Wanderlust describes the irresistible impulse in humans to explore and wander the world. Close to this phenomenon, the Wonderlust Stage at Body and Soul captures the irresistible urge to wander and question the world. The beating heart of the festival, this stage is possessed of all the mischief and whimsy we have come to associate with Body and Soul thanks to the compulsive energy-bot and purveyor of wonderment behind it all, one Ms Kathy Scott. Throughout the year Kathy runs the Trailblazery, which was live-streamed on The Washington Post on Paddy’s Day this year, with their talk We Need To Talk About Ireland. A background in PR with the Galway Arts Festival, and many years spent living abroad, Kathy herself represents the two halves that form the Wonderlust Stage – a blend of civic action and mysticism. Or as she would put it “doing yoga and your tax returns – that’s all of us”. Here we caught up with the queen of the realm of fancy to find out how it’s done.
How did you get involved with Wonderlust and Trailblazery? I came back in 2002 after many years of being away. I worked with the Galway Arts Festival then for 10 years, doing PR and communication – it was a great job. Then in the last couple of years in the job I started going out on my own and then suddenly I was curating mad-cap projects like the Ireland-Iceland project, the Trailblazery – so I’ve got into a totally different buzz in the last few years. It’s totally unstable but I love it. It’s where my passion is.
How would you describe the spirit of the Wonderlust Stage? The spirit of Wonderlust is wild and adventurous, it challenges people to think outside the box whilst being very open. There was a nice quote from last year, that said that what goes on at the Wonderlust Stage is the real essence of Body and Soul. It’s very close to Avril (Stanley) who runs the festival, and it’s close to those values and original idea behind it. She asked me to come in and sort of play around, imagine what I would do if I had a stage, and what interests me is that sense of curiosity, something whimsical and inspirational. Its location too allows for people to maybe be going from Goldfrapp to some techno act and stumble upon it and feel changed by it. It allows for them to wander into the Walled Garden and find a conversation there, something that arrests them.
What do you look for when you’re booking people? The theme for this year’s stage focuses on women? The Wonderlust Stage is about pioneers in many ways. Pioneers in the art world, pioneers in critical thinking, people who are also inspiring in terms of DIY culture. It’s not that there are themes, there aren’t but it’s more that looking back on this year, ‘women’ naturally emerged as a theme, and it had been in my head for a while. I’ve always engaged with pioneering women, such as Olwen Fuere, Alice Maher, Anne Enright, I want to work with Dorothy Cross – they’re all women of the same generation who would’ve been groundbreaking pioneers in the arts. So for people my age and younger they’re like mothers – they were the first generation of women to open up a bigger perspective. And so I always want to celebrate these women at the Wonderlust stage. This year my focus is on Vivienne Dick, who is a huge New York-based Super8 star and critically-acclaimed filmmaker. She’s not a keynote, because I’m not into that. But she’s going to be interviewed by filmmaker Oonagh Kearney, who’s 30 years younger who is looking at life through the same aesthetic and the same gender politics and punk ethos. Similarly we’re putting Ellen O’Malley Dunlop in conversation with Noleen Kavanagh – Ellen is a direct descendent of Grace O’Malley. Her whole thing is the heroine’s journey, looking into mythological characters, and I thought let’s put her, a Jungian therapist, with someone like Noleen Kavanagh who is the next generation. It was just something that popped up with women.
It occurs to me after having been to a few Trailblaze events and having been to the Wonderlust Stage before, that mysticism and civic action are at the heart of both – how do you combine these two seemingly opposite things? It’s a really fine balancing act. I think it’s about asking good questions about art and life, and realising that they don’t exist separately. That’s my own head as well, and it’s why I work with people like Claire Mulvaney. To me life is messy and it’s fully of contradictions, and if you can hold all those perspectives (like we do in Traliblaze and Wonderlust), having someone who sees things through a mystical perspective next to someone involved in a tech startup, then you get a full kaleidoscope view of life. If you have very rational thinkers in the audience, they will stay because they hear that things aren’t going all down one avenue. You need things to be on that high level, but you also need someone who can bring them back down to the earth – it’s doing yoga and your tax returns – it’s all of us.
The Wonderlust Stage is also just a bit of craic and irreverence – what acts should we be looking forward to? My friend who’s a yoga instructor, Lara Campbell, did this thing last year – we called it Angelus In Extremis – at 12 and 6 there was aerobic and acrobatic stuff on stage in place of the angelus, it was brilliant. Then we’re building a labyrinth, and actual physical one connected to the idea of the heroine’s journey- not experts on the stage, but trying to get loads of people to get involved.
How about the music – anyone you’ve discovered for the stage? Ciara Cavanagh and Aoife Flynn work with me very closely particularly on the music programming. Someone who we’re very excited about is Conor Walsh from Mayo – he’s a sublime minimalist piano player. Sacred Animals will be doing a live set for us, which they haven’t done for a while. On the other end of the spectrum is Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who is really quite a big name to have on the stage this year, his last album was absolutely stunning.
How do you find all the acts you book? I have a really curious mind, and I’m a connecter – my greatest kick in life is to connect people. I always have my ears and my eyes open. I have lifts and files on various people I’ve met or been told to check out. You could just rock into somebody in the Fumbally, have a conversation and realise that they’d be good for a Trailblaze. I did an IQ test once and I came out as a ‘resource investigator’. I get a real kick out of connecting people and events. It gets more international once you work abroad.
Your favourite memory from Wonderlust last year? I worked with these amazing young guys, surfers and filmmakers that I met through the Ireland-Iceland project, and they came over and shot this beautiful video of the stage (see below). Looking back at it, the thing that gives me a lump in my throat, was this moment when Sally Foran (Sally Cinnamon) Dj-ed from 5 to half 6 on the Saturday – it was just the moment when the sun came out, and people started gathering and gathering – it felt like a pool party in LA in the 70’s! Everyone looked so glamorous with flowers in their hair and Sally played this really driving set…It felt to me like the stage had arrived.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna