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During Eurosonic Noorderslag we asked festival directors about their plans for the coming festival season. What can we expect for the lineup? Will there be any changes to the festival site? Will gender equality be represented on stage and is sustainability an increasingly important topic? We spoke to CEO/Marketing Manager Tamás Kádár and look forward to Sziget 2019.
Lineup: what to expect?
“The last day of Sziget will be very exciting. We have Twenty One Pilots followed by the Foo Fighters, which is a very remarkable combination. I’m looking forward to them, but also to Florence + the Machine. The festival kicks off with Ed Sheeran, which is already almost sold out with only a few hundred tickets left. I don’t think we’ve ever sold out a day so fast. We still haven’t announced the Saturday and Sunday headliners, so there is a lot more to come. We’ll bring you new names in the upcoming weeks.”
“We’ve learned it’s important to have big names on the bill, because that’s what people look for. But if you look at the bottom of the bill, it’s never ending. We have sixty venues, and the music is only paused between 6 and 10 am. This gives us an opportunity to show our visitors as much as possible, not just music wise, but also in other forms of art like theatre and circus. It’s important to us that visitors feel as if they have only seen a part of something much larger, with more left to discover, so they can’t wait to return next year.”
“Hip hop is popular and it will continue to grow in the next couple of years. It is an interesting and quickly changing scene, with some great acts. However, performers are also complicated with their large productions and personalities; it’s risky booking them. Rock and pop productions are more professional in terms of live shows. I expect hip hop will become more like them as well.”
The festival site: will there be changes?
“A lot of changes are made each year, as we aim to show returning Szitizens new things and give them a lasting experience they will never get tired of. For example, this year we are making changes to the World Music Stage: it will become part of a world village, a very colourful, diverse global village in the heart of Sziget. The design and the location of the stages will change as well. There will be some new smaller venues, along with a crowd favourite, a secret party location. The big venues will remain the same though. We will also have an elrow party once again, I think the theme for 2019 will be Chinese New Year, but this has yet to be confirmed.”
“We are close to our full capacity of 95,000 people per day. Since it’s an island, it’s hard to grow. Increasing in size is actually not one of our goals, as we don’t want Sziget to become overcrowded. However, what we can further develop are the services. Sziget is a bit different from other festivals, as I believe we care much more about our visitors. Facilities, showers, campsites, they’re held to a very high standard, and this is what we would like to place even more effort into in the future.”
“The streetfood culture in Hungary is booming. At Sziget, we not only use food from Hungary, but from all over the world. The more food trucks you have, the better it is for customers. With over 120 small and healthy stalls, instead of a few big ones, we offer a very large variety of food. Over the past few years, we have added more vegan and vegetarian options, as it has become a source of increasing demand by our visitors.”
“Last year was the first year we had more British than Dutch people. In some cases, these crowds can be rowdy, so we were a bit nervous. However, since the atmosphere is so peaceful, there were no problems at all. Our Szitizens are very easygoing and helpful. People take the values represented by our festival home with them. This is great to see.”
The future: which dreams do you have for Sziget?
“One dream, of course, is always to be sold out ahead of time, but I don’t think this is likely to happen. We try and have some tickets available for people from Budapest, who decide to come that same day. Another dream we have is trying to invite speakers to perform on the main stage – famous personalities who can talk about their good causes. Last year, we tried welcoming Malala Yousafzai and this year we’ll try again. I’m not certain we’ll be able to make it happen, but she would be a perfect fit for our Love Revolution. That’s the dream, to have her speak on the Sziget main stage. If not Malala, we also love to have speakers from Unicef and other organisations.”
“We are part of the group Superstruct. They also invest in a lot of other festivals. We are now partnered with six events and I know they’re planning to extend their portfolio. We are part of a bigger and bigger family. I think the markets surrounding Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Poland, are very intriguing. At the moment, Electric Castle is one of my personal favourites, but Exit is also well-known.”
“When Tomorrowland started, their decoration concept really wowed us. We’re a very different kind of festival, of course, but the small details in the decoration and how they approach it is something we can learn from. We do it more in our own hippie style, but the Sziget decoration is inspired by Tomorrowland.”
Sustainability at festivals: how are you approaching this?
“Going green is an important trend that we really support as part of our Love Revolution. Normally, a festival is not green, but it’s a party with a lot of thrash and power consumption. However, this year I think most festivals will think more about green solutions and how to make a festival production greener.”
“In 2017, 1.3 million cups were thrown away. Last year we started using reusable cups, lowering our number to zero. This way we can use a cup for three or four years and the festival site stays cleaner. We also began implementing a new policy for straws: with our ‘don’t suck‘ campaign, we only give them out upon request. This year we’re going to go even further, and change all our straws to paper straws. We are trying to get rid of plastic, and are not far from this goal. I believe we can get there by 2020.”
“Sziget is an international festival, with visitors coming from all over the world. We work hard to provide a high standard of services and entertainment that go beyond music. That is why we consider ourselves to be more than a music festival. We are also a cultural experience. As part of our festival, we work hard to promote our values, such as peace, environmental sustainability and human rights. Sziget’s Love Revolution was built upon these beliefs and values and we work hard to spread these ideas during the festival, but also year-round. As part of this mission, we try to engage Szitizens with games they can take part in, but also through promoting good habits, like recycling, ecocamping, and avoiding the use of straws through our ‘don’t suck’ campaign. Our festival’s peaceful environment resonates well with Szitizens and creates a friendly and loving environment for all.”
Primavera Sound introduced ‘The New Normal’ with a fifty-fifty division of men and women. What are your thoughts on this?
“It is an interesting and unique approach, but risky at the same time. I’m a bit divided on this topic. A band is either good or not, popular or not popular. At Sziget we believe in promoting gender equality, but when looking for performers, we try and focus on having an even distribution of different popular genres. Gender is taken into consideration, but is not the primary factor in deciding who performs. If you look at the last couple of years’ trend, it could go the other way as well. There are an increasing amount of fascinating female performers. Why would you limit them to 50%? That number could be even higher. We strive to pick the best acts we can. On the other hand, Primavera is a good example of a festival that seeks out great headliners for each day, rather than those who cost the most.”
More festival interviews
We have asked more festival directors to shine their light on the summer of 2019. You can read our other interviews here:
- Roosmarijn Reijmer on Best Kept Secret 2019.
- Ide Koffeman on Down the Rabbit Hole 2019.
- Eric van Eerdenburg on Lowlands 2019.
Sziget Festival is one of the largest music festivals in Europe which is held every August in northern Budapest. It started in 1993 as a festival for students and quickly attracted a more international audience. Since then, Sziget has won the European Festival Award of Best Line-up twice, in 2014 and 2017; for it is not the headliners that make the festival but rather its variety of musical genres.