor of Body&Soul 2017 in a move that cements the brand’s commitment to leading the change for a more sustainable Ireland.
As sponsor of daytime activities at the renowned Woodlands Stage, Bord na Móna will bring OurLand, Powered by Positive Energy, to life in a spectacular setting from noon to early evening each day across the weekend.
OurLand will feature three action-packed areas: Positive Energy, Earth and Air.
Each will host an eclectic mix of musicians, artists, illustrators, animators, nature experts, makers and doers as well as photographers who will showcase their work with positive energy sessions, engaging reading workshops and live radio sessions.
OurLand will be an exhilarating hub of excitement and interaction, inspiring festival-goers to live life more sustainably.
“Our partnership with Body&Soul will allow festival goers to experience our commitment to being more naturally driven and enjoy the positive energy at OurLand in this unique and magical festival setting.
“We are on a sustainability journey with ambitious renewable energy and biodiversity targets, and the ethos of Body&Soul fits perfectly with our sustainability principles.
“OurLand, set in the backdrop of the spectacular Woodlands area, is designed to allow everyone to share the experience of our journey in a fun, interactive and exciting way,” says Orla Kane of Bord na Móna.