Body and Soul
17 – 19 June 2016
Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath
The weather gods were not kind to us this year at Body & Soul which meant that this year, the festival was just as much about survival as it was about the music and craic. The rain started on Saturday evening and didn’t cut it out for about 24 hours, resulting in the main arena becoming a complete mud zone on Sunday. Luckily, this year, Access Campers were allowed to take shortcuts on the production routes so we could avoid the mud that was shin-deep on some people. I became great pals with the paramedics in the First Aid tents who let me wash the mud off me and very kindly let me steal some latex gloves so I could remain slightly clean and pretend to be a vet. It’s the simple things.
This may read like absolute misery but when the weather turns to shit, it brings out a new side in festival goers. Those who stick it out, make sure that they have the best time possible and luckily, I surrounded myself with those very people. The biggest highlights of my weekend were the incredible Mbongwana Star, Girl Band, Saint Sister, Aoife McElwain’s Guilty Pleasures and Stevie Nicks vs. Kate Bush Sing-A-Long, the Lumo DJs playing ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure’, Matt Smyth’s audio visual experience Every Morning I Wake and Seem To Forget, the Absolut Brunch that reenergised me for Sunday’s activities and the closing ceremony on the Woodland Stage, which was the dancefest we were all looking for all weekend long. I’ll tell you, GALA better be earning a pretty penny for the second wave of ‘Freed from Desire’ because it was the song of the weekend.
What has it got?
Camping: Access Campers had to pre-register for a spot in the campsite, along with the names of the four or five friends that were camping with them, in order to allocate space correctly. However, when we arrived around 6.30pm on Friday, there was no space left because the Access Camp was shared with artist and family camping. So, after some rearranging, we finally got a spot for our car and tents. The campsite was a short walking distance from the Walled Garden and connected to a lot of the production routes so you could take shortcuts to the woods, Midnight Circus and the main arena.
Ground: When it rained, my god did it pour. The ground was fairly soft on arrival but as the rain battered down, it turned into a warzone. If we didn’t have the production routes to use, I would have had to leave on Saturday evening. The staff were all over it with laying down hay but that can only work for so long. When the weather gets this way, there is very little that can be done to make it easy for a wheelchair user so if anyone can create a mud sled by this time next year, I’d be very grateful. Or even just the lend of a pack of huskies.
Bathrooms: This year, we were promised accessible toilets with keycoded locks. Unfortunately, this was not delivered. By the Friday night, the accessible portaloos in the main arena were unusable so with the help of my pal Ro O’Rourke, I had to climb into the regular and very clean portaloos. Thankfully, every First Aid tent had an accessible portaloo out back so I used them all weekend long. They were clean, the paramedics were incredibly sound and they also had a sink I could use to clean the reams of mud from my hands, chair, eyes, clothes and ears.
Helpfulness of Staff: The staff at Body & Soul are very sound. Between the organisers, security, volunteers and paramedics, whatever problem I faced, we came up with a solution. This is sort of a rarity when it comes to festivals as the rules can be quite black and white but when you’re trying to figure out ways of making a mudslide accessible, you need to be flexible. And they were. So a box of Roses is going their way.
Viewing Platforms: The viewing platform at the Midnight Circus stage was very handy, especially when it was crowded but the viewing platform at the main stage meant was angled to the side so you couldn’t see anyone performing. On Friday and Saturday, I could go anywhere at the main stage and have the craic but when it was muddy, I had to hang back at the platform for Santigold with no view.
Tickets: Body & Soul offer a 2-for-1 ticket system for wheelchair users, which is great. When it is difficult to get around, you rely on the help of your friends (thanks SuHu!). This year with the weather, you could not go to Body & Soul on your own if you used a wheelchair or had any mobility issues so having this ticket scheme in place means that you can bring a friend who will actually help you out of a ditch.
Why did it lose points? Body & Soul lost three points (down two from last year) because they failed on delivering the padlocked accessible toilets and providing enough space for access campers, even though everyone had pre-registered. With the weather, a lot of things went tits up but the way in which it was handled was great. Body & Soul is one of the greatest festivals in Ireland and it was put to the test with the rain and because I spent so much time in the First Aid tents, peeing, cleaning my hands and stealing latex gloves, I can see what superstars the paramedics are. They’re the true heroes of Body & Soul. Even though it was a bit of a struggle, the craic, crowd and general atmosphere were top quality and I’m already looking forward to next year.