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Greece’s 2021 festival season undergoes shake-up

Greek festivals are in fight-or-flight mode as the summer season draws closer and uncertainty about the Covid restrictions looms.

Ejekt Festival and AthensRocks have cut their losses and pulled the plug on 2021, while Rockwave and Release Athens regroup after cancellations from international acts and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival and Athens Music Week assume hybrid formats.

The organisers of Ejekt festival say they ‘did everything possible’ to avoid cancelling this year’s event, which would have taken place on 26 June at Markopoulo Park near Athens.

“Unfortunately we find ourselves in the very sad position to have to cancel Ejeckt Festival for the second year in a row,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

“With our main priority being the safety of fans, artists and festival personnel, we worked for many months on various plans and we tried to come up with solutions. We did everything possible in order to make the festival take place this year. But, our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are as devastated as you are. We miss live music and we miss you so much. Even though we don’t like it, at this point all we can do is move on.”

“Our efforts and hopes are again thrown in the garbage bin due to the Covid-19 pandemic”

The festival has taken place each year since 2004 and is said to attract around 55,000 visitors.

Red Hot Chili Peppers would have made their second-ever appearance in Greece at this year’s Ejekt festival. It is not yet known whether the band will perform at the 2022 event – the date of which will be announced soon.

Those who have already purchased their tickets can roll them over for the 2022 event or from 7 June can exchange with a voucher of equal value, which will can be used at any concert of the same organiser.

AthensRocks, which would have taken place on 12 June at Athens Olympic Complex in the Greek capital, will also forego 2021.

The festival’s promoters High Priority Promotions have not commented on the cancellation apart from to say that the 2021 headliners – The National, Idles and Balthazar – are not able to return for the next edition, which will take place on 16 July 2022.

Athens Music Week and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format

Ticket holders will be refunded, rather than offered vouchers, ahead of the 2022 line-up announcement.

Elsewhere, Release Athens Festival, an annual concert series that takes place in Athens each summer, is forging ahead despite Pet Shop Boys and Judas Priest pulling out of this year’s edition.

At the time of writing, Massive Attack, Sabaton and Slipknot are due to play the series, which takes place throughout June and July.

Rockwave, an open-air rock festival that has taken place in Athens since 1996, is also “reviewing the festival programme” after Deep Purple dropped out of the June event.

Meanwhile, Athens Music Week (22–26 June) and The Athens Technopolis Jazz Festival (27–29 May) have decided to hedge their bets by adopting a hybrid format for 2021.


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Modern culture matters, too

Greece is a country famous for its antiquities and history. And modern culture is by no means a priority for our government.

It is fair to say that they have, at best, a vague idea about the important issues in our field. To add to this, over the last few decades, the – many – Greek ministers of culture have been people unrelated to culture.

So, it is hard for these people to now, all of sudden, realise that something that they have been ignoring for so long is actually worth supporting.

In our case, EJEKT Festival has been a leading music festival in Greece and the eastern European region for 16 years. Every year we bring thousands of tourists to Greece; in 2020, our main headliner was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and we were expecting around 10,000 visitors from other countries across the two days.

It’s clear, then, that we are generating a lot of income for the country and for Athens, and that we provide work for many people. But in our 16 years, we have never had any sort of support from any government or municipal office.

Our company’s turnover will go from a few million euros in 2019 to zero in 2020

Even though the government first banned all shows on 10 March, only on 7 May did they announce that no shows are to happen until 15 July. After that date, shows can happen only in open-air venues but with 40% attendance and with people standing 1.5 metres apart. In reality, it is clear that concerts and festivals cannot happen.

In light of the above, this year EJEKT Festival cannot take place. The same goes for all our other concerts. This means that our company’s turnover will go from a few million euros in 2019 to zero in 2020, and we have no idea what will happen in 2021.

But we have to pay our employees, our taxes, our rent and our other expenses. As far as we understand, many companies in our field cannot sustain this, and will go bust.

On 7 May, after two months of lockdown, the Ministry of Culture finally informed us of their plans for the summer. Clearly, we – the concert and festival producers – are not included. The only positive thing we heard was that they are planning to create a voucher scheme for cancelled events, but they gave no details about it, so we have to wait for that, too.

So, for now, we will keep asking for financial support to pay our employees, tax breaks for the live entertainment sector, and more wide-ranging support for the numerous people who work in our field. They deserve it.


Giannis Paltoglou is the owner of Detox Events and Ejekt Festival.