Quart With Its Trousers Down

Former Quart Festival director Toffen Gunnufsen’s new Hove Festival attracted about 5,000 fans per day more than the Kristiansand event he helped start 15 years ago, as what are now Norway’s two biggest festivals squared up within a week of each other.

The first staging of the five-day event at Arendal June 26-30, which is backed by a new company set up by Morten Sandberg, chief exec of the country’s leading sponsorship agency Concept Communications, attracted a little more than 10,000 per day.

Quart didn’t make a 5,000 per day average, pulling less than half of last year’s 50,000 five-day crowd, and only a last-minute grant from the local Kristiansand authority enabled it to go ahead at all.

It’s left the council staring down the barrel of a $2.25 million (12.9 million Norwegian krona) downside.

Reports in national papers said that’s the amount of money the local council’s cultural department spent underwriting its flagging festival’s battle against Gunnufsen’s new kid on the block.

Its sport and cultural fund, a treasure chest the city authority got from cashing in on its gas and oil stock, paid out an initial 1.2 million Norwegian krona (about US$200,000) in the fall, local media reported.

Between then and June it received a further 7.9 million NKR (US$1.4 million), mainly to meet running costs and artist deposits.

On July 3, the day before Quart started, the city stumped up another "extraordinary" grant of 5 million krona (nearly another $1 million), which some papers say was an emergency fund to stop it from being canceled at the last minute.

As it was, top international acts including The Who, Velvet Revolver, Turbonegro, Machine Head, Scissor Sisters, Beastie Boys, The Roots and The Good, The Bad & The Queen played in front of a crowd that was half the size of the one they could have expected.

Kristiansand likes to see itself as the administrative, business and cultural capital of south Norway, but the 75,000-population city’s cultural profile very much hinges on events like Quart Festival.

The last payment was obviously made in the knowledge that Hove had won the battle for the fans, and as Quart was being held July 3-7, about 15,000 Norwegians would be heading off to Denmark’s Roskilde Festival.

It hasn’t been possible to get comment from the local Kristiansand authority on where the event goes from here or a reaction from festival chief Aasheim Knudsen and international booker Jorgen Skauge.

Gunnufsen hasn’t publicly commented on the reasons he quit Quart last October and set up a rival festival about 50 miles to the north, but the split was clearly acrimonious.

"He’s chosen to quit and compete. He’s starting a festival that will come a week before Quart and it’s barely an hour away," Helge Josdal, who succeeded Gunnufsen as a festival director, told Pollstar at the time.

"What I think of that isn’t important. What I’m telling you is fact. Quart’s business model is a non-profit organisation with the money going to a foundation, very similar to Roskilde, whereas Hove will be a commercial event. It seems Toffen will be happier with that."

The acts on the June 26-30 Hove bill included The Killers, Arcade Fire, My Chemical Romance, Damien Rice, Kaiser Chiefs, Bright Eyes, Slayer, Incubus, Queens Of The Stone Age, Billy Talent and Lamb Of God.