On The Bright Side

Keeping It Real With Ella


My husband and I initially planned our very first festival (which happened to be our wedding) in the bath over a delicious bottle of red in 2014. We had a vision for a Russian folklore come Cotswold festival theme that perfectly captured my feisty Ukrainian fiancé and my west country roots. 6 years on we fondly reminisce that night, planning a wedding for just 100 people. Soul Circus was born from that idea and now attracts thousands which is utterly electrifying and terrifying at the sametime!

Due to the success of that last bath meeting we find ourselves again in the tub, this time it is 2020 and the wine is pink. We are discussing how in the hell we are going to run a festival in the middle of a pandemic and what it might look like. This is, without doubt, one of the more unique conversations I have ever had. I almost feel privileged for this moment in my life as there are not many people in the world that will ever have to consider the challenges involved in this rather audacious idea.

We try to approach everything in life with same outlook. What can we learn from this, how can we prosper, what can we do to help and where will this lead? Being a festival owner during a worldwide pandemic is not ideal but it has been an opportunity to think outside of the box and try something new.

It feels like every day we see another event cancel, another festival release dates for 2021, another festival set up a crowd fund screaming “save our business.” It is utterly depressing, and I refuse to do that. If this is the way things are then we must adapt. We must learn to do things in a new way, and we must find things in these new ways that are better and worth taking into the future. In my experience, if something is worth doing it is never easy and this is just one of those things that the universe has challenged us with, and we must step up to the mark.

2020 was never going to be straightforward. The astrology for this year was epic and has been looked forward to/feared by many who know a thing or 2 about planetary conjunctions. It has been identified as the dawning of a new era, The Age of Aquarius and a new age of enlightenment. The planets are shifting and dancing their dance of transition and change and so must we.

So, what can we do to deliver Soul Circus 2020 at a time when we need it so desperately, but all odds are stacked against us? To provide a place to come together and feel supported again. To cry and laugh on each other’s shoulders in relief that we have made it through. To move our bodies as one and meditate on a better future.

Given that we are a health festival it is much easier to consider how to ‘socially distance’ our event due to our guests being coherent and respectful. Yoga mats can be spaced apart in larger outdoor areas, camping can be spread to allow more distance between tents and dance floors can be marked up for groups to be 2 metres apart.

Although, I must admit, socially distancing a party seems ludicrous, I’m open to trying if it mean Soul Circus can happen. As always, I am looking for the positives. How many times as a woman have you been groped and prodded whilst trying to enjoy the music with your friends? Could it be that socially distancing our dance floors (and maybe other festival areas in general) could mean that women are safer and have more fun?

We are currently developing an App that allows customers to make food and drink orders without queuing, which is genius. No more waiting in long festival queues, being pushed about and having beer tipped down your back. You simply book the time you want your refreshments and voila, it’s ready!

I am viewing Soul Circus in the same way I am viewing the world right now. We cannot do anything about the situation, it is too late, and we missed our chance a long time ago. Now is the time to try and change. The future is not a given and although the astrology talks of the great awakening, it is not guaranteed. We will not all just miraculously wake up to how badly as a race we have damaged our planet and each other. It will take a lot of work.

But perhaps we can all start with our own small worlds within worlds. If Soul Circus can go ahead this year, I will feel like we have achieved something impossible. Every year feels like a momentous accomplishment, but this will absolutely take the biscuit. I have learnt over the last few months that“what ifs” and wishing things were different do not get you anywhere. The only way forward is to confront the reality of the situation, assess how you have contributed to it, explore the depths of those shadows and vow to do better.