Northern Ireland

Stendhal Festival: 10 things you need to know

Festival surrounded by trees and hills Image copyright Ciara McMullan
Image caption Northern Ireland's Roe Valley provides the backdrop for the annual Stendhal Festival near Limavady

Thousands of people are about to descend on a rural farm in County Londonderry for this year's Stendhal Festival.

Now in its ninth year, it has grown from humble beginnings into one of the biggest annual music and arts events in Northern Ireland.

This year's headline act is Basement Jaxx, but the three-day programme is an eclectic mix of bands, singer-songwriters; comedians, poets; artists and other performers.

Here are 10 things to know about the full Stendhal experience.

1. What is it?

Stendhal Festival is an annual outdoor event featuring music; comedy; dance; poetry; workshops and family-friendly fun.

It has multiple performance stages and uniquely in Northern Ireland's music scene it also features a campsite for ticketholders.

It was established in 2011 and over the past eight years it has provided a platform for about 3,000 acts.

The festival's name is a reference to Stendhal syndrome - a psychological condition resulting in dizziness experienced by people exposed to things of great beauty.

2. Who is performing?

Brixton-based dance duo Basement Jaxx headline the festival on Saturday night but the lengthy line-up features a blend of well-known and homegrown acts, including the Hothouse Flowers; folk group Kíla; Derry singer-songwriter Soak; Galway songstress Mary Coughlan; Dubliner Damien Dempsey and local indie rockers General Fiasco.

Image copyright Getty Images/Keipher McKennie
Image caption A DJ set by the electronic dance duo Basement Jaxx is the headline event at Stendhal

The comedy line-up includes Never Mind The Buzzcocks star Phill Jupitus; County Tyrone's own Kevin McAleer and self-professed "ambassador for crazy people" Bronagh Diamond from Belfast.

Aside from the main stages, the festival also hosts art installations; film screenings; theatre, podcasts and, to cheer up any unhappy campers, a laughter yoga session.

3. Where is it?

The festival is based in the picturesque rural setting of Ballymully Cottage Farm in Roe Valley, about three miles outside the town of Limavady.

The location is "practically perfect" according to Rigsy, a veteran festival fan and the presenter of BBC Radio Ulster's Across The Line.

Image copyright Ciara McMullan
Image caption Even the trees got a makeover on Ballymully Cottage Farm during last year's festival

"There are natural amphitheatres for the main stages; open areas buried within the woods for not-so-secret raves; flat bits for camping and even little streams," he says.

"With no need to worry about designated drivers or public transport, everyone can just enjoy the music, then wander up a hill and into a tent.

"And there's barely any civilisation nearby, allowing us - nay, encouraging us - to make as much noise as we like."

4. When is it?

This year's three-day event takes place from Thursday 15 August to Saturday 17 August.

Gates open at 17:00 BST on Thursday for customers and campers with Thursday tickets and long weekend tickets.

5. How many people attend Stendhal?

The festival has grown in popularity every year and so far a total of almost 34,000 people have attended Stendhal since its inception in 2011.

Image copyright Ciara McMullan

A quarter of Stendhal attendees are children, with 8,500 kids accompanying their parents to gigs over the past eight years.

Last year, 8,050 people attended and just over 2,000 of them were children.

6. What's on for the kids?

Stendhal prides itself on being a "family-friendly" festival so there are also plenty of children's activities such as storytelling; arts and crafts workshops; puppet shows; acrobatics and hip-hop lessons.

Image copyright Ciara McMullan

Intriguingly, the festival organisers have given a slot to the Sunshine Project, which it describes as Northern Ireland's "very first dedicated laughter wellness business".

The project claims to be a "leading expert in laughter and happiness practices" and helps both children and adults to cope with stress.

7. What's the weather forecast?

It's summer in Northern Ireland so as usual the wind and rain are likely to try to spoil the party.

Image copyright Ciara McMullan
Image caption Music fans will need their waterproofs this weekend

Blustery conditions are forecast for the first night of the festival and there could be the odd sharp shower but most of the rain is not expected until after midnight.

Scattered showers, with a risk of thunder, are expected on Friday and Saturday but there will be many dry spells in between.

BBC weather presenter Angie Phillips advises campers to "bring their waterproofs and be prepared for blustery weather".

8. What's new?

As well as the older, established acts, there are also lots of young, very new bands performing at Stendhal.

The organisers have again teamed up with Belfast's Oh Yeah Music Centre to provide a dedicated stage for "early-career musicians".

Image caption Rigsy, the presenter of BBC Radio Ulster's Across The Line, is a Stendhal stalwart

According to Rigsy, the line-up includes many acts that "even the supposedly clued-in may not have heard".

"The festival is a chance to discover your new favourite band," the presenter adds.

8. What's the ambition?

Stendhal lays claim to the title of the largest summer music and arts festival "in the history of Northern Ireland".

It's a big claim and no doubt will have its detractors but its organisers say they have "achieved 30% growth average per year in footfall since 2011".

Image copyright Ciara McMullan
Image caption There are several stages at Stendhal, showcasing a wide variety of musical styles

According to Rigsy: "If you define a festival as a large-scale event with multiple stages and camping... then Stendhal is Northern Ireland's only true festival."

Previous headline acts have included Northern Ireland acts such as The Undertones, Divine Comedy, Ash and Therapy?

This year, thanks to a new stage and an extended festival site, there will be more live music and performances of all kinds than ever before.

The organisers boast: "Stendhal is now a national platform as a cultural event."

9. How much money is involved?

An economic impact report by Stendhal Festival Community Group says it has "created/facilitated total economic value of over £4m" in the past eight years.

It calculated that adult festival-goers spend an average of £89 each, while the spend for a child is £30, giving a total of over £2.5m since 2011.

Image copyright Ciara McMullan
Image caption Bob Marley's band The Wailers headlined Stendhal in 2018

The report also says Stendhal led to almost 1,200 bednight stays over the past eight years, with festival-goers spending almost £785,000 in the local area.

Organisers predict the 2019 festival will generate just over £1.5m for the local economy, rising to £2.5m by 2022.

10. What if you don't have a ticket?

If you can't make it to Stendhal in person, BBC Northern Ireland has the next-best thing with extensive digital, radio and TV coverage - including a live stream on Saturday evening.

You'll also be able to receive regular updates, films and photos from @bbcnireland on Twitter.

Thursday 15 August

19:00-20:00: BBC Radio Foyle - Electric Mainline's Stephen McCauley will be at the festival

Friday 16 August

13:30-15:00: BBC Radio Foyle - Mark Patterson Show

18:30-19:00: BBC Radio Ulster - The Arts Show

19:00-22:00: BBC Radio Foyle - Live from Stendhal

Saturday 17 August

16:00 onwards - Live video stream

18:00-22:00: BBC Radio Ulster - Rigsy, Lynette Fay and Stephen McCauley live from the festival

Monday 19 August

20:00-22:00: BBC Radio Ulster - Across The Line Stendhal special

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