Recently I met with Ross Parkhill and John Cartwright. Who? These gorgeous young men started and now run and plan to grow the Stendhal Festival of Arts. I was interested in their food offering as I’d heard good things about their street food last year and was keen to know if they intended growing this element of the festival or if that was just a lucky accident.
(I’m a fan of festivals – see previous blog about Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival here.)
In their own words John and Ross explained ‘Stendhal, established in 2011, has grown from strength to strength each year since it began and has witnessed a celebrated mix of a who’s who of international and local talent and a plethora of undiscovered gems adorn our 8 stages over the years.'
What I was fascinated to hear was why they called it the Stendhal festival rather then Ballymullan Farm Festival or Limavady Fest etc. Well, there’s a syndrome, you see, named after a French artist to who first articulated what he felt when seeing art that moved him. From Wikipedia ‘Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal's syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.’ Wow.
This is what Ross experienced when he first went to Glastonbury and then other festivals over the years. Then someone, almost flippantly, suggested that they run a festival here, in Limavady, and a light went on. He and John became passionate about ensuring everyone had a Stendhal moment and that they WOULD hold a festival in Limavady - the Stendhal Festival of Art.
As for the food element and the good things I’d heard? Their aim is to provide good quality, locally sourced, exciting food with 15 to 20 stalls/caravans/pop ups from everywhere doing just this. They’re determined to ensure no pollution so ‘biodegradable’ is built into their tendering process - no plastic! They also want each provider to offer (at least) 1 family meal deal, and one vegetarian meal option. Next year they’ll reach for more family friendly provision and vegan options. No accident, then.
They aim to make the Stendhal Festival completely self-sustainable economically, to grow into a co-operative ownership and, by 2022, be an ‘arts council’ themselves - funding, mentoring and promoting art in around Limavady....oh, OK....and all over Northern Ireland. They are men with a plan.
As someone who LOVES food, I can only applaud their aim to include good quality, exciting food as everything begins with being well fed - even a ‘chippy’ if done well can provide good, tasty food like lobster rolls, and honey and whiskey sausages. If the culture of ‘mobile’ food offerings in Northern Ireland grows at the rate it has been, there will be everything from fried cheese sandwiches to buddha bowls, from lemonade and brewed beverages to top notch tea and coffee, from hog roasts to ice cream, from Irish to Indian via Vietnamese and South American. Maybe one day there could be 5* dining pop ups interpreting the art of the festival for our delectation. Everyone deserves to eat well and at a price they can afford as well as being inspired by the food on offer.
I was inspired by them and think they’re amazing blokes - I hope they find time to have more coffee with me over the years.