With STENDHAL FESTIVAL right around the corner, we thought it was only right to have a quick chin-wag with its founder, John Cartwright, to discuss the musical selection process, the origins of the festivals name, what is planned in way of future growth and a few other things. Here’s what he had to say;
► What inspired the Creation of Stendhal Festival?
John: We have been huge fans of music festivals for years now and we always used to joke that my family farm would be a great place to hold one but it was always just a running gag between us, until one day Ross and another friend Tim Ferris, came to me and suggested we do it for real. After a lot of convincing that they weren’t taking the hand out of me, we looked at the potential for a festival in the area and at the farm, saw that it might actually work and we were off to the races. In terms of the festivals which inspired us I suppose our couple of trips to Glastonbury were the starting point, then we totally fell in love with Electric Picnic and of course like anyone else putting on anything like this in Northern Ireland we have to point to Paddy Glasgow and Glasgowbury, the guys up there stood up and said Northern Irish music can thrive and be showcased in a festival setting and if it wasn’t for them leading the way I don’t think we would have all the excellent festivals that are available to go to now.
► Where does the name ‘Stendhal’ come from?
John: The Festival is named after Stendhal Syndrome which is a is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The illness is named after the famous 19th-century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio. We always wanted our festival to be something that would include as wide a range of the arts as possible and we also wanted it to be about discovering new things and I suppose escapism in a way and we through that the Stendhal Syndrome really summed up what type of experience we wanted people to enjoy at the event.
► How do you decide on the line-up each year, and are there any genre restrictions/preference?
John: We try and make the line-up as varied as possible so that there are as many different types of music to hear at the festival as possible. We are all about inclusivity and we want to showcase as broad a range of music as possible so that if you don’t like rock, we have some classical, if you don’t like hip- hop, we have gospel.The line-up is decided after we open applications to play the festival and listen to each band that applies. We listen out for things that are either that little bit different and unique or for music that is just very good. We also have bands on our radar that we know we want to come and play before applications open and close such was the case with a handful this year such as Henry McCullough, Mundy, Trucker, Silhouette and a couple more. We also make sure that the music from the Northwest is well represented, there is so much talent up here that seems to go unnoticed unless they are hiking back and forward to Belfast all the time and it’s great to give these bands a platform.
► In the midst of so many NI festivals – how does Stendhal stand out?
John: I think that we stand out in that we try and embrace all aspects of the arts while making a real effort to be family friendly and accessible to people of all ages. This year we will be showcasing music from Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland and mainland UK, poetry, dance, sculpture, digital art installations, botany, theatre, comedy and a dedicated kids area. We will also be displaying local artwork and for the first time ever in Northern Ireland we will be exhibiting the fantastic artwork of Dutch artist Max Zorn. We also try to give people value for money, our ticket prices are as low as we can possibly make them and anything on sale on site is as cheap as we can make it as one of our pet peeves about the bigger festivals is that you get overcharged so often for nearly everything.
► What Size of team is behind the festival?
John: Team Stendhal consists of about 60 people now. We are so lucky in that we have a lot friends and family and people from around the area who want to see the festival work and get established. There are three of us who organise the event; myself, Ross Parkhill and Colm O’Donnell and the other 57 make it happen. Without them we wouldn’t have a chance of putting the show on the road. The best thing about it though is the amount of time people give us, directly relates to how much they believe in the festival and so many people give us so much of their time, it is hard to believe sometimes. So a big thank you to them all. They are the heartbeat of the festival and we hope that they all know how grateful Ross, Colm and I are for all their hard work and dedication.
► How do you see Stendhal growing in the future?
John: We will never be Glastonbury and we are aware that growth will take time but we are in this for the long haul and hopefully if all goes well we hope in the future to be the largest camping festival in Northern Ireland. That being said, we will always look to keep it small enough so that it doesn’t lose it’s charm. We aren’t even using half of the farm’s available space yet and hopefully down the line when we get a bit more established we can really start to turn Stendhal into something that really puts Limavady and the Northwest on the music map.