Music

Stendhal's family-friendly festival fosters Irish musical talent

As the Stendhal musical festival prepares to return to Limavady for its 12th year, John Cartwright speaks to festival director Ross Parkhill about the event's dedication to supporting up-and-coming Irish acts...

John Cartwright

Ryan McMullan is one local music star who has appeared at the Stendhal festival

THE Stendhal Festival returns next weekend for its 12th outing at Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady.

This year's headline acts include Sister Sledge, Villagers, Simon and Oscar of Ocean Colour Scene and Hayseed Dixie – but the heart and soul of this award-winning music festival has always been in showcasing up and coming Irish acts.

This summer's festival takes place from June 30 to July 2 and will see Stendhal reaching a significant milestone of having showcased over 700 gigs by indigenous Irish artists during its 12 year existence.

The annual event is now the largest outdoor weekend festival showcase of local musical talent in the north: 60 of this year's acts are 'home-grown'.

Festival director Ross Parkhill says that showcasing indigenous artists is one of the primary values of the festival, adding that he believes Irish talent north and south of the border is just as good as anywhere else – these acts just need more showcase opportunities like Stendhal for the general public to catch on.

"There is no doubt about it," he says, "we have talent on this island that could walk onto any festival stage anywhere in the world and produce magic.

"We have loads of them taking to the stages at Stendhal this summer and have had even more who have been here over the past 12 years.

"One of our main goals at Stendhal is to get our home-grown acts in front of new audiences, allow people to perhaps discover them for the first time and then support them on their journey as an artist."

Some of Northern Ireland's biggest ever bands such as Ash, The Undertones, Therapy? and The Divine Comedy have appeared at Stendhal, and there are also several stand-out names that have come through Stendhal as unknowns before going on to carve out greater success in the music industry: Soak, JC Stewart, Ryan McMullan and Ciaran Lavery being just a few examples.

Ross says there are plenty more up-and-coming artists ready to make the leap into the consciousness of the general public.

"We still have quite an insular music scene in Northern Ireland," he offers.

"There are acts within the scene that people just know are top class, it's just trying to transfer that to outside the scene and into the mainstream that is for some reason still proving difficult.

"Some sort of dedicated effort by commercial radio stations to up the level of indigenous acts they play at key times, like 'drive time', for example, would be a big boost but ultimately for a lot of acts, Stendhal will be the biggest annual exposure they get to perform for audiences that fall outside the usual 'scene' crowds."

According to the festival director, some up and coming acts to look out for at this year's Stendhal include singer songwriter Winnie Ama, FYA Fox, The Florentinas, Travi The Native, Lemonade Shoelace, Becah and Harley and The Wolf.

"I could literally name every indigenous act on the bill in that regard," he says.

"We try our best to book the best in class every year when it comes to new and up and coming acts and we believe we have done that again this year.

"All the acts have quality and all of them deserve as many ears on them as possible. Being able to help acts achieve this over the years has given me a great sense of pride. The idea that someone made new fans or sold some records off the back of a Stendhal performance is what it is all about and long may it continue."

:: Full festival programme and ticket details available via stendhalfestival.com.

Mrs H will be entertaining kids at this year's Stendhal Festival
 

A FAMILY-FRIENDLY FESTIVAL

THE Stendhal Festival is also renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and passion for introducing children to the arts in fun and entertaining ways.

The 2022 event is no different, with Stendhal's dedicated family programme sure to provide amazing entertainment for all ages with workshops, performances, theatre, circus skills and loads more.

Ross Parkhill believes Stendhal is the perfect place to introduce young people to the arts:

"Providing a gateway to the arts for kids is a massive part of our focus at the festival," he explains.

"Today's kids are tomorrow's innovators, so the earlier they get exposed to different artistic mediums the better, in our opinion. It is a big reason why our family ticket price is such amazing value for money."

He adds: "Our Family Big Top tent is once again brimming with loads of things for kids to see and do at Stendhal this year. Shows from Strong Woman Science, Paul Currie, Ursula Burns, Curragh Circus and others compliment an amazing array of creative workshops, the wheelworks art cart and, as usual, our brilliant breast-feeding support station for new mums.

"We are also delighted to be partnering with the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre on some of the workshops for the first time this year. We are so pleased to have them on board and we can't for all the little ones to get stuck in to all the creative goodness we have in store for them this summer."

:: Full festival programme and ticket details available via stendhalfestival.com.

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Music