Shapes Festival are officially throwing their hat into the ring that is the big wide world of festival-land, and it looks like they're doing so in some style. Not content with starting just one new festival – an alpine snowsports and music extravaganza in the Swiss resort of Leysin – they have also announced plans for further editions in Norway and Greece next year.
They're not completely new to the game, as part of the team behind the winter edition of Gilles Peterson's celebrated Worldwide Festival (held in the same alpine resort as Shapes' debut), they know what it takes to throw a decent party.
Nonetheless, launching a brand new festival is always going to be a challenge, especially when you decide to establish not just one, but three new festivals under the same banner.
With preparations well under way for the first winter festival next March, we asked festival director Franck Alfier about the decision to launch the new project, and his hopes for each of the new festivals.
Why did you choose these three countries in particular? What does each of them offer that appeals to you?
Leysin (Switzerland) is a laid back, non-posh, non-pretentious mountain village in the Vaud Alps, above Montreux. From there you can enjoy the best panoramic views in the Alps. You can see Mont-Blanc, Dents du Midi, Eiger and countless other peaks.
It’s also the closest ski resort from Geneva, so it is extremely easy to reach from pretty much any destination in Europe.
It has some of the cleanest air in all of Europe, the hottest thermal water in Switzerland and Glacier 3000 are only 40 minutes away. You can combine skiing and partying with a bit of pampering and exploring all in one go.
Our edition in Norway at the end of May will offer a more Scandinavian vibe, with fjords, beautiful nature and that special Nordic atmosphere.
As for the Greek edition, it will be everything you can expect from a small paradise island in the Mediterranean. Crystal clear water, blissful sunshine, stunning beaches, secluded coves and lots of feta cheese!
Launching three festivals at once seems like quite a bold move – what went into the decision to announce and work on all three together?
The idea behind Shapes is to bring people to some stunning and unusual destinations outside the beaten tracks. I also wanted to offer that choice of very intimate festivals with different atmospheres and settings (Scandinavian, Mediterranean and Alpine).
I am already planning to add one or two more editions outside Europe in the future.
What are your hopes for the first editions?
I just want people to have a great experience at the festival, leave with great memories and new friendships, and create that community feeling where the festival-goers can interact and party with the artists and crew alike in an almost family vibe.
And where do you want each of the festivals to be in a few years’ time?
I want them to retain that feeling of intimacy and uniqueness, which makes people go home and tell their friends how special it was and return year after year. Our aim is really to keep them small and original, and not to lose the ethos we started them with.
First up is the Alpine festival in Switzerland – what made Leysin the right place to host the very first Shapes Festival?
I’ve been organising the Worldwide Festival winter edition with Gilles Peterson in Leysin for the last seven years. The sceneries are stunning, the venues are excellent and we have a great relationship with the resort. It made complete sense to develop a second festival there with a different vision.
London promoters Beauty & The Beat and Half Baked have already been confirmed to bring their parties to the Alps. Would you say their brands are representative of the overall vibe of the festival?
Absolutely, so many people pretend to be doing it for the love of the music, when really it’s not the case. Both Half Baked and BATB have been running quality and meaningful parties for the last few years and their crews are very down to earth as well. We feel really in line with the original party vibes and quality underground music they bring.
How is the process of booking acts and building a lineup coming together? Is the focus just on the Leysin festival or are you already looking ahead to later in 2018?
It’s like assembling a jigsaw with a bit of instinct, you get a few pieces in place first, then you try to complete it by finding the most relevant pieces around.
Is this a stressful time for you as you prepare for the first festival? Or do you feel you’ve got it all under control?
Live events like festivals are never completely under control, but it’s what makes organising a festival a challenging but exciting experience.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to when March 2018 comes around?
My first fondue!
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