In loving memory... G! Festival 2020
Today, Thursday 16th July was to be the first day of G! Festival 2020, the 19th annual edition of the internationally celebrated music and cultural event that takes place each year in the fishing village of Syðrugöta.
Typically the team would have been working around the clock for many weeks now, to ensure all the plans that have been carefully poured over for the past year, were fully realised, with all contingencies in place, to ensure both a safe and wildly enjoyable experience for all attending the event.
The best laid plans, especially it would appear in today’s climate, can always go awry, and today we find ourselves in Syðrugöta, with the small village feeling eerily peaceful, and as still and quiet as it does for the rest of the year, away from the festival.
Over the previous 19 years of the event artists from over 30 countries have joined to experience and contribute to what international publications including the New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, Conde Naste and countless others, have championed as one of the most unique festival experiences in the world.
On a lovely day like this our memory travels to great moments of G! and it is a very strange feeling to watch the beach as if waiting for something to happen, and not having a clue about the challenges we are facing.
Over the years, the challenges that have threatened the not-for-profit organisation include; spiralling production costs, exchange rate fluctuations, heavy and unpredictable weather, and a highly competitive and saturated pan-European festival market, to name just a few.
Until Spring of this year though, no one could have possibly conceived of adding ‘global pandemic’ to this list of ever present threats. Or worse still, that this would eventually lead to the festival being cancelled. They are of course not alone, as every major music event has similarly been cancelled across the world.
The event has adapted and evolved through the changing shapes of the sector over the years, but their core values, mission and spirit remain the same. To provide a three day event and gathering, delivering a diverse music and cultural celebration, bringing together international and Faroese artists, audience and volunteers, from all walks of life together.
Beyond the three day event, throughout the year, the organisation works to support and promote the music and artists of the Faroe Islands. From funding acts to participate in international showcase events, to creating and hosting the also internationally acclaimed and equally unique Hoyma “home” series of concerts, to name just a small part of their work and contribution.
What position do you now find yourselves as an organisation, the week of a cancelled event?
"We find ourselves in a kind of vacuum. Working hard until March and having an almost finalized programme, then to be put on hold for three months waiting, only to realize that all this years work is not going to be presented. On a lovely day like this our memory travels to great moments of G! and it is a very strange feeling to watch the beach as if waiting for something to happen and not having a clue about the challenges we are facing.
This will be a summer of yearning. We will miss the G! family, both our volunteers and our very loyal festival goers, the amazing live music that was going to be presented as well as the buzz of atmosphere that occurs when a lot a people work hard together to create amazing things. But this will also be the year that we have time to reflect on the festival and how we can create even more great things, so time will definitely be put into creating a fantastic 2021 and we can not wait to start sharing new things with you.
Indeed, the challenges you have experienced this year are in some ways not much greater than other years, G! at its core is an incredibly challenging event to make a reality. However, this year you find yourself without an event to celebrate the challenges, to make sense of the situation. Worse still, we are not out of the woods yet as the pandemic at it’s very core is entirely unpredictable.
You naturally have a lot of administrative work to carry out now, to refund ticket sales for 2020, as you always hoped to see people compensated for your forced cancellation. The government have just last week finalised the support package to help bail out creative industries, which as a not-for-profit, is the difference between bankruptcy, and being able to save the festival.
You are still left with quite a financial demand however, to cover 15% of your 2020 refunds yourselves, as well as all of your administrative and operational costs. How are you approaching managing this, and what are your hopes for the coming weeks, to see this all suitably wrapped up?
"The government support package was crucial to the survival of the festival, but even with the government support we are left with a deficit of 350.000 for 2020. This is a lot of money, especially when we think about the fact that we are a not-for-profit organization working hard all year long to make a difference for Faroese music. Nevertheless working hard for 20 years has created a lot of good relations, and some of our sponsors have agreed to help “save” us, so customers will all get their money back once the government support package has arrived, and we can start to create the 20th edition of the festival.
This year will go into the books as the festival which the organizers can visualize in their heads, but never happened. The last weeks have been full of nostalgia, wondering how the village would have evolved every day, if the festival was happening. We can't stop looking at the beach and hoping for good weather. We miss the people we usually work with, we miss the busy days and the life and creativity in the festival office, and most of all we will miss all the happy people enjoying the festival.
We promise we'll do everything in our power to create the most fantastic festival in 2021".
We have no doubt that you will!
Your efforts always go above and beyond. It is some huge relief that G! will continue to survive through this very challenging time - being such a key part of the musical landscape and calendar in Faroe Islands music. Not only for the musicians, but the festival goers both native and International as well, who each year travel from as far as Australia to experience the Faroe Islands for the first time through the event. Many who return year on year.
What might we and others do to best support you now?
"Really the best support you give us is to buy your ticket early, when they are launched in September"
And this is of course a great time to look forward to 2021 !! Which will be the 20th edition of G! Festival I understand? I wonder if the first organisers could have ever imagined what they might have created 20 years on? No doubt 2021 will be a very special, even emotional event for many?
"The founders of the festival were visionary people who always had great things in mind for both the festival and for Faroese Music, and already in the beginning they had an international angle. With their imagination and creative ability to see past obstacles, they might even have imagined something bigger - the 20th edition of G! Festival will definitely be the time to dig deeper into questions like this. 2021 will be a special festival for many, and it will be fun to collect and share memories from the previous festivals. We are already working on the music program and are putting a lot of work into this edition of the festival, and look forward to sharing exciting news".
The heart and selflessness of the event, and the community that creates this totally unique experience, is nothing short of remarkable. With the terrible circumstance the whole world has shared in 2020, we can't imagine a greater release, to all who come together on Göta sand for G! 2021.
Thank you Sigvör, and thank you G!
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