EFFE Laureate - Les Eurockéennes de Belfort
It was with just a touch of pride that Hervé Castéran admitted that, “we used to have a strong reputation as the muddiest festival in France”. Hervé is Communications Director of Les Eurockéennes and the comparison with Glastonbury is one that he relishes. This thirty year-old rock festival is, he says, “not the biggest in France – we have capacity for 33,000 per day over four days,” but it shares the rural surroundings of its more senior English equivalent and many of the same social and political values.
The festival takes places in July near the city of Belfort, close to the Jura mountains and the Swiss border in what has been at times southern Alsace. Belfort itself is not famous for much except that it is where the TGV high speed trains are built. The festival site is more picturesque, though. “We have two lakes at the foot of the mountains and one of our four stages sits in the water.” The site is an inland peninsula that is controlled as a nature reserve. “It is true that the birds leave for the weekend,” nods Hervé, “but we work closely with the bird protection organisations.”
“It is one of the most industrial regions in France so it is not a usual tourist destination. Our festival location, therefore, is very important. It is a beautiful environment and that means we bring in new people and jobs.
The EFFE jury said, “they have a social message and they are very ecological – for the European soul it's very important that we have this aspect of solidarity, ecology, social ideas and democracy with low prices. They put in a lot of effort and work with many associations; it's very inclusive.” The associations who join in are concerned with many aspects of disadvantage and disability, with the festival making imaginative special provision for them, allowing participation that effectively ignores the challenges of including them on a tented and camping festival site.
When it comes to the music, the main programme includes more than the itinerant great names of rock. “We have a broad taste,” says Hervé, “and in our minds we are an arts festival, always looking for something new. We use rock to help support the contemporary arts - an art fair - and we collaborate with arts schools. We don't put a particular genre on a particular stage. We try to give everybody a chance to do what they want: to party, to dance, to sing along.”
By Simon Mundy for EFA