Riots Wreck Turkish Summer Season

Turkey’s One Love Festival is among dozens of events to be canceled because of civil unrest that’s spilled into several parts of the country.

The 20,000-capacity June 20-22 festival on the university campus near the centre of Istanbul had a lineup including Blur,  New OrderKeaneThe VaccinesJames Blake, and Foals. It was canceled at the beginning of June.

Pozitif Productions, which organises the festival, also canceled the Istanbul Calling shows headlined by Snoop Dogg30 Seconds To MarsSigur RosThe Prodigy, and Basement Jaxx.

“We made the decision after discussions with artists and their agents and most agreed we would cancel on account of force majeure,” Pozitif promoter Baris Basaran explained.

Pozitif has pulled all of its shows until July 20, when the company hopes the situation will have cooled. Thirty-five headline acts have had their shows canceled.

“At the moment it’s more like civil war than civil unrest and it’s not safe to have shows. We can’t even put up posters because all the sites have been destroyed,” Basaran told Pollstar, pointing out that the street fighting that broke out at the beginning of June meant nobody was buying concert or festival tickets.

Warning: Video is fairly graphic.

He said continuing with the festival and the Istanbul Calling shows would have likely bankrupted Pozitif, which has been 80 percent owned by corporate giant Dogus Holding since mid-April.

Pozitif says it’s already had to write off the substantial marketing budget that was spent on launching its summer events and may lose even more compensating artists who’ve incurred costs.

Nick Hobbs of Charmenko  which has canceled its High Voltage rock show with Slayer in Istanbul June 28, says promoters don’t have any choice other than to stop putting on shows.

“The people who are protesting are the same people that come to our shows,” he explained. “They want to know why we’re putting on entertainment when there’s a revolution going on.”

He also said the new alcohol laws brought in when the trouble started means breweries are pulling out of sponsorship.
“I can’t put up a poster with a brewer’s name on it,” he said.

Pelin Opcin of IKSV, organizer of the world-famous Istanbul Jazz Festival throughout its 20-year history, is determined this year’s event will go ahead.

“I think many promoters had to make their decision when the trouble started because they had events throughout June,” she said. “We had that little bit longer to decide and could allow more time for things to settle down.”

Opcin has still had to make some changes to the program, moving some outdoor shows to indoor venues to avoid the risk of sparking problems in the street.

“I think we are less likely to be targeted because we’re a non-government organization and we have no ties to commerce,” she said.

The revised Istanbul Jazz program July 2-18 still includes Alicia KeysJohn LegendDee Dee Bridgewater & Ramsey LewisDavid SanbornBob JamesMelody Gardot and others.

The Turkish riots, which began as a protest against building flats on Istanbul’s Gezi Park, quickly ballooned into a demonstration against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government.

Erdogan hardly helped matters when he dismissed the protesters as “extreme elements” and said they would likely spark a backlash.

“My smart citizens will recognize this, then they will give them the right lesson,” he said.
The protests united demonstrators from across the political spectrum as security forces unleashed tear gas and water cannons.

As the riots spread to Ankara, Izmir, Adana and other locations, the Turkish Medical Association claimed that at least 3,195 people had been injured in the first two days and one protester had died. Other reports say as many as five have died.

International groups including Amnesty International have criticized the police response as excessive.