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The festival association marks its successful first decade in business in 2018
By Ben Delger on 27 Jun 2018
Just over 20 years ago, on a cold and blustery day in March 1998, some of the biggest festival promoters in Europe gathered in London to formally launch the first and, to this day, only association dedicated exclusively to European music festivals – Yourope.
“The basic thinking at the time was that, as festival promoters, we are colleagues in our field long before we are enemies or competitors, so let’s get together and talk about security, band fees, insurance, and the other issues that we all face,” recalls Leif Skov, director of Denmark’s Roskilde Festival from 1977 to 2002, who helped lay the foundations for the organisation and was one of its founder board members.
Almost two decades earlier, Skov had launched a pilot version of Yourope alongside Mauro Valenti (Italy’s Arezzo Wave festival) and Gunnar Lagerman (Sweden’s Hultsfred Festival), but soon after its initial meeting in 1981, the informal association went into hibernation. “We used the name Yourope but we did not have a formal general assembly with regulations, otherwise we would now be talking about approaching the 40th jubilee,” explains Skov.
“There’s a lot of friendship. A lot of openness, which helps to get input from everybody and learn from each other.”
By the late 1990s, the need for a formal alliance of European festivals had become more urgent, and after an inaugural meeting at Roskilde’s offi ces in November 1997, where terms and conditions were set, the association was officially born the following March with Klaus Maack appointed inaugural president.
At its inception, Yourope had 21 members. Today, the number is almost 90, with festival partners including Norway’s by:Larm, Netherlands’ Lowlands, Serbia’s Exit Festival, Lollapalooza Berlin, Montreux Jazz Festival, Hungary’s Sziget, Primavera Sound in Spain, Pukkelpop in Belgium, France’s Rock en Seine, and founder member Roskilde (one of eight festivals that have been with the association since its inception.)
“We are all competitors within the European market, and often we are [taking place on] the same weekend but I don’t feel that within our membership. There’s a lot of friendship. A lot of openness, which helps to get input from everybody and learn from each other,” says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St.Gallen and Yourope general secretary since 2003. He cites the St. Gallen-based association’s focus on improving health and safety, and working conditions across the festival business, as one of its biggest achievements over the past two decades.
“A lot of festivals work with security and safety standards now that we just didn’t have when we started,” explains Huber. He highlights the work of the YES (Yourope Event Safety) Group, led by Chris Kemp (Mind Over Matter Consultancy) and Henrik Bondo Nielsen (Roskilde Festival) in helping make festivals safer environments for audiences, artists, and crews through its specialist programme of seminars and workshops.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 77, or subscribe to the magazine here.