Interview with Hadra festival (2017)

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10 th anniversary Hadra festival edition took place in Vieure, France in the beginning of September.
Our correspondent Iurii Gagarin was on the scene and conducted an interview about the festival and the organisational matters behind it. Also we invite you to read our interview dedicated to Hadra AlterVision Records.

By the way, next Hadra Festival will be 6-9 September, follow news via facebook event.

Hello everyone, I’m Iurii Gagarin and we are now in Hadra festival in France. We talk with director of festival, Benoît.

Hello Benoît!

Hello Iurii!

How are you?

Hem, tired but I’m really good.

It’s normal, we are on Saturday afternoon and the festival started on Thursday evening. So what are your first impressions about the festival? Is everything rolling well this year?

Yeah, this is really cool. Actually last year the festival was organized four months in advance. We had only four months to organize it so it was really short for making things properly – there had been two years since the last edition, because we had to change the location.
So we organized the festival without knowing the location, nor the people who would welcome us, and so, for sure, it was a bit hard.
This time, we had one year to plan the festival, we knew already the location and the people we’d be working with, and so it’s much easier.
We actually made this time a proper Hadra festival – we can say that we are back!
I think people from the team and from the audience were actually expecting the Hadra like it was in Lans-en-Vercors.
I’ve talked to many people and they said ‘Yeah, guys you’re back’.
However, the date is late also and we were expecting a little more people – we still have to make the count but I think we’ll be a little too short for break-even.

As I know, last year it was a sold out event. Was it smaller ?

Yeah it was 6,000 tickets. Well, 2014 was 15,000 people. Then because we didn’t do the festival in 2015, people were really waiting for Hadra to come back. And so, when we finally released the date of the 2016 edition, people ran because they knew tickets would be sold out very quickly.
It wasn’t the case this year, but the date is different and I also think the fact that we came back to a 4 days/3 nights formula (last year was 3 days/2 nights) had an impact, like prices were not the same and so on.
You never know but anyway, I think this year organizers in Europe had some troubles to actually gather people – some festivals probably died after this summer for not having enough audience.
I also think that people in France, as in anywhere, got a little broke actually. It’s hard to gather the money to come to the festival and pay for 5 days of food and everything.

This year it’s already 10th edition of Hadra festival. What do you think is the motivation of the festival team – I think the team consists of 50 people ?

The special thing with Hadra is that it’s a non-profit organization. So all the benefits we can make from an event are just put back to organize something else or to release an album or to organize workshops and such.
So everything we do is mainly led by passion, and I think that’s why it’s the 10th edition. The initial team is still there and youngers members have come. I think this is because we are family and we welcome many newcomers and when someone – volunteer or organizer – comes to Hadra once, he will come back again because he wants to keeps being a part of this family. Then usually people say they don’t come to Hadra for money – it’s because it’s you and it’s about the love we share together to organize a proper event.

For me, Hadra is the only international-level festival in France – maybe I’m missing something? Are there any big events, more than 2,000 people?

No, there’s none, some tried to organize this but they didn’t succeed because it’s actually very hard to organize a festival in France.
We got the experience and we know how to do…yesterday the préfet – the main man for the department – came to the festival because he’d heard about it, which means that they are actually interested in the event.

My next question goes from there: what is the most challenging when organizing an outdoor, several days event in France?

I would say the climate, but before the climate there are the authorities: legislation is super strict in France so this is the main challenge.

You are getting checked on security and such?

Everything. From the beginning we started with a meeting with the authorities – cops, firemen, everyone. Then a second one to validate it, and a last one just before summer to re-validate it. Then the true last one on the day of the opening – like two hours before.
But anyway we know that it’s gonna work, we are constantly communicating with them and our relation is super clear.
We can’t be cancelled at the last moment because everyone is taking part in it, the mayor and such. It’s a proper collaboration. Maybe this is why there ain’t so many French events of this scale.
Hadra in 2014 was 15,000, the biggest one. Now it’s smaller cuz we chose to make it smaller and anyway, it’s a long process to go. You can’t manage such a project on your own – you have to work with the authorities and be crystal-clear with them.

I know you had to change location and I’m curious.
Do you think that some regions in France are easier for organizing events and some others are more conservative and troublesome?

For sure there are regions where it could be easier, but you know the authorities, mayor and the whole political system change every 5-6 years so you can have a location, own a land and finally not being able to do your festival….
In Lans-en-Vercors, our previous site, we spent 5 years in a row working on the same festival, with a mayor who trusted us. He was kicked out of mayorhood and so the festival had to leave the same way.
We had all the good assets : the festival was super acclaimed, covered by all the medias and it was bringing money to the locals. But the mayor changed and the new one didn’t want to have us anymore.
So, at first, you can think some regions/departments are easier but it changes all the time.
For this one, at first we came because it was the only place where people wanted to have us. Now we’re more than happy to work with them all here !

I remember, you made a call on the Internet.
Finding an adapted location is very tough, because you can’t just choose any land.You need special roads for different access, water, temperature…
So would you like to make 11th edition on the same location ?

Yeah I think so. People usually ask “Why did you leave? Why did you decide to go to another place?”
We didn’t decide you know: we had to move. And why are we here? Just because here they accepted us.
We don’t want to do one festival in one place and another one in another place, that’s always new troubles. This location is amazing, there are already roads, toilets, bungalows for artists… We started a proper collaboration with the local food providers, artists and we don’t want to loose it.

Do you have the numbers of how many people invested themselves in the festival this year? How many core members and volunteers?

Hadra is non-profit organization led by 4 employees for communication, administration, direction and accountancy.
There’s a core a 9-10 people (volunteering) invested all along the year about different Hadra activities, including the festival.
There are like 50 volunteers, a little less involved but still working with us.
And once the festival organization begins, there’s a core of 15 people, deeply involved, and more and more until it reaches 90 responsible people in charge and 500 volunteers.
So when Hadra starts, there are like 700 people working, not including our partners.

There is obviously a lot of preparation for security, infrastructures and such.
But once the festivals has started, what is the most difficult thing to manage? Taking care of the audience? The artists?

I don’t know. The climate can just put you down. We experienced it in the mountains in 2012 with heavy rain and snow during 72h. Parking and such can also be an issue, when everyone comes at the same time.
But when a festival is well organized, everything goes well.

Parking is a serious matter in festivals, because sometimes it’s in a separate location and there can be issues with chanelling the flux.

In some festivals, like Eastern europe, you can just enter the fest and stay there with cars, vans, tents, dogs and everything. So if anything happens you can’t just fly away because it’s so crowded.
We can’t do that in France. Gotta have separate areas for cars, vans and camping, and I think it works well this way.

Why is it different in France? Is it for legal reasons?

Yeah, security reasons mainly.

Have you been to other festivals this year?

Yeah, but mainly to set up tents with my company, for the bars, stages and everything.
I’ve been to Own Spirit festival, not far from Barcelona, really nice music and crowd, they did a great job. I’ve been to Wao festival in Italy, in July – amazing space. They have it for 12 years so that’s a really good start for the project.
And also, Oregon Eclipse fest which was definitely the most amazing in my last 10 years of festival.

Yeah, Oregon Eclipse was just few weeks ago in Oregon, USA. It gathers many smaller events under one roof to make a celebration of solar eclipse.
How many people have been there?

40,000. The guys are really impressive, it’s another dimension. I really had a blast, thinking it was not possible to do that in France.
Because we’re restricted, we have smaller landscapes. Here we are in a little box and we ask ourselves ‘what can I do inside this box?’. In Oregon Eclipse, there’s no box, it’s just super open, super big.
We were involved in it as one of the festivals invited in the consortium, but we didn’t do a lot. We thought about bringing decor teams and artists, but with Hadra a few weeks later it was very hard to propose our services.
So I really appreciate that they accepted us the way we were.

Congratulations to Oregon team, you inspire us here in Europe.
Next question is about chill-out music and chill-out stage.
This is your 10th edition: how do you see the actual role of the chill-out in psychedelic events which are usually called “electronic dance music” whereas chill-out is meant to relax?
Do you imagine it better than it is now or do you think the current format is enough?

I think it can always evolves, and we can see there that people are really attracted to the chill-out. Personally I think it’s absolutely fundamental to have a chill-out stage in a psy festival.
You have the mainstage which is blasting, but when you just want to rest and enjoy the music in a different way, it is really important. The music is important too. Actually it’s the 1st time this year that we have a non-stop playing chill-out. In 2016, we had two stages: mainstage and alternative. The alternative had chill-out elements in it but it wasn’t the main thing.
In 2014, we had a chill-out but it was running only during the night – during the day it was for lectures and such.

I personally thank you a lot for making the chill-out happening 24h a day. It’s always nice to be able to go and relax a bit with good company.
I’d like to ask you what are your plans and dreams for the continuation of Hadra festival?

Super hard question. You know I’m the director of Hadra festival but I don’t own it. It belongs to all of those who are involved in it.
So it’s a global view on what can we bring to it. Anyway I think we’re quite happy with it like it is this year. Not overcrowded. 8,000 people works well because you can meet your friends easily, it stays convivial and familial.
In 2014 we had 15,000 people : it was a blast, but here is also cool. I wouldn’t want to make it bigger.
What I’d like to improve is the lecture space that we really brought to life this year. Here there were lectures of every kind: electronic music, environmental issues and such. I’d like to add fire shows, circus, theater and that kind of things.

Great. So as you said it’s a teamwork and I’m sure the team will find great ideas to evolve and propose even more interesting things.
We encourage everyone to come at the 2018 edition!
Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you Iurii.

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