roskilde festival

Photo by Vegard S. Kristiansen

Roskilde Festival, held every summer outside of Roskilde, Denmark, is a landmark festival that has been making history, breaking bands and expanding minds since 1971.  Over the years, it has grown exponentially, and now features seven stages, over 80,000 visitors, and over a hundred famous, well-known and just-getting-started bands. The crux of Roskilde is that, along with showcasing an incredible variety of musicians, it is a humanitarian and socially conscious event.  NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down with Christina Bilde, Roskilde Festival‘s spokesperson, to talk about the festival culture, its history, and discovering new sides to existence.

Christina: “Cultural forms and works are strong expressions of their time”

Could you tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from, and how did you get interested in concert promotion?
I grew up in Roskilde and if you do that, you either become a Roskilde-fan for life or you never visit the festival. I belong to the first group.
My interest in – I prefer to call it culture promotion – stems from an interest in culture in general and a strong urge to open up cultural communication and by that inviting people in and opening their eyes to all the great experiences that culture gives you.  Cultural forms and works are strong expressions of their time and I believe that culture/arts/music can both open your mind, challenge you.  They can let you discover new sides to existence and tell you something about the world and time you live in.  I also believe that everyone should be introduced to it and feel welcomed rather than shut out or verfremdet [alienated].  Communication is a very strong tool in that matter. So that’s how it started – with a very idealistic approach to culture.
Now, music is very inviting and open in itself, but I started out working with art museums and they used to be much more of a closed world, in regards to communications and promotion. From there, I moved on to Roskilde Festival.

Roskilde Festival Orange StageWhat is your official role for the Roskilde Festival?
I am part of the management, a spokesperson for the festival, head of Corporate Communication and of the section of the volunteer organization working with campaigns and communication regarding the whole festival – that Roskilde is not only the music, but also our values and value campaigns, our non profit work, environmental work, arts, games and so forth.
How old we’re you at your first Roskilde Festival?
Uuhhh…. never ask about a woman’s age. Just joking! I was 16 (which means I am now 45).

Christina: “It’s a community – an alternative “world” and a free space – based on tolerance, openness and trust.”

Roskilde has been a since 1972. As one of the largest festivals in Europe, how do you explain its success in staying popular through such a long period of time?
Roskilde Festival has very strong values based on a nonprofit purpose. Basically, this means that everyone here aims to make a difference by creating an unforgettable festival.  Roskilde is an experience that may change you forever because it isn’t just another music festival: it’s a community – an alternative “world” and a free space – based on tolerance, openness and trust. As an audience, you can sense that and that also inspires you to open up and participate – which creates a very special atmosphere that is kind of a symbiosis of the festival and the participants. It’s called “The Orange Feeling” – not just by us, but also by everyone who’s ever been to Roskilde Festival. Once you’ve been here, you know and recognize it.
Roskilde Festival has never been afraid to change.  We pride ourselves in staying one step ahead and not being afraid of changing something successful  (for example, closing a popular stage) or of challenging our participants and ourselves.
So in a sense we are always and never the same. And I believe this is very strong reason for the success.

Roskilde makes ample use of volunteers. What would you tell someone who was thinking of going to the festival as a volunteer to expect?
A completely overwhelming feeling of being part of something bigger.  Lots of fun, lots of love, lots possibilities and responsibility if you grab them and want it – and lots to do.

What have been some key moments in festival history?
That’s a hard questions because there are many…
1971 – When two high school students arranged the first festival.
1972 – When the Roskilde Foundation agreed to help and thus the nonprofit purpose was secured.
1978 – When the orange canopy was bought and Bob Marley played.
1982 – When U2 played at the Canopy and everyone knew that they had seen a band of the future.
1995 – The festival turned 25 and for the first time puts a limit to the amount of tickets sold: 90.000.
2000 – 9 young men died at a concert at Roskilde. A tragic accident that changed us forever.
2007 – When the festival was almost rained away.
2010 – When Prince gave an exclusive Roskilde festival concert after many years of not touring in Europe.

Roskilde is more than music; there is also a message of social responsibility. Please tell us about how the ideals have grown and changed, especially in the last decade.
Actually the ideals haven’t changed. They have stayed the same during the years and we have always abided by them – it is part of being a nonprofit organization based on volunteer work.  Over the years we have become more aware of talking about our socially responsible ideals and also actively promoting them as part of the festival. This is based on a belief that it’s more fun and makes more sense in the long term if you learn about different topics and social responsibility by participating and playing, rather than just being told about them. During the years we have also made changes and improvements such as developing organic forks and knifes, and introducing organic foods and fair trade.

What has been one of your favorite performances to see? Who are some of your current favorite musicians?
Personally I was overwhelmed by LEONARD COHEN’s performance in 1989. It was one of those classic Roskilde moments when you pass by a stage and the music just draws you in.  COHEN is still a favourite of mine.

Despite being a temporary gathering of over 100,000 people (paid visitors and volunteers) Roskilde has an excellent track record as peaceful and safe festival. How do you explain and encourage this positive atmosphere?
I believe it stems for the ideals described above, from The Orange Feeling. We trust in people and they live up to it and take care of each other.

What do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
Inspiration and the necessity to lead a good life.