|Some tired bodies and emotional souls|
Body and Soul
Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath
This was my first proper time giving Body and Soul a go. I was there two years ago - when I first started using a wheelchair - and had to trundle home, defeated, thanks to the rain, the mud and the exhaustion. With the glorious weather being the ultimate guest of honour, I decided to try Body and Soul properly. In doing so, I used them for all the access treats they had on offer. They had an Access Officer, Maggie McKeever, who made sure everything went to plan and, lo and behold, it did.
Body and Soul is one of the smaller festivals and for every ten metres you walk, you will run into a familiar face. The music was obviously a big draw (highlights including Gary Numan, Tom Vek, Darkside and John Grant) but it's such a fun and magical festival. We got lost in the forest so many times but we were never in a rush to get anywhere because every corner had something going for it.
What has it got?
Seating: All throughout the Body and Soul site, there are many places to rest your weary legs and, as the photo above shows, heads. Be it benches, chairs carved out of trees, thrones, picnic tables or just regular chairs, you will definitely find a place for a quiet moment.
Viewing platform: At every stage, there was a viewing platform. However, the spirit of the festival is to be involved so placing yourself on a wooden slab away from all the action isn't ideal. I've often wondered what the thinking of keeping people with disabilities as far away from all the fun at festivals/concerts is. If there was a way to rethink the location of viewing platforms so that whoever sits there doesn't feel totally isolated, I am all ears.
Ground: The rough ground was a bit of a struggle. There wasn't a drop of rain all weekend or the week leading up to the festival so we had no mud. That was a major coup. However, the paths had quite rough stones on them which meant that we had to tip my wheelchair back like a wheelbarrow to get around so I couldn't really go anywhere on my own. Luckily, I always keep a team of men at my beck and call for this.
Campsite: This was my first time ever using the Access Campsite at any festival. Using this facility was a big thing for me as it meant admitting that my needs are actually different from others.
This year, the Access Campsite was beside the castle and just beyond the walled garden. We had plenty of space to set up our tent without the cursed strings and poles becoming obstacles.
The biggest advantage of the Access campsite is that you can park your car right beside your tent. This meant that we didn't have to lug our belongings for miles. I had to apply online for this campsite and the Access Officer was there to meet me and gave me and my mates (as many as I wanted) separate wristbands so we could all stay there for the weekend.
I'll definitely be doing access camping from here on out because it just made life so easy.
Bathrooms: For every gaggle of portaloos, there was a larger and accessible wheelchair portaloo. Glamorous they were not but they did the job and weren't difficult to find. It's important to remember that people in wheelchairs do not have the same...eh, hovering abilities as others so the toilets could have been cleaner.
Spaciousness: The only time that space was an issue was when we tried to get into the Midnight Circus tent for Jon Hopkins. Not for love nor money could we squeeze in.
Helpfulness of Staff: Very helpful. The security were cheery and informative and if you ever asked to take a shortcut to make your trek easier, they gave you all the industry secrets.
Why did it lose points? The weather was the best thing to happen to Body and Soul, in terms of access. If the weather was bad, this rating would have dropped to below sea level. It was dry and the ground was solid - you couldn't ask for anything more. However, nature being nature, the forest area was tough to manoeuvre and I felt that they could have done more with the entrance/exit points to the main arena to make the journey less bumpy.
The use of the Access Officer was a brilliant idea. Body and Soul is so small so she could help people out easily and it truly was a great asset.
Overall, my weekend was incredible, even if I did build up my muscle making my way across the land
Other festivals reviewed here.