A couple of weeks ago I returned to one of my favourite festivals for the first time since before the pandemic. I first went to Body and Soul at the ripe age of 20. I remember at the time some of my friend group making comments like "Jesus what are ya doin goin there - mad hippy festival that" and they weren't wrong to be honest but seeing the fun I had, they all followed me there for the following 3 years right up until festivals hit pause for the Panny D!
My first year at Body and Soul was, I think what truly sparked my love for Festivals and how they should be experienced - Body and Soul was still quite small then and I remember the laughs I had with complete strangers, dancing in tents with random ornaments & lamps placed around them, experiencing the barefoot nature of the festival no matter what the weather and just the overall sense of community and love the festival radiates.
Overtime the festival grew and I'd be lying if I didn't admit, that with growth it lost a bit of its sparkle, so when I heard they'd decided to bring it back to being a small festival with community at the heart of it I was super excited. Being back there this year felt magical and reminded me of why I think festivals are something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime if not at least once a year!
Festivals are about freedom - It is the one place you can literally be whoever you want to be without a care in the world. I have always loved festival fashion for this reason. It is exhilarating to see people from all walks of life turn up for the weekend and lose the fear of judgement they perhaps have in "the real world". The more outrageous your outfit at a festival, the better and the only thing I can think of judging someone for at a festival is if I caught them judging someone else. But it also goes beyond the freedom of just what you wear. It's the walking around barefoot - grounding and connecting to earth without even realising or the yoga class you randomly attend that forces you to pretend to be a wave in the ocean accompanied by laughs when the instructor points out that passer byers must be incredibly curious as to what drugs the group of adults in a field moving in mysterious ways making strange noises have taken.
Festivals are about connection - Be it with strangers or people you've known forever connections are formed or strengthened at festivals. Forever I have been the person at festivals to wander away from the group I am with and engage in deep conversation with strangers. Some people struggle to understand why, but I love hearing strangers stories and their want to tell them at festivals. Amongst the storytelling, despite our differences in where we may have grown up or what age we are there always tends to be some level of connection and as I stated in a previous blog post - in connection there is healing. This connection goes beyond that with just strangers though, festivals always seem like a safer place to tell your mates how much you love and appreciate them!
The music holds power. We all know the magic of a live performance not just for the crowd but also for the artist. Watching clips of Lewis Capaldi at Glastonbury is a prime example. While his music wouldn't be the first thing i'd personally stick on, it is evident what it has done for millions of people and in a time when he needed something back from those people they so effortlessly came together to provide that for him. At Body and Soul some friends and I posed the question to each other "What's your favorite song and why?", The beautiful thing was almost everyones answer was accompanied with a memory and we all spoke about how songs can literally teleport you back to a moment, you feel the feelings you felt and almost even sense the surroundings of the place you were in the first time you heard it, such as smells and sights. The music also brings up emotion and in a way people feel they are allowed to feel and express them. Over the weekend at body and soul I watched couples slow dance, I watched (and joined) friends, families and strangers dancing in the Ceili, I watched people cry to their favorite artists and best of all I watched people laugh, splash and dance around in the rain. Which brings me to my next point...
Festivals are proof that crisis is more manageable in community. I spent 3 months in Bali not so long ago and 2 months traveling SE Asia in their rainy season so thunder and lightning storms don't usually phase me - However, a lightening storm that results in an entire festival being temporarily turned off with ominous announcements about ensuring you're not standing anywhere near metal barriers is very slightly terrifying and as someone who spent a portion of their childhood worryingly preoccupied by natural disasters and how not to die in one, I am sure had I been alone I may have been a lot more distressed. But in community instead it became a bit of a core memory, we laughed as the rain got heavier and poured over the edges of tent hundreds of people had taken shelter in. Hundreds bar the two people who had surrendered to the weather and created a game of human bull fighting diving through puddles of mud while the crowd in shelter cheered them on. In other tents there was trad sessions undergoing and after an hour or so with the return of the sun came the return of the music which felt even more magical after a short lived crisis.
Occasionally festivals get a bad rep because of the focus on alcohol, drugs or even bad weather and while of course these things pose problems it is no reason to let them put you off. I hear so many people hit their late 20s (STILL SO YOUNG GUYS) and announce festivals as something they'd never dream of doing anymore and as a seasoned festival goer from about aged 17 - I see your point because if I were still doing festivals how I did in the early years I would probably never go back either. There is a tendency when you're first going to festivals to head with a big group, set up a big campsite outside of the main arena and spend the majority of your festival there, usually drinking. Which if you enjoy it of course that is ok but so often this is the reason people think they "don't enjoy festivals" anymore. Festivals enjoyed sober or drinking in moderation enough to be on a nice vibe and spending the weekend actually in the festival exploring the different areas and installations on offer are a whole new experience and come with all of the beautiful benefits I have listed above.
I want to close this blog firstly by saying if you are attending any festivals this summer look out for your friends and other people and also the land. There is no need for campsites to get as wrecked as they do, leaving no trace is much easier said than done and actually I think pure laziness if you leave any trace at all. Bring your tent home and put your accumulated rubbish in the bin. Why is that hard?
Secondly I want to leave you with a core memory made at Body and Soul....
Alan, had driven all the way from Mayo to see Muete on the Saturday, one of their songs is his favourite song and was actually what sparked our "favourite song" conversation I mentioned above - we all sat waiting for them for about an hour and almost as soon as they started, so did the storm and all the electrics got shut off. At first we were devastated but when they returned post storm their set was euphoric and I don't think we would've danced as hard or as beautifully pre storm! A little reminder that we need the stormier times in life to enjoy the calm and beauty that follows.
Peace, love, Chaos and a Happy Festival Season to all!