In the valley that saw the song, ‘Danny Boy’ conceived, one of Ireland’s most celebrated music festivals is back this summer – Stendhal. A lineup of events that has boasted international stars to local legends, it never disappoints. The toast of Irish festivals, it specialises in showcasing new talent as well as fantastic local music, giving plenty opportunity to update your Spotify playlists. On the outskirts of humble Limavady, Ballymully Cottage Farm sits in the shadow of Binevenagh mountain. This stunning backdrop is where Stendhal Festival is held annually in the heart of the North Coast.
A true festival of the arts, it has an assorted and abounding programme that strives to highlight the creative talent found on the island of Ireland and further afield. With a lineup this year that varies from local to international performances, including multiple comedy events from around the globe, Stendal Music Festival is an unmissable event to attend this year.
After being established in 2011, Stendhal has become a must-see venue after housing acts such as Frightened Rabbit, The Undertones and Donovan to name a few. Having won Best Small Festival at the Irish Festival Awards from 2013 to 2015, it already boasts a host of awards and continues to blossom. With performances in traditional artistic fields such as music, comedy, poetry, dance, and theatre; Stendhal Festival also serves to display acts from street performance, craft, sculpture, as well as having an entire family programme to entertain future creatives.
‘Red Alert’: Basement Jaxx at Stendhal Festival
This year’s headline act is none other than Basement Jaxx. An exciting addition to the Stendhal lineup particularly due to their calibre. Having played venues such as Hyde Park in London, The Hollywood Bowl, and having headlined Glastonbury twice – the irrefutable King of British festivals – Stendhal seems a more humble locale. Basement Jaxx is composed of Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton.
Having met at a Thames riverboat party that Buxton organised, the two began collaborating as producers and party promoters in the underground scene in South London. After Virgin Records distributed their single ‘Samba Magic’ in 1995, they were courted by all the major record labels of the day, ultimately signing with independent XL Recordings which was also home to the Prodigy at that time.
With XL, Basement Jaxx released their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Remedy’ in 1999. An impressive back catalogue of work, their collection ‘The Singles’ went double platinum in the UK, as well as having album sales that boast over 3 million. As double BRIT award winners, as well as having been awarded a Grammy for their third album, ‘Kish Kash’, Basement Jaxx’s DJ set will be a showstopper at Stendhal this year.
Breaking Down Barriers: ‘Borders’ at Stendhal
From one end of the city to the other, Londonderry/Derry musical legends, Ryan Vail and Eoin O’Callaghan aka Elma Orkestra, will be performing their joint project at this year’s Stendhal ‘Borders’.
The eight-track project blends their ambient electronic using old analogue equipment. The project was inspired by the recent discussions surrounding the North and South of Ireland and the possibilities of a hard border. Their visuals show gasping landscapes taken via drones that fully explore the idea of the land and the issue of having borders, particularly ones which would divide their own idea of home.
The album also features Moya Brennan singing their song ‘Colours’ in both Irish and English. A striking, thought-provoking project, with compelling songs and stunning visuals, this event is one not to be missed at this year’s Stendhal Festival.
Derry Girls: Not Just For Television
Stendhal Festival is a long-time supporter of the local music scene in Northern Ireland, and this year’s lineup is no exception.
Another headline act this year is a Derry girl, SOAK. Real name Bridie Monds-Watson, via her moniker SOAK, she has released two celebrated albums at the tender age of 22. After uploading acoustic music onto online platforms, she was soon discovered and flying to meetings with publishers at 16.
This lead to releases of EPs from 2012 to 2014 culminating in her debut album in 2015, ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’. This album saw her nominated for the UK’s Mercury Prize. This year’s Stendhal Festival will see SOAK perform her lauded album ‘Grim Town’ an ethereal, synth-pop experience that almost feels like a cinematic vignette. This is a must-see event and a perfect addition to the Stendhal lineup.
A Barrel of Laughs: Comedy at Stendhal
While music is, of course, the major draw to Stendhal Festival, it is a proud supporter of the wider arts. Phill Jupitas will be headlining their comedy bill at this year’s festival.
Having begun his career with the ranting poetry scene, before getting the opportunity to work with The Housemartins and Billy Bragg with their record label Go! Discs. This allowed him to continue doing his standup before becoming a national treasure as a team captain on the illustrious BBC show ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’.
Jupitus’ is renowned for being easy-going, down-to-earth but that doesn’t mean his shows are lacking. Every performance is unique due to his incredible improvising ability, making this event one of the most exciting parts of Stendhal Festival’s lineups.
The Spoken Word: Poetry at Stendhal
Local music isn’t the only homegrown feature at this year’s Stendhal Music Festival. Local poet, Michael Wilson will be performing at the festival this year. Top of the poetry bill, he is a lovely accompaniment to the lineup. Deeply influenced by his own experiences of mental health, Wilson voluntarily sectioned himself at Holywell Hospital. As part of his recovery, a nurse recommended that he write down his experiences as it was therapeutic. Having enjoyed writing in his younger years, Wilson decided to write and has penned some heartrending and inspirational work that has touched many globally.
Describing his topics of discussion as sex, drugs, and rock n’ dole, Wilson is an award-winning poet who, as well as winning multiple slams, has had a one-person show go for a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest that achieved a 5-star review. At times, performing with BSL, Wilson strives to create safe spaces and accessibility in his work. A performance that cannot be missed at Stendhal Festival 2019.
This year’s Stendhal Festival is one filled with an exciting plethora of international and local acts. Starting from the 15th to the 17th of August. To buy tickets visit the Stendhal Festival Website.
Have you ever visited the Stendhal Festival? Let us know your experience in the comments below.
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