REVIEW: Stendhal Festival 2018

2018 NI Music Prize Winner Jooshua Burnside at Stendhal. Photo courtesy of Shane Walsh.

Limavady’s Stendhal held the title of ‘Ireland’s Best Small Festival’ for three years on the trott, and it was easy to see why.

Set in the idyllic surroundings of Ballymully Cottage Farm, Stendhal Festival has continued to grow year on year since its inception in 2011. Walking around this magnificent site, it really is hard to believe that this incredible festival has just turned seven.

Priding themselves on celebrating all things creative, whether it be grassroots acts or international stars, the organisers have succeeded in delivering a weekend which lasts long in the memory. It’s clear that regulars to Ballymully also take pride in seeing what essentially started as a community festival, become one of the largest events in the North West now attracting over 80,000 revellers across two days. One thing’s for certain, nowhere in Ireland will you find such an eclectic mix of acts on the same bill.

Local festival goers have long associated music events with jumping on busses at the crack of dawn armed with a sausage roll bap and travelling the length and breadth of the country to get their festival fix. So it came as a welcome change that we simply had to make the short jaunt towards Limavady for this one.

A lot of festivals claim to be ‘family friendly’, but over the years I have found that not many are able to successfully cater for those hardcore festival goers and families at the same time. Stendhal however seem to take it in their stride.

Taking this one from the perspective of the family man, we rocked up to the family campsite two kids in tow hassell free with parking only a stone’s throw away. All the convenient amenities were onsite, including a coffee hut supplying your freshly brewed caffeine fix. Very handy first thing on cold Irish summer’s morning.

The festival itself was located close by, only a short walk from the campsite and an absolute gem of a location. With something interesting hidden in every nook and cranny, from wooly jumper dressed trees to handmade swings, the amount of time which has been invested during the months leading up to the festival is obvious.  

The location itself became even more enchanting as the sun went down with live music and DJ mixes drifting from wooded areas lit by fairy lights and laser shows.

There’s something magical about roasting marshmallows over an open fire pit while listening to Bob Marley’s iconic Wailers Band jamming out some reggae in the background.

The Wailers had the crowd jamming. Photo courtesy of Ciara McMullan

The multi-award winning festival is not only family friendly but also environmentally friendly too. By 2022 they aim to be a totally zero waste festival, with at least 99 percent of waste generated diverted away from landfill and either reused, recycled or composted.

Did I mention the festival is a hipsters dream? With craft beer in abundance and some of the finest takeaway food in the land, I can honestly say that I have never ate so well at a music festival. Gone are the days of cheap knocked out burgers. I am still salivating at the thought of Me-kong’s incredible Panang Chicken Curry.

Stendhal cover more genres than you can shake a stick at. From classical music supplied by the Ulster Orchestra, indie kids Embrace rocking out their iconic tracks, Corrie favourite Craig Charles showcasing his DJ side, Hip Hop workshops for the kids… the list goes on.

Both the Nerve and Oh Yeah Centre got in the act by supplying what could be Northern Ireland’s next big acts at the Youth Breakout Stage. Judging by some of the tunes blasting out from that stage over the two days it’s safe to say the future is bright.

Some of Derry’s finest were out in force too. Paddy Nash and Paul Casey have recently united to write an album together and Stendhal provided an ideal setting for the duo to showcase their tracks. Glenn Rosborough with his mind blowing hypnotic voice that never fails to stop you in your tracks and make you listen in awe.

Waldorf & Cannon’s distinctive alternative thumping sound rocked it out from the main stage which is now affectionately known as the Stevie Martin Stage, named in honour of the Stendhal favourite and incredibly talented singer-songwriter who tragically died in 2016.

The Stevie Martin stage was also the scene for The Wood Burning Savages who headlined on the final night. The local alt-rockers have been gathering a lot of pace since the release of their debut album ‘Stability’ back in April of this year. Their thunderous high octane live show made sure that Stendhal 2018 ended with an explosion of energy.

Cooks, But We're Chefs take a selfie following their cracking set on the Woolly Woodland Stage.

One of the stand out performances of the weekend came in the form of little known Dublin six piece ‘Cooks, But We're Chefs’. Taking to Stendhal’s enchanting Woolly Woodland stage, the energy oozed from their unique Jazzy Hip hop sound which captivated and mesmerised those in attendance. It was clear the guys on stage enjoyed the gig just as much as those who were fortunate enough to witness it, and they marked the occasion by taking a selfie with the crowd on conclusion of their set.

With yet another extraordinary Stendhal Festival now done and dusted, it might be worth noting that if they continue to grow at this rate, it won’t be long before they will be crowned Ireland’s Best BIG Festival.


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