We speak to the head of the Greek festival about staging an event amid the backdrop of an economic crisis.
This year's Reworks Festival will take place from September 21st through the 23rd in Thessaloniki, Greece.
For the eight years it's been running, Reworks has been one of Greece's finest electronic music festivals, with programs that run the gamut from club-oriented house and techno to more experimental fare. Naturally, the country's economic climate has made things increasingly difficult for the music scene in Thessaloniki, and not least for Reworks, but the organizers have still managed to put together their biggest event yet, with an extra day featuring workshops, lectures and free events on an outdoor street stage.
Topping this year's bill is the widely-loved Nicolas Jaar, playing live as always. Chromatics will perform live too, along with Desire, a related outfit on Italians Do It Better. Clubbier sounds will come from Maceo Plex, Tale Of Us, Pan-Pot and Daniel Bortz. Francesco Tristano brings a touch of classical to the bill. Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann has been confirmed as well.
The Saturday portion of this year's event will happen on five stages at the Mylos Complex. On Sunday, Reworks team up with Resident Advisor on the rooftop of the MET Hotel with Soul Clap, Benoit & Sergio and more. Venue details for Friday have yet to be revealed.
Reached at his office in Thessaloniki this week, we spoke with organizer Anastasios Diolatzis about Reworks, the challenges it's facing and how it's dealing with them:
I've never been to Reworks. Tell me a bit about the festival—what's atmosphere like?
The scene here is very small, as you can imagine. Unfortunately, because of the crisis, there are no clubs at the moment in Thessaloniki. This has been the case for the past two years now, so of course the scene has been getting smaller and smaller. But there is still a great enthusiasm about it, because every time something is going on, it's a very special thing. People are eager to find out about new things. Also, at the festival we don't have big stages, we never have. It's a necessary thing for us because we maintain a very warm atmosphere between the audience and the artist instead of having a huge stage. That wouldn't work out for a scene like ours. I think this is a strong point of Reworks: even though it's a festival it maintains a clubbing atmosphere. The artists seem to like it as much as the audience.
So a lot of clubs have closed in the past few years?
Oh yeah. There was a booming period between 2000 and 2008. There were great clubs with lots of international guests. Back then it was a pretty up-to-date scene. In general in Greece, people like to listen to Greek pop—a bit of folk, a bit of pop—so that was always the dominating sound in the country, but nonetheless there used to be clubs and there used to be a scene, there were regulars. Reworks used to have monthly and bi-monthly parties, that's how we started everything.
How has the economic situation in Greece affected the festival specifically?
The major problem is that the people, especially the young people, they don't have jobs. The unemployment rates here are sky-rocketing, especially in the north of Greece. They say there is more than 50% unemployment in the youth. So you have a lot of cases where people want to come but they simply cannot afford to spend even a single Euro on something like this. When you do go out, you see things like people who order a Red Bull and ask for two glasses because they need to share it. And the clubs, they always charge very high door fees. At Reworks we've always been against that, we've always had a very low door fee, but due to the crisis we had to lower it even more. So now we have a ticket that's 20 Euro for Saturday, when we have 30-35 artists playing. And we have a free street stage on Friday.
Many of the artists understand the situation, but it's still very difficult because when you run a festival like this you want everything to be perfect, you don't want to cut corners, to make discounts. But I don't want you to get the impression we don't have food to eat! It's not like that.
What do you think next year will be like?
We have no idea what's going to happen. That's a big problem in Greece: there's no sign, not of what will happen next year, but even next month. Normally we would design the festival ten months prior, meaning we'd start in November or December. This year, for eight months we had no government. We couldn't do anything, because there could be this scenario in which Greece exits the Euro. Obviously you cannot organize anything in an atmosphere like that. When we had the final result with the elections and it seemed we would stay in the Euro, that's when we decided to proceed with everything. That was June, so we just started two months ago. So, we have no idea what next year will be like, but this is something we live with every day. Living in Greece, you can either stand still and do nothing, or you can do something. So that's what we decided to do this year, and I guess we will do again next year.