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United Festival Force: ‘Banding together keeps us independent’

Some of the festival organisers behind the newly formed United Festival Force (UFF) have told IQ about the benefits of banding together.

The alliance, announced earlier this month, comprises seven European metal festivals including Alcatraz (cap. 15,000) in Belgium, Bloodstock (20,000) in the UK and Brutal Assault (20,000) in the Czech Republic.

Dynamo Metalfest (10,5000) in the Netherlands, Leyendas del Rock (18,000) in Spain, Motocultor festival (14,000) in France and Summer Breeze (45,000) in Germany are also part of the group.

The group came together after their joint virtual event, in August 2020, to raise money for the independent festival sector.

“The project helped us to battle the challenging Covid times. We joined our fanbases who supported us by buying a ticket for the event,” says Tomas Fiala from Obscure Promotion, which promotes Brutal Assault (CZ).

“We’re able to show interest by offering a larger number of possible festival appearances”

Roman Hilser from Silverdust, which promotes Summer Breeze, says that joining forces has helped each one of the festivals stay independent. “Together we are stronger,” he adds.

Even as the pandemic recedes, the festivals want to continue the spirit of independence, says Fiala: “The future is finally looking bright so there will be more interesting opportunities for our collaboration.”

Hilser says that one of the top benefits of operating under one umbrella is being able to make bigger and better offers to agents.

“We’re able to show interest by offering a larger number of possible festival appearances to create reasonable routing and advanced touring plans for artists,” he says. “We can also offer help to fill vacant show days before respective festival dates.”

“This will certainly be of advantage for overseas bands, especially US bands,” he continues. “We can act faster and earlier to ensure the required number of show dates, which naturally add further income through fees for the artists.”

“The passion that lies within all our festivals will be strong enough to build future headliners”

Another key objective for the United Festival Force is developing local and underground acts by providing them with slots across the European metal festivals.

“We believe in the importance of developing underground bands,” says Hilser. “The passion that lies within all our festivals will be strong enough to build future headliners. That’s what we are aiming for.”

But on a basic level, the festival organisers are hoping to exchange experiences and learn from both the similarities and differences with their events.

“Of course, we can’t always find a common ground in perspectives since we each have slightly different fan bases and dramaturgy – and the local business environment also comes into play,” says Fiala.

“What’s interesting is that these distinctions can be enriching moments in which we can learn from the approaches and attitudes of others.”

 


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European metal festivals form alliance

Some of the biggest and best-known metal festivals in Europe have formed an alliance to ensure that the members can “continue to offer their fans excellent line ups”.

The United Festival Force comprises seven festivals including Alcatraz (cap. 15,000) in Belgium, Bloodstock (20,000) in the UK, Brutal Assault (20,000) in the Czech Republic and Dynamo Metalfest (10,5000) in the Netherlands.

Leyendas del Rock (18,000) in Spain, Motocultor festival (14,000) in France and Summer Breeze (45,000) in Germany are also part of the alliance.

Bloodstock festival director Adam Gregory tells IQ that the members initially gelled during the pandemic when they joined forces on a virtual fundraiser event.

“We don’t look at each other as competition – we very much try to support each other”

“We were able to talk a lot more [during the pandemic] and provide something together that, individually, we would have probably struggled with. But using the resources of all the festivals, we were able to deliver an online event that was second to none. We don’t look at each other as competition – we very much try to support each other as much as we can.”

Emerging from the pandemic, the alliance says its main goal is to “make scheduling easier for bands as well as agents – no routing scheduling conflicts between these festivals and other arrangements”.

“We all have festivals all over Europe across two or three weekends in August so we wanted to have a bit of unity,” explains Gregory. “It means we can send combined offers to artists so they’ve got the opportunity to earn a bit more and reach a wider audience, across Europe.”

The United Festival Force members plan to meet every six months to share their visions.

 


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Belgium enjoys first festival weekend back

Hundreds of thousands of music fans attended festivals across Belgium in the last few days, marking the country’s first big festival weekend since restrictions were relaxed.

Paradise City, Alcatraz, Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim were among the events to take advantage of the Belgium federal government’s Covid Safe Ticket (CST) to do away with social distancing, masks, and the previous 5,000-capacity limit.

The CTS launched last Friday (13 August) for outdoor events of over 1,500 people to certify that all attendees are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours. The certification will apply to indoor events from 1 September.

Dance festival Paradise City, which took place between 13–15 at Ribaucourt Castle in Perk, Steenokkerzeel, welcomed a total of 25,500 festivalgoers for its three-day extravaganza.

Those attending who weren’t fully vaccinated could take a rapid test at the festival’s test centre for the cost of €15. It was reported that, of the 3,300 tests taken at the festival, a total of six people tested positive – all of whom were sent home.

There were no infections among the campers which is “proof that government protocols work,” says Paradise City co-founder, Gilles De Decker. “This offers hope for the entire event sector.”

“”After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about”

Alcatraz also took place over the weekend, welcoming 12,000 fans per day to Sports Campus Lange Munte in Kortrijk for performances from the likes of Epica, Kreator and Jinjer.

The hard rock and metal festival chose to offer PCR tests onsite rather than rapid tests, which were free of charge for those who hadn’t used up all of their government-funded PCR tests or €56 for those who had.

“After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about: creating a gathering that encompasses all facets of the metal genre for our precious inmates to enjoy,” say the organisers.

“Because of the challenging nature of organising this year’s edition, we were even more compelled to make sure Alcatraz Festival 2021 would be absolutely impeccable! We confronted every hurdle head-on and succeeded in organising a safe, but thrilling festival thanks to you metalheads.”

Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim, which also took place last weekend, did not build their own test villages as it was “too expensive,” according to the organisers. “We should have passed on the costs to our audience,” they added.

The implementation of the CST comes too late for major international festivals including Pukkelpop, Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland, which have already been called off.

 


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European metal festivals form new alliance

Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance, which is hosting a virtual event in August to raise money for the independent festival sector.

Unveiled today (17 June), the European Metal Festival Alliance (Emfa) is a joint venture between Alcatraz in Belgium, Romania’s ARTmania, Bloodstock in the UK, Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault, Dynamo and Into The Grave in the Netherlands, Spain’s Leyendas Del Rock and Resurrection, Slovenia’s Metal Days, Midgardsblot in Norway, France’s Motocultor and German events Party.San and Summer Breeze.

The alliance is putting on a streaming event from 7 to 9 August with exclusive live performances from artists chosen by each festival, as well as a selection of interviews.

Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance

Viewers will be asked for €6.66 for a ‘full festival pass’ to raise funds for the independent festival sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. The pass will give fans access to three days of performances from over 35 acts, as well as a discount on a Emfa ‘Rebooting for 2021’ t-shirt.

Throughout the summer, the newly launched Emfa website will host a range of footage from its founding festivals, including many sets that have not been previously broadcast.

The line-up and schedule for the streaming event will be announced in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale on 10 July here.

Bloodstock director Rachael Greenfield was among festival heads to take part in the IQ Focus panel Festival Forum: Here Come 21 last month. Set a reminder for this week’s panel, IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis, on Facebook or YouTube.

 


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