Interview: Agnieszka Górka of Goadupa

Located in the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland, Goadupa is still fairly unknown, yet the organisers describe it as “a festival so wonderful that it takes your breath away from the very first day”. With the festival seeing its 8th year in July, I decided to speak to Agnieszka Górka, the PR and Marketing Manager, to find out just what it is that makes Goadupa so special.

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Can you tell me how Goadupa first came about?

It was the initiative of the Egodrop crew, who used to organise Psychedelic Trance parties in underground Krakowian clubs and one day thought, why not organise an open air event? Egodrop parties have become quite popular, so 2010 was the perfect year to start thinking about something bigger. We found the lovely Bedkowska Valley with Sokolica, the tallest rock in the Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska region, with multiple eye- catching rocks including the famous Dupa Słonia (literally translates as “The Elephant’s Ass”) and Iglica (“The Needle”). It is surrounded by meadows, forests, rocks and there’s a waterfall just a few steps away – the perfect place for such an initiative. So, together with Brandysówka, a household for visitors in the middle of the forest, the Egodrop crew organised the first open air called Goadupa, the name being a play on words between Goa Trance and Dupa Słonia rock, a natural wall we used as our main stage back then. The first edtion gathered around 300 people and was a 24h party. Now, Goadupa is a festival for thousands, lasts 4 days and offers much more than just music. In 2015, we decided to move Goadupa to its current location in the Bieszczady Mountains, as the festival had grown so big.

What do you believe makes it special?

The place, Bieszczady Mountains, the wildest, most magical land in Poland. From the Main Stage, you get a panoramic view of the mountains, whilst the Zen Canyon stage, complete with blankets and hammocks, is located near the forest canyon. We also have very good news for those who want to attend the festival with their kids – this year, we are particularly focused on the needs of parents and their offspring. For years, Goadupa has provided a special Kids Area in the forest, where childhood education practitioners organise original workshops and games for children. This time, we’re going a step further in creating a special zone for families in a shaded spot, providing a space to have meals and play with their children, or simply to meet with other families. Additionally, we are preparing designated showers and toilets for children and their parents.

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I gather from the name that the music will be mostly Goa Trance, is that correct? What other styles of music can we expect to hear?

The name is confusing for foreign people because as I mentioned before, it is a wordplay. Goa music is actually only a very small part of what we offer in terms of the music; this year, we’re preparing four stages showcasing different music, each with an amazing line up. The main stage is the Psychedelic Trance stage, where you’ll hear all kinds of Psytrance including Progressive, Full On, Goa, Dark Trance and Hi Tek. On our second stage, the Chill & Groove, you’ll find ethnic and chilled sounds, interwoven with Techno and bouncier rhythms and our third stage, Zen Canyon, gives festivalgoers the chance to sink deep into the sounds of mature Electronica. The fourth stage is a huge surprise for all fans of the event, something which has never before been tried by organisers of similar festivals in Poland. Goadupa is the first festival to offer its audience a venue: Life Stage. This stage is exclusively dedicated to instrumental music. You will get a chance to enjoy psychedelic sounds of Stoner Rock, Jazz and Hip Hop. So as you can see, there is a great deal of variety and Goa Trance is just a small percentage of the music on offer.

Besides the music, what does Goadupa offer?

The organisers take care of the spiritual development zone and guests will have the chance to participate in all sorts of spiritual workshops, personal development courses, massages and classes, such as yoga and juggling. It is also worth mentioning the rich programme of lectures, film screenings, talks on spiritual development, health and ecology… the Healing & Workshops Zone offers everything that a human being trying to break free from his or her daily routine could dream of. As always, it’s a diverse programme, and everyone will be able to find something to suit their tastes.

Can you describe the setting of the festival?

In the past it was a Mecca for hippies, artists, and lost wanderers whereas today, this setting is home to some of the most ‘cult’ locations in Poland – a must to visit, if only once in your lifetime, as a more colourful, joyful, and beautiful spot than the Bieszczady whirling in a shamanic dance at Goadupa is hard to come by.

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What type of people come to Goadupa?

Goadupa caters to those looking to break away from their day-to-day existence for a few days and enter a world where needs of the heart and soul are priorities. We all want to stop in our footsteps for a moment, lose ourselves in the beauty of the moment and experience something extraordinary together with friends and family. It is difficult to experience the world this way in mundane daily life, with all of its duties and obligations, and be here and now. We invite all open-minded people looking for an alternative lifestyle to experience the magic. Young, old and families all are more than welcome.

I read that you can only purchase tickets at the festival itself – what are the reasons behind this decision?

Actually, we have online sales as well! You can buy your ticket here.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: Wojciech Drabek’Styropian’

Interview: Mel Pressler of Her Damit

Her Damit brings Techno lovers from across Europe to an abandoned bunker near Berlin, where industrial backdrops and dense woods make up the setting for this unique festival. Each year, the line up features a combination of local favourites and international names and, whilst it’s constantly expanding, Her Damit’s organisers claim that preserving the festival’s intimate feel is more important to them than making money through ticket sales, so they deliberately limit  the number of visitors. I asked Mel Pressler, one of the organisers, a few more questions – read on to see what she had to say.
 

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Describe Her Damit in a nutshell

The main focus is the music, followed by the light and visual effects, and the sound concept. Decoration only plays a minor supporting role for a good reason; as we always pick very unusual locations, we don’t want to cover up what they have to offer, but instead embrace it. For this reason, the lighting plays a huge role.


What does the name mean?

In the previous project, we had played with that expression in our PR (in English it would mean something like “bring it on”) over and over again. I always found it very powerful and applicable in many ways, and I liked it very much. To give my new festival this name also comes down to nostalgia, as I am a very emotional person, and it took me a very long time to get over being sad about the failure of the former project; maybe some part of me didn’t want to let go of it at that moment. However, the expression also fits perfectly to what I would like to express – I connect the name “Her Damit” with pure energy.


What provoked you to start the festival in the first place?

One could say that Her Damit is a personal continuation of another failed project with friends. It took place in Prora and, when we discovered the location a few years back, we shared a vision of a festival. We spent nearly two years with the planning and organisation, and eventually completed it. It took all our heart, soul, strength, and passion. Unfortunately, our cooperation did not function very well. When it was over, we were faced with the shards of our shared vision and also our friendship. This weighed very heavily on me—in many ways. I wanted to quit it all, never do a festival again, and leave everything behind me. However, luckily there were people close to me who pushed and motivated me so much that I pulled myself together and gathered my remaining energy once more, continuing this journey on my own. I shaped a new concept based on my very own vision and that is how Her Damit was born. Above all, I am very ambitious to break new musical ground in the German festival scene.


Her Damit caught my attention as I’m a Techno fanatic! Naturally, Germany is home to thousands of talented Techno DJs- how do you go about picking a select few for the festival?

In terms of bookings, it is a constant tightrope because everything should be perfectly balanced out: House and Techno, a mix of well-known DJs and new, up-and-coming ones. In general, I’m not only interested in booking big names,  and would prefer to go for variety. The lineups are based on an idea, some sort of a musical story I want to tell our visitors  during their timr at Her Damit. Concerning the artists, is very important to me that they understand their craft and have a “rave heart” at the right spot. Artists who have their very own fingerprint and style always impress me a lot.

 

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Photo: Marius Knieling

Could you tell us a bit more about the festival location, Freudenberg, and why you choose to host it there?

Not far from Berlin, we found a former bunker complex from the GDR times that seemed perfect for us. So we moved from the island of Rugia to Freudenberg, into “exile.” The local community and the residents of Freudenberg greeted us with open arms and what began as this “exile” location has now become our home. However, like with every move, changes came with it so it was inevitable that the festival would change, but we have adapted to the new surroundings. The bunker complex in Freudenberg reminds me very much of old rave times, hence I’m always saying that last year’s “Her Damit im Exil” was an homage to ’90’s rave culture. There was a very stripped-down concept behind it.


Besides the music, what else would make this a worthwhile trip for those coming from beyond Berlin?

You have to discover and explore Her Damit; it’s totally off the grid. The journey there is an experience in itself, as it’s very trippy, and the location is also worth a visit. Sure you can go to good clubs in Berlin every weekend, but our festival is only once a year, and from year to year, things are developing and improving. We do more than our very best to keep things muy exciting and fresh.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Feature photo: Sophie Pröttel

Interview: Anton Shoom of Yaga Gathering

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Interview: Sebastian Negomireanu of Transylvaliens

Transylvaliens is a 5-day psychedelic arts gathering in the wild Transylvanian nature featuring Psy and Goa artists from all over the world. Before the festival itself, the crew travel to various different locations roughly once a month to meet the global “alien family” and bring the spirit of the festival closer to everyone.

I caught up with Sebastian Negomireanu, who started Transylvaliens in 2013, to find out more.

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Could you tell me how Transylvaliens got started?

We had this dream of a festival back in 2013 after organising a series of local parties, initially under the name “Brainstorm” and later on as “Psyland”. Our wish was to go beyond the local stage and bring people from all over the world together. There was this vision to create a universal family and unite it in the heart of the beautiful and unspoiled Transylvanian nature. We focused on celebrating diversity, which is reflected in all aspects of the festival, from the participants, to the music and activities. We are all a part of a big and happy universal family and nature is our home, away from the worries and stress of urban life.

What would be your three main reasons for attending the festival?

1. The feeling of family – once you get here, you feel connected with everyone and everything. Everybody is so friendly and loving, you won’t want to leave the place.

2. The wonderful nature – Transylvania is one of the last wild and unspoiled places in Europe, with vast forests, rivers and wildlife. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the scenery and the energy of it.

3. The overall experience – we are taking care that the artists are part of a story that goes from morning until midnight, and then back until morning. Whenever you get tired, you can be a part of exciting interactive workshops and activities, or just sit down and meditate in the nature.

How do you decide which parts of the world to travel to for your “out-of-this-world” promo parties? 

We are constantly trying to expand our reach and meet new and interesting people with whom we can build long-term connections. We’ve been in a lot of places and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting amazing people everywhere, some of whom know little about Transylvania but want to find out more, and others who have already been to Romania and fell in love with our country. It’s very difficult for us to organise parties beyond the borders without local help, so it’s a joint effort. Sometimes we contact people from the communities, but most of the time they reach out to us and we just can’t wait to connect.

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How did the concept of an alien family come about?

Aliens are a metaphor for diversity; we are all different in all kinds of ways, for example different cultures, different languages, different in looks and mindsets, etc so we are all aliens for someone else. Yet, all this diversity is what makes life interesting and fun. The music is a key factor – we are united by music, so our goal is to celebrate diversity through music and dance. Though unlike the real aliens who make those crop circles, we leave no trace. Nature is part of our family so we take very good care of it by recycling, reusing and educating.

What does Transylvaliens offer, besides the music?

Amazing decorations, nature, fire shows and juggling acts. Every year we have different workshops and interactive sessions, from collective art, to meditation, to talk sessions. all of which are based on interaction. We learn from others and they learn from us. We share, we meet new people, we exchange ideas. There are also people sharing their creations, exchanging or selling their handcrafted stuff or even cooking for the others. It’s a little bit of everything. We’re trying to do this whilst keeping the prices for food and drink low, without sacrificing quality. Everyone must ENJOY their Transylvaliens experience!

What is the crowd like?

Crazy, diverse, colorful, happy, international, friendly… should I go on? 🙂 We have guests coming from all continents and and you can also meet locals from the nearby villages. Everyone is enjoying the music and art and having a good time together.

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Is there a way for people to get involved in this year’s festival?

Always! Our musical lineup is currently closed, but we have open calls for volunteers, art projects, workshops, market stalls and any other contribution that is interesting and in line with the festival’s vision. We have a Participate section on our website and can also be contacted through our Facebook page.

Would you like to add anything else?

Join the alien family and visit us in Transylvania for an unforgettable experience!


For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos: transylvaliens.com

Interview: Horizon of Funny Moon

Underground Psy and arts gathering Funny Moon, which takes place in the countryside of the Czech Republic, acts a platform for upcoming DJs, live acts and all sorts of artists from around the globe to meet in the nature and share music, artwork and experiences with one another. The festival welcomes “all good-hearted people”, as well as children and dogs, into what they describe as their ‘cosmic mixed society’. I caught up with Horizon, the founder of Funny Moon, to find out more.

Firstly, why the name Funny Moon?

The name came from the Mayan calendar. At the beginning, the festival was called Cosmixed Society, just like my label, but I wanted to give it a different name. One day, a friend and I were talking, he called me a ‘funny moon’ and the name stuck. I wanted something that wasn’t too serious and would remind people to take it easy in life, without letting their egos control them too much. Come to Funny Moon and you’ll be funny soon…

How long has the festival been going now, and how did it begin?

It started in 2005 in Slovakia, before my son was born. In 2006, I decided to dedicate Funny Moon to my son, who turned one on the day of the festival. This was the first and only time the festival took place in Austria, and it was a truly legendary event.

What type of crowd does it tend to attract?

Freaks, fraggles, pixies and fairies, an amazing crowd of peace- and freedom-loving people, who know that sometimes less is a lot more. You find masses of unconscious sheep in a lot of places, where money is God, but real, deep conections are rare. Those who come to Funny Moon are people that are looking for a more earthy connection and want to meet others and build life experiences, or take a long, hard look in the mirror and rediscover their inner selves.

What would be your three main reasons for attending?

1. You want to visit a festival that you are free to enjoy without bothersome security, police or any bureaucrats trying to tell you where to go, how to look and what you should be doing at any given moment.

2. You want to be with your friends, meet more friends, and not have to pay outrageous amounts for these little necessities of life.

3. You’d like to bring your kids to a festival and camp with minimal noise so that they can sleep, and be around other kids and their parents.


What is the location like?

A huge place up on the side of a hill with a view stretching out across many kilometres, surrounded by forests, fields and the garden of a castle. You can actually see it for yourself in the 2016 Funny Moon aftermovie.

And the music?

A mixture of old and new performers, big names and unknown artists, who all share one thing in common: the Cosmixed Society seal of approval. The music can be fast or slow, but always underground, rather than commercial.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t be shy to move your spine, represent and respect all mammals and other animals, people, aliens, illuminatis, demons, goblins, elves, fraggles and fairies, all beautiful manifestions of eternal being, whether you believe in gods or devils, the sun or moon, geometries or metrics. Take off your shoes, raise your hands and give thanks to the father in the skies.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: MagicM

Interview: Tudor C of Waha Festival

More than just a party, Waha Festival is an expression of existence, providing a space where you can really be yourself, expand your consciousness and join other likeminded souls. The nature, music, smiling faces and love felt by all are just some of the driving forces behind this this 5-day festival in Romania, where you are encouraged to come together and celebrate life in the most fun and creative way possible through learning, working together and helping one another. I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the festival’s organisers, Tudor C, who shared more details about the wonderful Waha.

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Firstly, what does “Waha” mean?

Waha initially came from Wahaha!, which we then shortened to Waha. It means different things in other languages, but in Romanian it refers to a state of mind.

When and why did it begin?

It began in 2012 as a dream to gather likeminded people who listen to different kinds of music in one beautiful place in the nature, so as to promote a way of life that is closer to nature and to one another, where we can learn to communicate and be together as one.

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What has been your personal highlight since starting out?

The experience you get through organising an event as broad as this can be easily compared to life itself, but my highlight would basically be the realisation that what is on the inside is reflected on the outside, therefore what you create gives a good insight in to how deep it all actually goes; when you feel good about what you created and when you witness other people having life-changing experiences as a result, you feel accomplished and know you’re on the right path.

What makes Waha unique?

One thing is the location itself, which is on top of a hill surrounded by forests and hills, a gentle, welcoming and friendly energy that everyone feels when they step inside. We integrate the structures we build from natural materials so that they blend into the environment, and we love land art and working with the materials we find all around, so everything is earthy and grounded, giving people that holistic Waha experience. The lack of phone signal is the cherry on top, allowing people to leave their online life behind and connect with each other.

I read that Waha “aims to be more than a party, but an expression of existence.” How do you encourage this?

We offer a creative environment in the middle of nature where people discover the simplicity of life and the joy of being together, dancing under the stars and sharing the present as a precious moment that needs to be cherished. We also offer all sorts of different activities, such as workshops, yoga, meditation and personal development practices, so people have a go on stuff they don’t usually do.

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What kind of music can we expect to hear?

The music range is quite wide, with five stages covering live music, jam sessions, Ambient, Experimental, Downbeat, World, Minimal Tech, Techno, Deep House, Electro, Progressive and Psytrance.

How do you go about selecting the artists?

We have a solid music and party background, so we try to select only meaningful, quality trippy music played by artists we respect. We want to offer people a deep musical journey, so we try to come each year with new stuff and artists we’ve always wished for to come and play, in order to create culture, rather than an industry.

How can people get involved in the festival?

We have a ‘collaborate’ section on our website, where you can find all sorts of forms to fill in depending on how you wish to be involved.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Come visit Transylvania!

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: wahafestival.ro

Interview: Victor Verstraelen of Mandala

Mandala describes itself as “a holiday and festival in one.” Now in its third year, it takes place in the beautiful Vakantiepark de Bergen Wanroij in the Netherlands, decorated by different “Tribes” and surrounded by forests full of hidden areas to discover. Here, the festival and camping are one and a tent can be placed almost anywhere. I caught up with Madala’s spokesman, Victor Verstraelen, who told me a little bit more about what the festival entails.

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Photo: Kim Balster

I heard that Mandala all began from a child’s drawing- could you tell me the full story?

That’s correct! Marcel Mingers is the founder of Extrema, a Dutch event promoter. When he was in Spain with his daughter Julia, then four years old, he saw her making a drawing – there was a lake, a forest, even parking places! When he asked her what the drawing was, she replied: “This is a festival named Mandala. Only for nice people, daddy and me.” Marcel decided there and then that the festival should one day become a reality. So in 2016, the real Mandala was born, just like the drawing.

How would you describe the feel of the festival?

Mandala is really laid back. The venue is quite big, so it’s never too crowded. And there really are ‘only nice people’, like Julia imagined. Camping and festival are one, so you can just roll out your tent and enjoy the parties, music, theatre and all forms of creativity. Also, Mandala aims to be as trash free as possible, so it’s really tidy. Everyone treats each other and the environment with lots of respect.

What makes Mandala unique, in your opinion?

The way it is built is very special in The Netherlands. Everything you see, feel, hear and experience is made by “Creators”, ie groups and individuals that make their dreams come true at Mandala. They can be creators of music, theatre, art, wellness, whatever! We (the organisation) try to connect these creators, so they can form areas called Tribes together. One Tribe might consist of a caterer, music collective, stage designer and decorator, for example. Tribes are like very small villages. All the creators sleep around their project. Visitors are welcome to join too. One more thing that makes Mandala special is that kids are also welcome, and we have our ‘Family Tribe’, where it’s a little quieter at night.

How can people become part of these Tribes?

We make announcements on our website and social channel with videos, so people can get a little taste of what to expect during the festival. Every year, we open registrations and anyone with an idea is welcome to register. We see if it fits Mandala and if so, it’s a go! Creators don’t get paid, but we ensure it does not cost them anything either. We’ll provide them with a budget and help wherever we can.

What genres of music can we expect to hear?

World music, pop, bands and electronic music like Psytrance, Techno and House. At the beach, there are singer-songwriters playing, and visitors are allowed to join in with them. We actually just released our live music lineup, which you can view on our Facebook page.

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Photo: Jasper-van-den-Ende

Could you describe the location?

Mandala is located in Wanroij, The Netherlands. It takes place at a Holiday Park with a beautiful lake, deep forests (great hidden parties!), beaches and green fields.

What does the future hold for Mandala?

This June, the third edition of Mandala will take place with a very special project called The Temple For Peace. We’ve got two visitors/Creators from New Zealand called Kiwi and John. Kiwi built the beautiful Temple of Transition at Burning Man 2011 and now he’s here to build the Temple for Peace, in the middle of the lake! We’ve already invested a lot ourselves, but for the last bit we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign. There’s a beautiful story behind it and you can read it about it here.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just the link to the video for our crowdfunding campaign, as we can always use a little helping hand 😉

 

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Feature photo: Nina Crebas

Interview: André Janizewski of Nation of Gondwana

Nestled in a forest with a small lake roughly 60km from Berlin, Nation of Gondwana is truly a hidden gem and, though it may be a recurring hotspot for Berliners, very few people outside of Germany will have ever heard of it, despite the fact it’s been running for twenty-four years. Whilst many other German festivals are growing rapidly, NoG’s organisers choose to keep theirs small on purpose and do not speak to the press or advertise the event in any way. I was lucky enough to get a few words out of one of the organisers, André Janizewski, in this exclusive interview. Read on to find out what he has to say about Nation of Gondwana. 

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Where did the name Nation of Gondwana come from?

My partner Markus Ossevorth and I wanted to organise an open-air party in 1995, after being refused in to a party during Love Parade 1994. We decided we did not want to repeat such an embarrassing situation and our solution was to organise a party ourselves without a doorkeeper to decide who would be let in. A friend of ours came up with the name and, as we never expected to hold the open-air event time and time again, we agreed to his suggestion. Twenty-four years on, the name appears to have stuck.

What kind of music can we expect to hear at the festival?

Techno, House, Downbeat and a little Rock ‘n’ Roll after hours.

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How would you describe the atmosphere?

Hippie-style and open-minded. The location is very close to Berlin, so all the party hats from there come out to party together. Sexual orientations and music styles merge in a Gondwana.

With NoG increasing in popularity, how do you maintain its underground feel?

We have many guests who have been with us since the 90’s and together we make sure that we keep this underground flair by not advertising in magazines or on flyers, and usually we don’t carry out interviews (this is an exception). We also have NO sponsors! And we’re limited to 8,000 guests, so we’re doing our best to keep it underground.

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Who or what has been the festival’s greatest influence over the years?

DJ Sven Dohse, a local hero who has been regularly playing the last slot of the festival for more then twenty years now. He has his own very special style and every year the dancefloor is full. We’ve had many big names there, but Sven remains the crowd-pleaser commissioner. Other than that, the village Grünefeld is a big influence; Nation of Gondwana has been held there for 20 years now, and we are working very closely with them. They sell food, do the firefighter’s work, deliver many things we need and, a weekend before the event, we put on a little party together with beers and a barbecue.

What have been the standout moments for you?

There was once a Punk Rock band instead of a house DJ behind the curtain – a big surprise for the audience! One minute, they were hating on us for the shock we put them through and the next, they were being attacked by Steampunks with flamethrowers assembled on Mad Max vehicles- an even greater shock! Haha.

What would be your top three reasons for visiting Nation of Gondwana?

Our guests, the little lake and the music.

Enticed? Visit Nation of Gondwana’s official website for more information, or join the community on Facebook.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: Ringo Stephan

Interview: Jan Bennemann of Nachtdigital

What began as a party organised by two friends in a small village near Leipzig twenty years ago has blossomed into the much-loved annual open-air gathering, Nachtdigital, a festival which now attracts people from across Germany and the rest of the world.

I took the opportunity to speak to one of the festival’s organisers, Jan Bennemann, to find out a little bit more about how Nachtdigital got started and how it became the legendary event that it is today.

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Me: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Nachtdigital and how the festival first came about?

Jan: Nachtdigital was founded by Michel and Leo, two friends who organised a party together in a small village close to Olganitz, which has been Nachtdigital’s location for the past two decades. They wanted to take their party outside and stumbled over the Bungalow Village in Olganitz, which is a holiday camp for families or school classes. For 20 years now, every first weekend of August, we’ve been turning this camp into a festival for electronic music lovers.

Me: I’ve heard the festival be described as “a party thrown by the children of farmers, for other farmers’ kids.” How is this party now attracting people from all across the globe?

Jan: Hahaha, yes you could actually say that. For many years, the core crew consisted of people who grew up in this area, with some villages containing just 500 houses. Some of our families were involved in farming, especially our grandparents, just to make a living. In the early days, it was a small party with local friends and friends of friends. As the years passed, the word spread; some crew members moved to bigger cities, party-goers told their friends and Michel took his car out every weekend to drop flyers at other events. This is how new people got involved and starting making the journey to the middle of nowhere in East Germany.

Me: What do you think is the special ingredient that makes this such a unique and wonderful event?

Jan: The people who are involved. It is like a big family of 3,500 people, which creates this intimate feeling at the festival – it is truly hard to describe and something you can only experience by being there. Another ingredient is the music. We always have a concept behind the booking, and we pay a lot of attention to the fact that there is something different happening on stage and in the audience, compared to other events.

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Me: What has been your own personal highlight since the festival began in 1997?

Jan: It’s almost impossible to pick a personal highlight because every year I’ve been there, something sticks in my mind, and all these wonderful memories are highlights for me. More generally speaking, what amazes us the most is how thankful and happy our guests are, time and time again.

Me: And what have been the biggest challenges?

Jan: The biggest challenge in the history of Nachtdigital was the turning point where we were about to run out of money, which was 10 years ago. To save the festival, one of the founders took out a loan and Thank God he took this risk, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing these words now.

Me: Having read up a little on Nachtdigital, what appeals to me the most is that you aren’t trying to book the biggest and most popular acts, but are instead looking for DJs you wouldn’t see at every other festival. How do you go about selecting these DJs?

Jan: My brother Steffen has been the programmer of the festival for quite some time now. His personal handwriting is always visible in the lineup and he is the main reason you won’t find just a lineup of headliners every year with next to no change. His vision has a big impact on what you will hear at the festival and in the lead-up to it, all he talks about is the ideas he has for artists to book and he always manages to surprise us. Steffen has our unconditional trust.

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Me: It seems that, despite increasing in popularity over the years, Nachtdigital has managed to retain its small festival feeling- how have you achieved this?

Jan: We sell about 3,500 tickets but not more. We think having more people would destroy that special feeling at the Bungalow Village and that’s how we’ve succeeded in maintaining the perfect vibe. Still, it has a lot to do with our guests – they make it what it is and honestly, they are just the loveliest people on earth.

Me: What does the future hold for Nachtdigital?

Jan: To grow and attract new people. Holding a festival has become a big business these days, which also has its downsides. With Nachtdigital, we’ve learned that it doesn’t necessarily have to be faster, better, harder, stronger; just keep it the way you like it, as that’s all you need to be happy.

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We put everything we have into Nachti, please come and see it for yourself!

Join the Nachtdigital community on Facebook.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos: Anke Guderle

Interview: Reinis Spaile of Ezera Skanas

As far as music festivals go, Ezera Skanas is definitely one of a kind. Set in the middle of a lake, musicians play on rafts and people paddle out in darkness then, as the first light appears, the music begins and the listeners drift to find a good spot. It gets very little publicity and is deliberately kept a secret, so for the past few years, the festival has only reached people through word of mouth.

I caught up with Reinis Spaile, one of the founders of Ezera Skanas, to find out more about this intriguing concept and what drove him to transform the idea into a reality.

After-movie of Ezera Skanas 2016

Me: I absolutely love this idea of a festival on rafts and boats- how did you come up with it?

Reinis: It began as an experiment on how sound travels on the wide water surface, then developed into a space for free creation without any borders or rules. We created it like a utopia that we could all be a part of and find a way to contribute, despite our diverse disciplines – film, design, photography, choreography and music. The end result was a ritual where, in this diversity, we celebrate the sunrise, the beginning of a new day.

Me: Wow! How has it evolved over the years?

Reinis: In 2012, there were more people performing than there were attending, but it has grown significantly since then, with more people choosing it as their morning destination. Many travel from afar to experience this collective dream during sunrise. Every year we develop a new artistic program, which we need to be very sensitive with because the music and set design should respect everybody’s individual experiences. We perceive the music as a soundtrack for the rising light and the rising awareness.

Me: So what different styles of music can be heard?

Reinis: The music adapts to the changing scenery, starting from the minimal instrumental music that is played in the darkness, till the impulsive music at the silhouette phase, and climaxing with spacy music as the sun rises. It interprets the state of sleeping, dreaming and waking up.

Me: How would you describe the type of people Ezera Skanas attracts?

Reinis: People who attend this event vary in age, from young, hyperactive teenagers, to adults and elderly couples and singles. All are united in their desire for a personalised experience. The interesting thing is that they’re all separated by the water because everybody travels in their own boat, yet somehow water connects them and there is a unifying feeling in the air. The audience respects the silence, solitude and nature, and uses this experience as a chance to listen to their thoughts.

Me: What would you say are the most essential items to bring?

Reinis: It is a serious and adventurous trip, so everybody should be well-prepared. The lake is large and the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s helpful to have a light, warm outfit and tea or other hot drinks to stay warm, as well as a proper boat. It is also important to double-check the forecast before leaving home!

Me: How do you want people leaving Ezera Skanas to feel?

Reinis: The best outcome is when people return home confused, asking themselves “Was it real, or was it a dream?”

Me: Have you had to overcome any major challenges for the festival?

Reinis: Every year, the festival faces different challenges, with the greatest being adapting to the ever-changing weather conditions. This is an ongoing relationship; the nature is wild, so we must make sure we listen to it and adjust our plans accordingly.

Me: Any final words?

Reinis: Once I woke up 5am and went to the central park. There was nobody there, but the sight was absolutely stunning and I thought to myself that there should be a million people here at this moment to see the beauty of the sun rising. It is a very calming moment that starts and ends the day in a peaceful way.

You can find out more about Ezera Skanas via their Facebook page.

 

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day