Words: Dylan Murphy
Image: Via Body & Soul
From conversations about psychedelics to immersive art blurring the lines between the digital and lived world, we’ve rounded up the essential activities ahead of the festival.
If anything, the last two years have gave us a lot of time to think. Not only about the experiences we missed so much, but about what else is possible in the future. Sure, it’s great that some things returned exactly as they were, but it’s important to remember variety is the spice of life. They say that fasting brings clarity and when you’ve been starved of gigs for two summers it’s easy to see the first full summer festival season provides a unique opportunity for a fresh start.
With that in mind, Body & Soul is breathing fresh life and ideas into a festival that has been a staple of Irish summers for 12 years. Releasing only 5,500 tickets (a third of their original capacity) whilst keeping their commitment to curation at the centre of their ideas this year, their focus is on developing a festival with a fresh perspective in the castle grounds of Ballinlough in County Westmeath.
Ahead of the revamped festival, we’ve put our heads together to bring together, in no particular order, the essential activities, events and experiences at Body & Soul this summer.
Increasingly, and whether we like it or not – our lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with technology. The lines between performance and real life are blurring in real time and there’s few artists tapping into the digital realm to project modern anxieties like Aoife Dunne. She presents BETWIXT, a new surreal installation grounded in post-internet exploration of an experience of dissociation and hyper reality. This madness comes to fruition through a stark contrasts between the luminous and dynamic energy of the virtual world and the natural surroundings of Ballinlough’s forest.
With a number of changes to the festival’s make-up, the new Beacon Stage is the most emphatic new addition. Anchoring the festival as its central meeting point, the 35 foot tall totem like wooden structure is armed with a 100 foot laser, which will establish a base if any wondering souls so desire, whilst also playing host to acts like Optimo, Byron Yeates and Chloé Thévenin.
Some acts just have it, and Remi Wolf is one of them. Her iridescent visuals, hooks that involuntarily burrow their way into your brain and sunny production are the perfect ingredients for a summer festival set. Having teamed up with Euphoria star and rising pop icon Dominic Fike on the remix of ‘Photo ID’ and dropped an excellent project in Juno, her stock is rising and it feels like the opportunity has come to see a future star on the verge of a moment.
The best collaborations span a number of mediums and disciplines and The Black Power Talbot is the most ambitious of the lot at Body & Soul. Made up of 22 Tarot cards that display images of iconic African Americans from Erkyah Badu to Curtis Mayfield and Richard Pryor, the large scale artworks form part of an installation at the festival. It’s the result of the work of Canadian musician, writer and artist Arish Ahmad Khan, Belfast-based Game Of Thrones designer Michael James Eaton and filmmaker Alekandro Jodorowsky, who came together for the collaboration. Khan will also be available for tarot readings before getting behind the decks for a set spanning the artists featured on the cards.
Rather than make any guesses on what the topic of conversation will be during a live podcast with Blindboy Boatclub, we’ll just say expect the unexpected. The Limerick native is as likely to examine Irish mythology as he is to provide a mental health plan for the winter and if you’ve ever tuned into his livestreams you know he’s a master of improvisation, so while he’ll have researched meticulously get ready for curveballs.
For better or worse, during lockdown, we lived vicariously through the characters on our phones. Few served the cause better than Dublin-based comedian Tony Cantwell and while Ploon, Joey Cockatoo and The Dublin Frenchman were firm candidates for the top sources of our screen time, we’re glad for their real life presence in Body & Soul this year. Coming off the back of four nights at Vicar Street, Tony is in a rich vein of form and a cert for belly laughs.
If we didn’t want to brag about this we’d be doing it wrong. We’ve been curating the lineup for the Hennessy Hip Hop House for a minute and we’re buzzed to get it out there in the world. Featuring the best rising acts in hip hop, RnB, Soul and everything in between, the Hennessy Hip Hop House is designed to showcase the best part of a golden generation and give you access to a moment as it happens.
Jon Hopkins will also be part of a panel discussion with Dr Sam Gandy (Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London) and Irish shaman John Cantwell about the impact of psychedelics on wellness and creating deeper connections.
Awakenings: Psychedelics, Healing & Nature with Dr Sam Gandy (Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London) and Irish shaman John Cantwell.
Peter Broderick who will present a unique, three-part performance, fusing woodland foraging walks, an informal ‘siesta soundscapes’ improv lounge and a full live band performance on the woodlands stage.
Over the weekend, renowned producer, Jon Hopkins takes centre stage at Body & Soul. It comes after the release of his stunning album Music for Psychedelic Therapy. Alongside his performance, the festival has also constructed an immersive sonic experience alongside the artist. Housed in a geodesic dome, punters will be able to hear the record in full as they are guided through different spaces.
The experience is free, but registration is required. You can sign up here.
Festivals aren’t just a place to lose yourself in anymore. Sure, that’s an important part we don’t see going anytime soon, but more and more we’re being exposed to the idea that they can be a place of great healing. You can find The Sanctuary tucked in a remote corner of the festival grounds, where you can treat yourself to an immersive spa experience with wood fired hot tubs, solstice yoga, meditation and more.