Yaga Gathering is a 4-day alternative lifestyle festival with a focus on the arts, held in the open woods in the Varėna District of southern Lithuania. This year, it is expected that artists from over 20 countries will participate at the gathering. Besides the vast number of art projects and exhibitions, you’ll find live and electronic music, handicrafts, holistic therapy and wellness activities. I spoke to Anton Shoom, one of the organisers, to find out more.
Am I right in thinking Yaga has been going since 2003? How has it changed over the years?
Yes, Yaga dates back to 2003. At the time, it was called Shambala, but after three editions we changed the name to Yaga in 2007 (the festival didn’t go ahead in 2004).
What was the motivation behind starting this festival in the first place?
An idea to host an international psychedelic gathering was behind the initial efforts, plus a lack of alternatives both in the region and nationally.
What have been your highlights?
There have been so many many highlights over the years, it’s impossible to select just a few. With such a diverse programme, there are highlights in various different areas: music, visual arts and performances. Every year, there’s something we really look forward to.
And what were your greatest challenges?
The greatest challenges were, and still are, to make changes; people get used to things and expect them to be the same each time. When you do make changes, they are often treated with skepticism.
How do you select the artists that play?
Primarily according to personal preferences. Every stage has a curator and they do most of the work, however we work closely with one another and discuss the overall direction of each stage.
What else is on offer, besides the music?
It’s things besides the music that are being focused on, not for the majority, but for a big part of the audience. Yaga has an extensive daytime programme and this year, we are going to focus on a particular theme: Shapeshifting, and we’ll include relevant workshops and lectures. There will be handpicked tattoo and fashion workshops, lectures by Shaltmira and much more.
What makes Yaga special, in your opinion?
The mantra The Vibe is The Tribe sums it up quite well I suppose.
For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.
Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: Paulius Burkšaitis