This summer Pandeia visited Northside Festival in Denmark. Northside Festival, a little hipsters paradise with organic food and alcohol, is held in Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark.
Once a year, all the hipsters of Aarhus, along with music enthusiastic and beer-loving Danes, gather at the festival that has grown so fast that guests more than doubled after the first festival. Starting with 6,000 guests in 2010, the number of guests has grown to 35,000.
This festival is characterised by two things: happy volunteers and organic food. On every food sign the word ‘organic’ dominates: ‘30 % organic sauce on your hot dog’, ‘60 % organic French fries,’ and ‘organic burgers,’ and if you look the other way, you’ll notice happy volunteers walking around, picking up trash, showing directions and watching gates, happily, with a smile. No one seems to be unhappy – or even eat unhealthily – at a music festival!
From last year the menus went from consisting of at least 30% of their food organic to 60% this year. Tuborg Rå is one of the organic beers available at the festival, along with organic vodka, gin, and rum, available at all bars. Even the coffee is organic. Yes, Danes are mad about their organic products – even when drunk.
Organic is the way Danes party, but let’s not forget Denmark is the happiest country in the world according to the United Nations report both in 2013 and 2014 (came in third in 2015). Maybe the key is to party organically. Ironically (or maybe not) Denmark is also one of the highest anti-depression medication users in Europe.
The festival area is small and accessible, which means you will have to be very drunk to miss a concert there. And I mean beyond ‘Danish’ drunk, because it takes you just a couple of minutes to go from one concert to another. The stages are pretty much all in the same place. On top of that the festival is decorated with unique and beautiful wooden artwork, which can be used as a meeting point if you are totally lost, or well let’s face it, too drunk.
Volunteers hold up the festival
Most guests at the festival come from Aarhus and the neighbourhood cities, although some Danes from the rest of Denmark curiously group to Jutland to work as volunteers and explore the Jutland.
Volunteers work for 16 hours, leaving them with 2 days free of the three-day festival to attend concerts. Jesper and Jeppe,19-years old, came all the way from Copenhagen for the festival: ‘we wanted to check out this festival, but we are students, so we don’t have a lot of money,’ said Jesper.
They both worked as gate watchers at the backstage area, saying it was worth working a 16-hour shift just to experience the festival despite being sad to miss the artists playing whilst they worked.
Jesper and Jeppe said this festival was different from the well-known Roskilde festival: this one being shorter festival, with no available camping.
‘This is more for the local people and older crowd,’ adding ‘this is like the end of the of the 20s, the early 30s kind of festival.’
The boys agreed nothing compares to Jutland hospitality, they couch-surfed and were woken up with egg and bacon in the morning: ‘we just asked for a floor to sleep on!,’ said Jesper happily, ‘people here are very friendly’. Jeppe added, ‘I don’t think you can find that kind of people in Copenhagen.’
Beyond the music, socialising is what drives these happy volunteers on. Another volunteer who spoke to us said he came all the way from Fyn to meet new people: ‘I don’t know anyone here in Aarhus, so I volunteered to talk to other people, and make some friends. I got telephone numbers from five volunteers who want to go out and have a beer with me.’
‘It’s for the music, the festival, it’s because of the people, the social element,’ he finally said, delighted with the festival.
Northside: striving to be green
Festivals produce a high amount of trash and use high levels of electric energy. Due to this more festivals are becoming environmentally aware. Northside Festival is leading in green policy in Denmark and last year it was the first festival in Denmark to win the Greener Festival Award for reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
Northside festival encourages guests to be environmental, and as a part of the festivals ‘sustainability’ policy trash guests need to categorise trash into four categories. Now, that is only for the guests and behind scenes trash is categorised into 16 categories. The plastic from this year’s festival will be used as trash bags for Northside 2016 – when Northside plans to become even greener.
Additionally guests receive a generous fee for recycling waste. For returning a beer mug to recycling, guests receive 1.5 GBP. One guest told Pandeia he could earn up to 50 GBP per hour by collecting bottles.
Besides a green policy, Northside Festival takes good care of it’s guests. When leaving the festival on Sunday night, feeling tired, hungover and dreading the bike ride home, the volunteers lined up at the gate to cheer on all the guests on as they walked out. Giving high fives, like if you had just finished a football match and you deserved a pat on the back. It wasn’t a bad end to a good festival. It wasn’t a bad end to a good festival.
Words by Svanlaug Arnadottir
Photos by Svanlaug Arnadottir