Is there anybody out there who has not heard about this institution? Sziget is one of the most famous open air festivals around the world. It won the Best Major European Festival Award in 2011 and it ranks among the World’s 22 Biggest Music Festivals according to CNBC. Although, “Sziget is more than just a festival: it is a place to meet, a place to make friends and to fall in love!”
Sziget is actually a small island in Budapest on the Danube (Sziget means island in Hungarian). Back in the days, it used to be the home to shipyards with a lot of green and parks, and playgrounds for kids. As many good things, Sziget Festival started out small, too. Founded by Karoly Gerendai and Peter Mueller, in its first year in 1993 it was a music event ‘Diaksziget’ (Student’s island) just for students during the summer months. The event itself was a success, but financially it did not work out so well. However, this had not stop the organizers to give up the entire concept and they were able to win Pepsi as a sponsor from 1999 until 2001 and during this time it was named ‘Pepsi Sziget’. It has been called Sziget Fesztival ever since.
The event company behind Sziget Fesztival is Sziget Cultural Management Ltd. with managing director Karoly Gerendai, one of the founders. Today it is the biggest festival organizer in Hungary and manages similar open air events in such as VOLT Festival in Sopron, Heineken Balaton Sound in Zamardi (Lake Balaton) or the Children’s island and the OTP Klub Gourmet Festival, but it also organizes events abroad. The ‘small sister’ of Sziget, Heineken Balaton Sound Festival won the Best Medium Sized European Festival Award last week. It is of course a huge recognition for the organizers to have two festivals being considered the best in their category in Europe.
In 2012 Sziget attracted close to 400.000 visitors during the seven days, when the event took place with about thousand performances and concerts. Approximately 50% of guests come from abroad – Sziget is particularly popular among the Dutch, German, French, Italian and UK as well as Irish visitors.
As festival goers will know exactly, besides seeing and listening to great music performers, there are a lot of activities going on such as cinema, theatre, dancing, sport activities, bunjee jumping, etc., that makes the festival fun during the day, too. Sziget offers a large variety of music genres with different tents and stages. There is always a good mix of very well known performers as well as new comers.
Since the event is practically in the middle of the city on an island, Sziget event management had to invest a lot into noise prevention measures not to upset residents living near by. The location of the venue is of course very attractive to visitors, however it also has its downside towards the local people, but it seems that organizers and city administration are able to find ways that is acceptable to both parties.
In the 90s I attended the very first events, when Sziget was not that popular yet and I still have some great memories e.g. about seeing Iggy Popp, Prodigy, Jeff Healey live for the first time. It is so great to see this event grow up, attract hundreds of thousands of festival goers from all around the world and branch out into other areas of Hungary as well as abroad. It is definitely one of the greatest success stories of the post communist era in Hungary, which we are very proud of. The next Sziget will take place August 5-12, 2013 and tickets are already available to purchase.
Source of images: courtesy of Sziget. (Photographers: Sandor Csudai, Istvan Bielik and Marton Botond.)