Why Roskilde is the new black

by jessica75

Summer 2008 wasn't great for UK music festivals. So which event should punters gamble their pounds on this summer? Here are 10 reasons why Roskilde, in Denmark, is a safe bet

Summer 2008 was a somewhat disastrous time for UK festivals. Many promising contenders fell at the first hurdle and were cancelled due to unexpected low ticket sales or bad weather. Others that made it past this stage went on to be sabotaged by poor organisation. And complaints of ramped-up security and an increased capitalist drive have been hampering enjoyment at the mother of all festivals, Glastonbury.

So which festival should punters be gambling their dwindling pounds on this summer? Here are 10 good reasons why Europe’s second biggest festival, Roskilde, in Denmark, is the one to go for...

1. I want usually gets
Organisers at Roskilde draw a fine line between booking the big names to pull in the 100,000-strong crowd and experimenting with the programme to wow people with the unexpected while showcasing national talent. Each year, the public are consulted as to what they want, and the next year their wishes are usually Roskilde’s command.

2. Festival with a conscience
Danes have long been concerned with humanitarian and cultural purposes, and buying a ticket to Roskilde supports humanitarian works globally. Among other causes, the main focus in 2008 was on 'Fair Phone Fair Future', a move to put pressure on phone companies to make them change their policies and provide a better working environment and fair price to the people of DR Congo. Another concern in 2008 was 'The Colour Orange'; festival-goers were encouraged to wear orange to protest against human rights violations in China, and did so in their masses.

3. Serious organisation
Danes have come to expect high standards from their country; a result of paying astronomical taxes for an ordered society, perhaps. And the festival is no exception. With 38 years’ experience behind it, punters can expect grounds that make sense, illuminated gate numbers for confused revellers, and flush toilets aplenty - complete with toilet paper for most of the day. Last year all 1,300 toilets were cleaned at least twice a day - with detergent. Could the same be said for any British festival? Festival-organisers are well ahead of themselves, with planning for 2020 already in motion. Now that is organised.

4. Explosion Village
After all that experience, Roskilde got the inkling that people liked to drum, and so the Explosion Village was born. Luminous misshapen rocks, seemingly scattered at random, are spread out over an acre, inviting drummers to bang out their rhythms. Sensors begin to analyse the bangs, and after 15 minutes of dedicated drumming the 12m-high rocket tower shoots a flaming gas cloud spectacularly high into the air. In the daytime, it’s a mere distraction; in the night-time, a breathtaking piece of magic that drives everyone to let out a celebratory ovation.

5. United nations
In the land that invented Lego (which literally translates as ‘play well’), the mostly Nordic crowd (69% Danish, 12% Swedish, 10% Norwegian in 2008) is joined by a smattering of Finnish, German, Dutch and British (the latter appearing almost as an afterthought in the ‘1% Rest of the World’ category). The nod to the international feel for foreigners even extends to accepted currencies, with stalls accepting a total of six different currencies.

6. The beer flows
The Danes know how to drink and seem to do it remarkably well without falling over. Tuborg, the only echo of big brand, provides well-run bars with the capacity to deliver customers a (cold) beer for themselves and 15 of their mates, serving a total of one million throughout the festival week. Sixty volunteers parade the front of the Orange stage, quenching the thirst of the dedicated people who have queued hours for their favourite bands. As a brand that creates a festive beer for Easter and Christmas (people get special dispensation for time off to get their hands on it first), it is only a matter of time until Tuborg introduces a festival beer.

7. Volunteer culture
Every fourth person is a festival volunteer in some shape or another. Year after year, in return for a free ticket, a core of volunteers give up at least 24 hours of their festival, and strive to make this year better than the last. A culture of respect and helpfulness prevails, and this makes for an easy-going festival. Volunteers have until May to apply and can end up as security, stage hands, bartenders, refuse-collectors, safety attendants... Some end up at the Cathedral of Silence and have their festival dreams quashed when they discover they have to cleanse the muddied feet - and supposedly the souls - of other festival-goers.

8. Safety first
Police report that the festival is largely safer than a small suburban Danish town - that is to say, very safe, with crime levels at the lowest in Europe. Since 2002, there have been on average four to five reports of violence each year at Roskilde Festival (about one a day, despite 750,000 partying guests). In Roskilde’s nightlife, it’s also one a day (with a maximum of a couple of thousand people partying).

9. Camp life
The camps at Roskilde Festival 2008 spanned A to P, each with its own ‘Agora’, a small square at the centre of the area. Activities took place throughout the four-day warm up under the guises of construction, skate, sport, cinema, expression, movement, climate, etc. The naked race is an annual event that isn’t for the faint-hearted - or hungover - either for participation or as a spectator sport. In Agora G, festival guests created their own instruments out of rubbish and played them in a ‘garbage parade‘, to be in line with the ‘Less Trash, More Music’ slogan that was running throughout the festival.

10. City of Vikings
The city of Roskilde swells to three times its size during the festival week, and those who do manage to get some sleep during the event might handle some absorption of local culture, namely kings and Vikings. The festival boasts its very own train station, which opens for only one week of the year, making it simple for bleary-eyed party-goers to reach the city. Though Roskilde is becoming increasingly synonymous with the festival, more than 1,000 years ago it was a lucrative Viking trading centre, and in medieval times it was the seat of the Danish crown. Consequently, you can visit the fjords aboard a Viking ship, and for a surreal treat, a visit to the Roskilde Cathedral is a must, as all the Danish kings and queens are buried inside grand tombs guarded by strangely beautiful oversized statues.