In this week’s special mid-week edition of Yogibanker, I have the pleasure of meeting Amanda Fletcher, creator and founder of the revolutionary Yoga & Dance Festival, City2Sand 2017 on the Costa Blanca, Spain from June 1st to June 5th, 2017. I met with Amanda and we discussed the project at hand…
What I discovered was a person with an interesting background; deeply driven and committed to yoga yet with a deep understanding of what the modern City yogi is looking for in today’s wellness scene. Hence, the inspiration for City2Sand….I hope you enjoy this as much as I did giving this interview.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
Since an early age, I have always enjoyed a life of health and fitness from riding competitively, running and yoga. Growing up on a dairy farm gave me the love of nature and most importantly, animals. Earlier on, I had a career in equestrian, training with Olympic champions, including meeting all the royal family, especially Prince Anne.
My career has always totally focused on attention to detail, check lists, equipment and the best turned out. This meant I have had to be super organised ahead of time, to always have everything to hand and to anticipate my riders’ and horses’ every needs. I thrive on working to deadlines, attention to detail and this training has served me well over the years.
After retiring from the “horsey” world, until having a family, I have always worked for international corporate companies like Trebor, Estee lauder and B.A.T in corporate business and development.
Always loving a challenge, I decided to become an Ultra mountain runner, “ultra” meaning more than marathon distance. This required my planning & organisation skills practically, coping with technical difficulties a “65km four mountain ascent” was my goal. Planning my breaks, water, nutrition and running pace; as I had no gauge, was also a challenge I relished.
This was the time when I truly understood the total mind, body and soul aspects of yoga. My yoga practice has helped me especially with my yogic breathing techniques in difficult ascents. Along with the mental yoga mantras I repeated over and over to keep going during the ultimate kilometres, after 12 hours running.
Being extremely focused with high energy, I love pioneering and creating new projects from grass-roots upwards – happy to be a forerunner ahead of market time, making it much harder to carve the way.
2. What brought you to yoga or wellness generally?
Fitness, sport and holistic therapies have always been a huge part of my life, not only for me but for the animals I have cared for. Complimentary medicines have played a big part as I am allergic to many products. I have always sought natural alternatives to my medicine cupboard. I have been practicing yoga for 25 years, since my midwife recommended yoga for pregnancy.
I absolutely loved yoga from the first moment in class and indeed allowed me to have three water births with no pain relief using yogic breath and postures. Over the years, yoga has helped me to be free of back pain and injury free from running. More recently with time spent in meditation, I feel another level within me that I never knew existed. I am loving to get more in touch with my “inner self” using yoga techniques I have learnt over the years.
3. What kind of people do you think this festival will appeal to?
City2Sand yoga & music festival will appeal to stressed city workers looking to relax, unwind and explore their yoga discovery experience further, which they would not normally have time to do so. Based on my observations from facilitating retreats for many years, I noticed the same pattern emerging of guests. Mostly new or returning to yoga, guests would look to relax, sunbathe, shop and enjoy some live music in the evenings with a glass of wine to enjoy and have a laugh with others.
4. You have set up the City2Sand Festival combining spiritual practices with hedonistic pursuits – what do you think makes this combination so appealing to festival goers?
Nearly all yoga festivals these days incorporate an eclectic mix of daily and nightly live music concerts, which all festival guests enjoy. My guests are more comfortable in Knightsbridge than sat around a campfire chanting with strange aromas. Many corporates are just beginning to enjoy a new yoga practice, which for most is purely a physical practice with a lovely relaxation at the end of the class. Again from my years of experience the thought of anything that includes meditation or any “strange” unfamiliar music; as they have sometimes termed it “woo woo”, would have sent my guests running a mile!
The live music offers a variety of familiar sounds guests enjoy dancing to. House with yoga has become very popular with its hypnotic beat that will be offered by two yoga teachers in class and on the closing night with a yoga party. In fact in the States, there is a dedicated yoga studio that just has house yoga classes and house nights exclusively. Hence I wanted to offer this to festival guests to experience themselves.
My observations have been that guests love to let loose their energies, de-stress and be free to express themselves on the dance floor that is not too late but to also help them sleep free from alcohol. Chakra dancing is also included on the programme to a variety of genres of music which I am sure will be very popular. Encouraging guests to be able to let go via music can be very healing for the soul in many ways that feels familiar is a great way to relax.
Indeed many have opted out of yoga in the past on my programmes, they love to be active and nothing “too spiritual”, their words not mine. Without wishing to scare these newbies, I introduced the festival programme to reflect this for those wishing to stay on the active path and for other inquisitive souls, options for workshops and deeper learning. I feel this is a great place to start slowly and get people used to attending classes as a normal practice and then gradually introduce more aspects over a period of time. I remember my first practice and then my first meditation and some odd comments from my family about what I was getting into… Times have changed indeed, so slowly.
For a growing world of new consciousness, some of my guests have found it difficult due to their nature of careers and lifestyles to dive too deeply into yoga and the spiritual aspects in their early awakening growth. My introduction at the festival is to be relaxed incorporate all the aspects they are familiar with. Also to have on offer within the schedule workshops and talks in a safe, relaxed environment that allows guests to explore new pathways, whichever direction that may take them.
5. You have Toyah Willcox as the headline act at City2Sand. You must be thrilled. Is she also a yogi underneath the pop queen image or does she have any particular interest in wellness generally?
Very thrilled indeed, for my inaugural year. Toyah for me is a great role model who has survived the decades in tact, scandal free with grace and dignity. She freely admits to having a face lift, down to earth and honest. She has a video on YouTube talking about her spiritual experiences and life.
I knew straight away after making contact with her agent who was a great guy, great people know great people. He told me Toyah has a great heart and down to earth, just as I had imagined. This also went along the lines of being my first year and the festival ethos, she was really happy to support me. My other contact also said she was a lovely person everything I already thought and was hearing to be true. Toyah is now enjoying another season of festivals, after Glastonbury last year.
The Playback concert at the festival will consist of a selection of Toyah’s top 40 hits and some covers of classics: It’s A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, Echo Beach, Thunder In The Mountains, Good Morning Universe, Sweet Child Of Mine, Rebel Yell, I Love Rock & Roll and These Boots are Made for Walkin’, School’s Out.
6. Tell us a little more about ‘House Yoga’? Does it go like, ‘4 breaths by 4 beats’, or something more exotic?
I wanted to include as many different styles of yoga in the schedule as possible. With House yoga, a style that not many have heard of yet and is a growing trend worldwide, but yet not to many opportunities to experience it. For Spain, the local yogis and even the teachers will be rushing to try, as things usually take a while to filter through here. For modern lifestyle yogis who adore music why not try…Monika Makitalo, a yoga teacher from Finland is bringing Petri her DJ with her, a top music producer also from Finland to have this class live.
For me this is a fabulous opportunity to bring something new and I am also looking forward to these classes. It will be a new experience for me too, so I will too also be learning more about how these classes are taught and to what beat.
Sound heals so its the ultimate gateway to healing.
7. How have you arranged the City2Sand festival schedule – is there a running theme to the types of events, teachers, and culinary experiences at the festival?
The general theme of the festival I would say is a journey of yoga and wellness discovery. I have endeavored to include as many styles as possible to try. The idea being is that in London, there never is the time to find new classes, so most people stay with what they first start with. This is the fast track discovery, short break and networking experience in a beautiful familiar environment on a higher level for stressed newbies.
All my guests over the years have enjoyed live music and dancing with a glass or two of wine. I have always believed life should be in moderation and my guests have always looked for sun, sand, relaxation, some yoga with a relaxed diet and a glass of vino.
8. So I have noticed that you have scheduled partying in the evening and meditation at 7am the next morning at City2Sand…how do you think the average festival goer will approach this?
I based my programme only from my own personal experiences of 11 years of meeting our target guest.
Firstly these mostly, nearly all ladies, I have to say, are very new or yoga virgins. Meditation has often been thought of as one step too far.
For me though, I am happy to allow my guests to immerse themselves freely without too much theory or workshops.
I have organised the music concerts to finish just before 11.30 pm to allow those wishing to go to bed and those who to stay longer a DJ will continue until latest 1am on the Friday/Saturday.
Of course there are sure to be a mixture of guests at the festival who are vegetarian, vegan, will go to bed early and love the benefits of meditation. Hopefully the schedule will allow for everyone to flow with their hearts on their yoga discovery.
Thursday will not be late, around midnight as guests will be tired from travelling and eager to get a good start in the morning with their choosen classes. The yoga glow party on Sunday outside will finish by 12.30am.
9. What experience do you want festival goers to come away with?
I would love all festival goers to have discovered new yoga styles to try out when they return home, find more about themselves and new connections with others. Most of all for guests to feel relaxed, rejuvenated and inspired with some answers to their many questions about life and change.
For further information about City2Sand 2017, please click here.
Tickets for the festival are available for sale now. An early bird discount of 10% off the current ticket price is available exclusively for Yogibanker readers, on shared basis for two or festival goers, until March 15, 2017. Please contact Amanda at Hello@city2sandfestival.com, quoting coupon code YBC2S2017. Hope you can make it!