The Sanctuary stage at Body&Soul was dedicated to nourishing the physical and spiritual aspects of the festival and it didn’t disappoint! Beautifully laid out with artworks and sculpture, it had a fire cauldron in the centre burning in the evenings, surrounded by benches and forming a natural centrepiece for people to congregate, enjoy the flames, relax and chat away from the action on the music stages.
When I dipped into the area on Friday evening, a village style drum and dance fete was in full progress on the stage with a circle of participants enjoying learning the Malinké music of Upper Guinea led by a drummer from Slí An Chroí!
Highlights on Saturday included Eddie Lenihan, one of the last seanchai, the old time storytellers of Ireland. Looking like he was carved from a piece of ancient bog oak himself, he’s been collecting reminiscences and anecdotes for over 42 years from ordinary Irish people, many now deceased, setting onto paper the fading light of the oral Gaelic tradition. Listening to the rich lilt of his voice was to be transported to an alternative world where the spiritual dimension still intrudes into every aspect of daily life. The fairies, the Sídhe, the little people, still inhabit our world and the stories about their interaction with us commonly offer, as proof of veracity, descriptions of the exact place where the meeting occurred, or the name of the family or individual to whom the incident happened, sometimes dark and threatening, sometimes funny, always walking the line between the mystical and the harsh reality of life at the edge. His collections of such stories about the famous healer Biddy Earley have been through multiple reprints. And don’t even think about cutting down a hawthorn tree especially if it’s growing on a rath or fairy fort, or bringing a flowering hawthorn branch into your house unless you want to bring the wrath of the little people!
Later, we enjoyed the emeritus professor of psychiatry Ivor Browne, an admirably tall and imposing man for his age who needed little introduction. He led the audience in a Heartfulness Meditation before chatting with radio presenter and film-maker Donal Dineen about his life and work, including his autobiography “Music & Madness”, in which he suggested that the heart, rather than the brain, is the centre of our being.
Later on again, John Francis Flynn took to the stage. John is a singer and multi-instrumentalist whose work centres around traditional and folk material from Ireland and further afield. As he says of himself “I am, I am a Dublin man. Singer of folk songs. Player of windy instruments”. He is a founding member of the band, Skipper’s Alley, with whom he has toured extensively throughout Europe and America as well as playing some of the biggest Irish festivals including Electric Picnic and Other Voices. John is an active session musician around Dublin and has recorded with artists such as Lankum (Between the Earth and Sky) and Ye Vagabonds (The Hare’s Lament). He gave a lovely chilled performance to the early evening crowd.
The above is only a sample of what was on offer there, you could spend the whole weekend enjoying the Sanctuary area of Body and Soul but sadly that would mean missing out on all that was going on at the many other stages. However, it forms an essential part of the holistic mindscape of the festival, appealing to all, young and old.