Come rain or shine - good times ahead at Stendhal

Stendhal Festival organisors John Cartwright and Ross Parkhill at the location for the event in just over three weeks time. 32002KDR
Stendhal Festival organisors John Cartwright and Ross Parkhill at the location for the event in just over three weeks time. 32002KDR

Limavady lads John Cartwright and Ross Parkhill have come a long way since their attempts to introduce Stendhal Festival of Art to the town three years ago.

In 2008, it was cancelled after facing opposition from members of Limavady’s council who postponed the organisers’ application, partly because it would be taking place “on the Sabbath”.

Fast forward to 2011 and both 28-year-olds say they have learned from their mistakes and hope their hard work, determination and experience of the past three years will pay off on August 20th with an impressive line up of music artists.

“Stendhal just didn’t come off in 2008, it was very rushed,” says Ross Parkhill, taking in the warm breeze on the picture postcard laneway next to ‘Karma Valley’, the two massive fields which will stage the one day music and arts festival.

With a backdrop of the water from the river at the bottom of the main field, he says, “We were young boys with ambitious ideas and didn’t think it through, but we’ve had time to really think it through and come up with a truly innovative model for the whole industry.”

Stendhal takes place in Ballymully Cottage Farm outside the town. It’s John’s family farm. The lads say the Stendhal Festival of Art promises “plays, some afternoon jazz, after dinner comedy, maybe a literary debate, early evening folk, rock, indie and much more”.

“People will get something in Limavady they’ve never had before and that is the amalgamation of a lot of different aspects of the arts,” says John excitedly.

“We have lots of different genres of music from an orchestra to jazz, rock, folk, gypsy folk, all sorts. We have an art gallery to highlight local artists; dancers, craft fairs, poetry. It’s an amalgamation of the arts not seen in the one space before in Limavady or anywhere in the north west.”

This year, the lads hope to attract around 1,000 festival goers and are determined to make it as family friendly as possible, and guarantee something for everyone. People can camp out on the Friday night, says John.

“In 2008 people were saying it’s not the right place for it - well that’s definitely not the case. This is the right place for it. It’s a stunning venue and on the day it will be something so different you’ve never seen before,” he says.

The dynamic duo wants to use the home of Danny Boy and turn the festival into a beacon in the local economy.

“We believe so much in the project. In Limavady there are two times of the year when people go out en masse and that’s the Jazz and Blues Festival and Christmas. For a town the size of Limavady there needs to be more stuff to do. There really does. Plus that, with our locality close to Derry, Donegal, Coleraine, Portrush, there is no distance to drive here. We fully envisage people will come and spend money here. We’re both from Limavady and we love Limavady and want to see it do well.”

Ross believes the unemployment problems in Limavady and the surrounding area can be addressed “organically and sustainably without whimsical tax relief for manufacturers coming here for a few years until the tax relief runs out. This can grow and can potentially be a stalwart in the local economy and in two to five years potentially be a beacon in the local economy”.

The pair, both keen festivals goers, accept Stendhal will never be a Glastonbury.

“That’s something else,” says John, keen to stress they want to make Stendhal one of a kind.

“We want to bring all aspects of the art into one house. We want to bring people here, including those who may not be typical festival goers, and hopefully they will discover new things – not just the stuff they come to see - and in doing that broaden their horizons.”

Ross said even if the sunny spell of late doesn’t hang around for August 20th, people will be well covered and “come rain or shine they’ll have a great time”.

To sign up to the festival’s mailing list go to www.stendhalfestival.com where the full Festival line up of is detailed. You can also find out there how to get your hands on tickets.