When a good festival location teams up with a stunning line-up of artists it’s a priceless scenario. And Czech festival COLOURS OF OSTRAVA really brings it all together, it seems. The event is an important part of the cultural life in Ostrava, combining tradition with new aspects, Western pop culture with local bands. Same goes for the location. The impressive surroundings of Dolní Vítkovice – a site of former blast furnaces, mines and ironwork – has been carefully rebuild in the past years. Even more fascinating – it became an important part of the city again, filled with life and excitement. Probably something all of the 35.000 visitors might experience when they attend this impressive location. Especially when you take a look at the line-up. SIGUR RÓS, THE XX or THE KNIFE are in town, hard-to-get-acts like DEVENDRA BANHART or DAMIEN RICE are playing exclusive gigs. Partly only because they enjoy the location and event that much. Find the full line-up on the official homepage.
But what is it that makes this Czech festival so unique? NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION had the opportunity to talk with festival promoters Petra Hradilova and Lukas Hradil about their event, the special relationship with the artists and how the times have changed in a positive way for East-European festivals.
Parts of our readership might not be familiar with the COLOURS OF OSTRAVA festival. Can you explain the event in three words that characterize it?
LH: Alternative. City. Interesting. (laughs) … Wait, I’ll explain why. ‘Alternative’ means, that it is not a mainstream thing, although we got a lot of people. But it’s not based on big names. Although we have a few like JAMIE CLULLUM. It’s based on discovering new acts. And the ‘City’ aspect is also really unique ‘cause it’s in the center of Ostrava as well. And that’s why it is ‘interesting.’ It’s not outside the city or somewhere in the suburbs – it’s in the heart of it. That’s why we decided to interact with every part of it. So, besides the main event we also run a street festival which is for free for the public.
Nice idea. Are the same acts playing there? Like the big ones?
LH: Well, not the biggest but some of the bands. It’s a good interaction between city and festival
What I really like about the line-up is the fact that you got, of course, all the big international bands as headliners but also plenty of other unknown acts. Especially all the Czech ones many people outside your country might not know. Is it important to keep that mixture?
LH: Yes, very important. I think it’s the reason why it exists. I think we’re going in a different way than the others. We discover the bands for the people. And that means a lot of travelling and searching – worldwide.
PH: And not just festivals. Also clubs, exhibitions and basically everywhere. And when we like what we see we invite the bands.
LH: Sometimes it is funny ‘cause we bring up bands who are first quite unknown and later become quite popular in the course of two or three year. And after four years you can’t afford them anymore ‘cause they’ve become to expensive. (laughs)
Any insider tips for this year in terms of ‘the next big thing’?
LH: We have some but they are quite difficult to name. But what I can say is that it happens every year. We have two or three bands
“The COLOURS OF OSTRAVA really is the biggest event in the city throughout the whole year”
You must be very proud on this year’s big and partly exclusive acts. I mean, I can’t remember when I last saw DAMIEN RICE on a stage. How hard is it to get these people to play?
LH: It’s years of work. We’ve been trying to get some artists for the past five or six years. It’s a complex of different things. First they need to travel, than they need to decide if they actually come. For example, we got DEVENDRA BANHART here this year which is quite insane. I think nobody else got him ‘cause he doesn’t play festivals. But we managed to get him somehow. And another example is JAMIE CLULLUM who used to play the festival in 2009. Every other festival wanted him but he decided to only play COLOURS OF OSTRAVA this year. He wanted to return because of the atmosphere, not because it’s the best organized festival ever. (laughs)
Can you explain the fascination of this special place, the old industrial facility the event takes place in?
PH: I think it’s like bringing something dead back to life. It’s a former steel work factory and it doesn’t work anymore. So, now we have people coming to the location, enjoying it, filling it with life and everything. This is really fascinating.
LH: The first step was considered quite deeply ’cause the festival used to be in a different place for ten years. But capacity was full sometimes in the past so we had to decide to move somewhere else. But the reaction of the people were quite good.
Was it hard logistical work?
PH: I think it was a big task at the first time. We were the first big event to be there, quite a big challenge since nobody knew what would happen. But we survived and we’re continuing, growing …
LH: … and learning. But the people really encouraged us. Of course there were a few problems ’cause when you buy new shoes it always takes a bit time before they fit. (laughs)
I once visited a Czech festival a couple of years ago and I was really thrilled about how passionate, enthusiastic and musically open-minded the people were.
PH: It’s quite difficult for us to see as we are living with them but the artists are saying that too, so there must be some truth in this.
LH: Unless they say this everywhere. (both laugh)
To me it almost seems that after years of refusal a lot of Western bands finally opened themselves up for the eastern European market. Would you agree on this?
LH: I think Eastern And Western Europe Are not divided that much anymore. It just became global with the internet, the social media and everything. The old concept doesn’t work anymore, it’s really different than ten years ago.
And way less concert promoters get bankrupt these days.
LH: (laughs) Yes. And also the plane tickets for example. The prices are much cheaper than they used to be with all these low cost companies. So, if we have a little band from Norway, for example, it is no problem to have them flight in via Ryan Air or something like this.
I know as organizers you might stay objective on this – but is there some band on the festival you’re really looking forward to see this year?
LH: I have my personal flashback on this when I was with JAMIE CLULLUM back in 2009. There was one story back then. I had a phone call in the middle of night and I was told that the manager of JAMIE wants to speak with me. So, as organizers you are responsible for everything and I was expecting the worst. But he just wanted to hug me and say ‘Hello’, that was all. Nothing else. So, I’m obviously looking forward to meet him again.
PH: I’m really interested in THE KNIFE because it is so mysterious.
Yes, I heard a lot of different reviews of the show. Everything from ‘amazing’ to ‘horrible’.
PH: (laughs) Yes, you gotta find out for yourself, I guess.
LH: There are always big expectations with these big stars and people might always get disappointed. My advice for each and everyone of you is: Go out and discover some new names.
Since it is our name and we’re always interested in the people’s opinion on that. What do hope and passion mean to you as organizers of such an event?
PH: I think personally and for the festival I hope people don’t forget to communicate. They should listen to each other and meet each other at some point in life on different levels, maybe.
LH: And hope is the reason we’re doing this festival. There’s been rough times for Ostrava in the past. First communism, than all the mines and factories got closed, a lot of unemployment and bad economy as well. So, it is also our task to bring hope to people through the culture. And even it is only four days. But even within these four days Ostrava becomes a really European city with over 35.000 visitors. And the city only got 400.000 inhabitants. The COLOURS OF OSTRAVA really is the biggest event in the city throughout the whole year, I think. And passion is also really important, it’s our keyword. Every member of the team has passion since nobody does it for money.