Orange Blossom Special is one of those boutique festivals with a distinctive profile; having its own artistic DNA and unmistakeable identity when it comes to pop with attitude. Some may consider this as somewhat 'old school', but at the end of the day it all comes together in the words of that iconic anthem written by Nick Lowe/Brinsley Schwarz and sung by Elvis Costello: "What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” Honestly, this true pop-music-evergreen, particularly in days like these, delivers a meaningful message, advocating ideas and solutions for a better world. But what does all this mean for a festival such as the OBS?
Sponsorship by Coca Cola, the beer brand Krombacher or even energy drink Red Bull? Certainly not at OBS, due to their awareness of aspects of disregard for fair labour conditions, ‘green washing’ or the political mind-sets of Company owners, not exactly in favour of democratic standards.
Instead OBS is a festival that applies a very polite policy for festival goers, featuring a kid-friendly approach, pursuing sponsors that may not be the biggest, such as Sinalco-Cola, involving charity organisations such as Sea-Watch, or offering water for free on the site. And yes, of course, there is music! Including, among others, this year's ETEP artists The Holy, Lewsberg and Linn Koch-Emmery.
ETEP.nl spoke with Rembert Stiewe, the OBS festival director about ETEP, culture policies and the impact of music and festivals in terms of ‘Love, Peace & Happiness’
ETEP.nl: ETEP is one of the very few support-programmes for festivals on an EU-level. Do you think we should have more of these for festivals or live events and if so, what kinds of support are needed?
Rembert Stiewe: As proven by ETEP’s success, support-programmes can work for the benefit of all involved parties - and without too much bureaucratic effort. So, yes, I think there should be more of this kind of support for festivals. This could be programmes that e.g. enable festivals to focus on sustainability, to minimise their carbon footprint, or to optimise their waste management. Often investments are needed to start a process like smart waste management etc. – and due to limited budgets they often fall through before they get started. There’s certainly room for support programs in this area.
I think a support program calling for inventive and sustainable ideas and projects would help to boost awareness and help festivals to become future-proof. In any case, any support program should not add to the bureaucratic nightmare festivals have to struggle with anyway. Ideally it should be set up to be as lean and easy to operate as ETEP.
ETEP.nl: You work as a journalist for WDR-Rockpalast.yourself. The loss of music magazines all over Europe is massive, mostly lost due to the emergence of online giants such as Facebook, Instagram, Spotify or Youtube replacing music media. Should this development be left to pursue the idea of a ‘free market’-philosophy or is there a political need for protection such as is afforded public broadcasters?
Rembert Stiewe: This is a delicate topic, of course. The ‘free market’-philosophy certainly is rubbish. Yes, I see a political need for protecting media – though without transforming them into their own lobby.
ETEP.nl: The Council for Culture in the Netherlands came up with the recommendation to support popular music in a similar manner to classical music, arguing that all parts of society should have the same access to the funding of culture according to their cultural preferences. Do you think that the majority of the current generation of politicians is ready for such a policy?
Rembert Stiewe: Hell, yes! Why shouldn’t they be? No, just kidding. I don’t think they’re ready yet. I never got why there’s so much denial of the idea that popular music should be treated like classical music. No one ever could give me a reason why there’s a lack of the same access to the funding of culture according to people’s cultural preferences. C’mon, this is elitist bullshit. Of course popular music and classical music should be supported equally. The “classical music is superior to popular music”-agenda some politicians still seem to be after is a sign of ridiculous “my shit doesn’t stink” –arrogance!
ETEP.nl: When Roger Daltrey, frontman of The Who, was asked at ILMC 2019 about the band’s concert at Woodstock (1969), he said that it was "the first nail in the coffin of the Vietnam War, the first thing to make the government sit up and take notice." Today we see spending on military budgets reaching a new level of $1.8trn! Should there now be a return to a demand that festivals should again empower ‘Love, Peace & Happiness’ (The Chambers Brothers )?
Rembert Stiewe: To quote Elvis Costello: “I ask myself: Is all hope lost? Is there only pain and hatred, and misery? (...) What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?”, Yeah,what IS so funny about it? It might sound naive – but I think that every engagement for the collective good counts, even small-scale activities. That’s why Orange Blossom Special has always had an attitude, we are aware of the social responsibility that we all - especially we as festival organizers - have. We reach more people through our events than it would otherwise be possible in our private environment and in other professional networks. We transport a way of living. That’s why all festivals should take a stand to take on board social responsibility; they should raise awareness of grievances, and should support tolerance, respect, openness, peacefulness and demonstrate and discuss solidarity. Not just lip service, but action.
We know that we may, for the most part, preach to the converted - nevertheless, it can certainly be positive to keep pointing out what is obviously going wrong. This does not mean that we only pursue altruistic goals here. Pretty much all festivals are forced to compromise here and there when it comes to preserving the future of the event. It's that simple and not very romantic. But we try our best to be good – and to become better. Every festival should at least try to do so. Because nothing is funny about peace, love and understanding!
ETEP.nl: OBS is sold out. Any idea how many visitors usually come from abroad?
Rembert Stiewe: This is hard to tell –there are quite a few guests from the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria coming to OBS every year. But I’d say all in all no more than 5% are coming from abroad.
ETEP.nl: Which other festivals will you go to this summer?
Rembert Stiewe: I’m planning on going to Maifeld Derby, Haldern-Pop, T-Mania, Rockpalast-Crossroads and Reeperbahnfestival.
For more information on OBS, please check this
Text: Manfred Tari /Allan McGowan