Sziget Heading For Sellout

Hungary’s Sziget Festival is heading for another 85,000-capacity sellout, giving weight to the argument that one of the most prestigious of the old Eastern bloc festivals is enjoying something of a renaissance.

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 festival was started at the end of the Communist era in 1989 by a group of artists and enthusiasts, who’d apparently realised the Budapest summer would be dull because there’d be no more state-funded events.

It built a reputation among agents for reliability and providing a 60,000-plus crowd, but then competition came from other festivals from the old Iron Curtain region such as Exit Festival in Serbia and Open’er in Poland, and with every country having its own major fest with capacities of around 30,000 to 40,000.

Although Sziget had benefitted from the festival tourist market, it started to become clear that many people didn’t want to visit the same place each year. Sziget’s renaissance has come over the three or four years it’s taken to win the best major European festival award a couple of times, and enjoy a 30 percent-plus crowd surge that in the last two years has seen several days hitting the 85,000-capacity.

For a couple of days during last year’s festival, Sziget challenged Belgium’s Rock Werchter as the biggest festival on mainland Europe. “We expect that also this year we will host more than 400,000 fans throughout the whole week,” said festival chief Karoly Gerendai.

“This year we managed to restructure the festival area in a way that it can conveniently host an even higher number of visitors, if needed.”

The acts helping fill Sziget Aug. 10-17 include Robbie WilliamsKings Of LeonFlorence & The MachineAviciiEllie Goulding, and Kasabian.