This summer, Stendhal Festival of Art showed just why they have been voted ‘Ireland’s Best Small Festival’ for three years running and I’m sure a fourth is now just a formality.
Thousands descended onto Ballymully Cottage Farm for a weekend of great music and festival goers were determined not to let a few rain drops spoil the party as this year’s festival proved to be the biggest to date.
With a host of local and International acts on the bill, there was something for all tastes of music, from Electronic to Gypsy Folk and everything in between.
NI Alt Rock band Thearpy? brought a rainy Friday night to a close in front a packed Main Stage. The seasoned rockers even felt it was fitting to belt out a few verses of Gene Kelly’s hit ‘Singing in the Rain’ although it was the band’s 1994 hit single ‘Screamager’ which got the biggest reaction of the night.
Derry’s very own PORTS warmed up the awaiting crowd ahead of the arrival of the Ballyclare outfit. The local four piece have been blowing audiences away with tracks from the recent album and the Ballymully crowd were no different.
Stendhal was a family affair for Dublin singer songwriter Paddy Casey who brought the Karma Valley Stage to a close on Friday, as his daughter Saoirse had played earlier in the day alongside Gar Tiernan.
The multi Meteor Music Prize winner is considered to be one of the most influential Irish artists of his generation with his triple-platinum debut album ‘Amen (So Be It)’ catapulting him onto the Irish music stage back in 1999 and he is no stranger to the festival.
A jam packed Saturday saw performances from artists such as Badly Drawn Boy, Ryan Vail and Stendhal regulars Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas while DJ Yoda brought this year’s festival to a close on the Main Stage.
The organisers have said that this year’s Stendhal will always be remembered as a bittersweet event, following the devastating news regarding Stevie Martin, aka Rainy Boy Sleep.
“In terms of the event itself, this year was our best ever, no question,” said Event Director Ross Parkhill. “We are fairly positive that when we pull all our figures together we will have had almost 5000 people on site this year, which is up massively from last year.
“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who came up the lane to enjoy everything Stendhal had to offer and we are not only grateful, but honoured and humbled by the support we are given from our team of volunteers again this year.
“In the grand scheme of things this will always be remembered as an incredibly bittersweet year for us. The success of the event will always be tinged with sadness as the team up here have lost a wonderful friend in Stevie Martin.”
“He will be sorely missed and lovingly remembered as an unassuming gentleman with a dry wit and an insatiable love for music and performing and we extend our love, thoughts and prayers to his family in Lifford and to people here in Limavady whose lives he touched and illuminated in a way only he could.”
Stendhal Festival is not only a celebration of music and art, but also of fun, family and life and it was obvious throughout the weekend that Stevie Martin was constant in people thoughts, from the musicians who took to the stage, to the festival goers themselves.
Stendhal is unlike any other festival you will ever experience. Every little nook and cranny of this vast area has its own individual personal touch, from the wooden prosecco bar located at the end of a secret path, to a music stage within an enclosed wood surrounded by handmade swings and hammocks. Each and every area oozed personality and charm.
With this year being the best attended to date and growing year on year, Stendhal Festival has become the heart-beat for the North West’s festival scene and long may it continue.