Impact International: UK/Euro Honors
With Heart & Soul Fruzsina Szép Takes Care Of Her Babies
Try to imagine the complexity of organizing a festival. Then imagine being forced to move the site four years in a row, despite the festival’s success. Now, imagine having to basically build a new event from scratch with each move. And, finally, imagine finding a permanent home and reimagining your event yet again – and once you’re ready to open the gates, the world shuts down. Fruzsina Szép, Managing & Festival Director of Superbloom at Goodlive, doesn’t have to imagine any of that, because she went through it all and lived to tell the tale.
After successfully launching the Lollapalooza brand in Germany with Festival Republic in 2015, the event moved sites annually until 2018, when it settled at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Goodlive went on to launch a new event called Superbloom in Munich, which was set to premiere in 2020 but never happened, for obvious reasons.
“How does it feel to see your dream, your ideas, your imagination grow, being full of colors and light and excitement, but you simply can’t see it becoming reality?” Szép asks, before providing the answer in the same breath. “It is very frustrating, and you ask yourself, ‘Why is thishappening?’”
The Lolla experience taught her more about the festival business than she could have ever imagined. “When I look back now, I can honestly say that I’m thankful for that,” she says. “I feel no fear of starting a new festival,” she says, “I feel no fear of jumping into deep cold water. It is the opposite. I would not even be afraid to organize the first festival on planet Mars.”
Less interplanetary, Szép has dedicated her career in live music to creating events with unique artistic and creative programs, with valuable content around diversity and social responsibility and, “most importantly,” she says, “with a heart and soul to provide a long-lasting positive experience for the audience, the artists and the team.”
But Szép always brought these qualities to other people’s events. It wasn’t until 2020 that she took the opportunity to create her own festival brand. And now, after waiting two years to finally open the gates to Superbloom, Szép remains patient and dedicated to making “the most of the time that was given to us to prepare this ‘new baby’ on the European festival market the best we can in order to be ready for 2022.
She has no illusions about the future of live. “Nothing will be the same as it used to be back in 2019,” she says. “I never have and never will take things for granted, but the pandemic taught me even more how fragile we, our world, our industry is.”
The pandemic also reminded her that the “business is not just about money and big egos, it is about the people and the team and the well-being of our colleagues. For me, the people were always very important, but during these one-anda- half years I learned and realized even more how important it is to take care of our colleagues and their mental health, their heart and soul, to understand their fears and to help them to find a way out. I definitely want to conduct my business with an even bigger human focus.”
The crisis also revealed that the live sector doesn’t have a strong enough lobby, domestically or in the EU. It never needed one, but that’s changed. Szép is a board member of Europe’s festival association Yourope, which fought hard to get all the big players in Europe to sit around a table. And while there has been some exchange, “at the end, it was Yourope that did the major work wanting to have this one voice,” she explains. The association focused on bringing together those who wanted to learn from each other.
“We had monthly COVID update calls and it was amazing to see that on each call we had over 70 participating festivals exchanging [COVID updates], news, internal info to help and support each other. Yourope grew stronger, and that is such a beautiful takeaway.”
Szép personally utilized the forced downtime for “self-reflection, and to observe nature, the world and myself. Who am I, where am I, what do I want, what is really important in life? It was a beautiful journey with ups and downs, and at the end I realized how thankful I am for the life I have, my husband, my family, the friends all around the world, for the jobs I could and can do and that the music and the festival industry is really my home. I realized how much my body and my soul needed some time off and to step down from my super-fast festival choo-choo train. I didn’t know how much I needed this. I became more grounded, got even closer to nature and the quality time with family and loved ones reached another level.
“I used to say that the festivals are my children, and that I love them and take care of them,” she continues. “I never thought of how it would feel to have my own child. … This August my husband and I became parents of a wonderful little baby girl. Not sure if this would have happened if I kept up my stressful life that I have led for more than 20 years.”