Sziget Works On Balancing Act

 Even before the fuss about winning Europe’s Best Major Festival award has died down, Hungary’s Sziget Festival will likely have returned to the problem of how to produce a poll-topping event and a financially sustainable one.

Photo: MTI, Balazs Mohai/AP
A street theatre group performs at Hungary’s Sziget festival, which broke attendance records this year Aug. 11-18 with Queens

The difficulty with continually attracting top international talent and drawing international plaudits has been keeping ticket prices at a level Hungarians can afford. Sziget Cultural Management, which runs the event and once sold it and bought back from a huge media corporation, needs to pull crowds that match the best in Europe. The scales appear to tilt quite quickly, with a scaling down of full-time staff being followed by last year’s record-breaking attendance and 415,000 visitors.

The highlight in crowd terms was the first day selling out its 85,000 capacity. This year Robbie Williams has been booked to ensure that number is repeated.

“We’re balancing our program to make sure it’s exciting for the Hungarian fans, even the ones who only come to see one big act with a day ticket, and also meeting the expectations of the foreign guests who usually stay for the full week,” explained Sziget Cultural’s international relations director András Berta.

He said the first reactions of the ticket buyers are “very positive.” The other acts at Sziget Aug. 10-17 include Florence & The MachineAlt-J, and Awolnation.