Roskilde Festival in Denmark is an institution. It's sheer size and yearly mouth-watering lineups featuring the biggest names in all genres of music are reason enough to justify this label, but what truly makes Roskilde Festival special goes beyond numbers and lineups.
In 1971, two high school students were so inspired by the hippy youth gatherings of Isle of Wight and Woodstock, they founded the Sound Festival. They were encouraged by the peaceful message of freedom and community these festivals conveyed, and wanted to do their part to spread the word.
After a modest but successful first edition, the festival was taken over by the non-profit Roskilde Foundation and rebranded Roskilde Festival. While maintaining the original focus of inclusivity and peace, the festival continually grew, eventually becoming the largest culture and music festival in Northern Europe. (Yes, that means bigger than Glastonbury).
Of course, with a big festival comes big money. This is where Roskilde really sets itself apart and practices what it preaches. Since its inception, the festival has donated approximately 36.3 million euros to charities that share their core values, such as Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and Save the Children.
Furthermore, each year organisers choose a social issue to highlight during the festival, in hope of shedding light and focusing attention on the issue. In this way, the goodwill generated at the festival itself can be harnessed into a more practical response. 2016 highlighted human rights and equality, and, among other things, featured a live (via satellite) interview with Edward Snowden, the famed American whistleblower.
Practical enactment is an important aspect of Roskilde. It's one thing to feel a sense of community, but that's the easy part and only the first step. Nothing happens without effort. Under this belief, festival organisers joined the Stop Wasting Food movement and collected the excess food from Roskilde to give to homeless shelters. In 2014 this project donated 27.5 tons of food, equivalent to 50,000 meals. This initiative won the prestigious Green Operations Award at the European Festival Awards and is just one example of Roskilde's commitment to bettering society.
This mentality finds its way into the festival experience for attendees as well. The best thing about festivals with long histories are the well established traditions that sprout up over the years. Case and point: Roskilde's famed naked run. Started in 1999, this race is now firmly cemented as one of the central attributes of the festival, embodying its tenets of freedom and community. As well, organisers have implemented a goal of having 90% of all food at this year's festival be organic.
It's easy to be cynical about words like freedom and community, but when you look at the music festivals around the world that maintain interest year after year, from Roskilde to Glastonbury to Bonnaroo and beyond, this is what they're all about.
Roskilde goes above and beyond the call of duty, doing its best to make its ideals a reality. The team behind the festival truly believes that music and art can change the world, and this comes through when you attend the festival. A spirit of optimism and potential permeates all aspects of the Roskilde experience, and this is what makes Roskilde Festival one of the best music festivals in the world.
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