Green Light For Sziget

Hungary’s Sziget Festival has the go ahead for 2011 after the event organisers struck a deal with Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos for just a fraction of the site rent he was reportedly asking.

Hungarian radio reports initially claimed the festival would have to pay euro 9 million ($12.2 million) for the use of the Danube island site, but Pollstar understands the figure is closer to 2 percent of that at euro 180,000 ($244,000).

The festival traditionally had free use of the 108-hectare island because of the cultural and financial benefits it brings to the city. Another part of the compromise suggests Tarlos wants Sziget to play its part in ensuring Budapest makes the most of these benefits.

Festival-goers will be offered a cut-price “city service package” that will likely include free use of public transport and discounts on tickets for Budapest’s zoos, theme parks and its famous Turkish spa baths, among other things.

Tarlos wants the sale of the packages and increased tourist business to generate a further euro 360,000 ($488,000) for the city, and next year’s rent negotiations may depend on the success of this venture.

Stories about Tarlos wanting to charge such a high rent, about 90 percent of the festival’s total budget, started appearing in the Hungarian media at the beginning of January.

Sziget released a statement that said “the organisers presume that this unrealistic figure must be the result of a miscalculation,” while festival managing director Gábor Takács said he was confident the event would happen in 2011.

He said he didn’t want to make further comment before meeting with the mayor.

Sziget talent booker Dan Panaitescu says having the battle with the mayor hanging over the event hasn’t caused him as much of a problem as the apparent drop in the number of acts touring this summer.

He says he’s still waiting for some responses on offers that Sziget’s made for main stage headliners, although he’s making swifter progress with the metal stage and acts that will be a little lower down the bill.

The acts so far confirmed for Sziget 2011 (Aug. 10-15) include Judas Priest, Motorhead, Dizzee Rascal, Marina & The Diamonds, Soehne Mannheims, Hadouken, and Sonata Arctica.