Flash Festival: Where Tradition And Innovation Meet

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Benedetta Venturini returned to her native country, Tuscany, Italy, to launch her own festival.

Tuscany. Sunsets over rolling hills, gravel roads lined with cypress trees, interspersed with grapevines growing the fruit for some of the world’s best red wines. That’s where Benedetta Venturini was born. And that’s where she eventually returned to, after leaving for the wide world and study event management, first in Milan, then completing her masters in Sydney, Australia. It was in Down Under where she learned everything about the live trade from the very best, and formed an idea of launching her own festival, called Flash Festival, which celebrates its third edition at the Castiglion Fiorentino, just outside of her native town Arezzo in one of the most beautiful regions of Europe.

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Castiglion Fiorentino. Flash Festival takes place in the surrounding countryside.

While studying at UTS in Sydney, Venturini was volunteering on some of the biggest tours visiting the city, starting with the Vans Warped Tour in 2013. The jobs turned out to be a lot more hands-on than expected, and she soon launched her own company, which managed the backstage areas of concerts and other types of live events. “I was doing everything from dressing rooms, artists liaison, catering, coordination, make sure everything was in place,” Venturini recalled. During her time at Uni, she got to work on major tours, including The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and more. It wasn’t so much the artists that made her want to forge a career in live, but rather seeing the spark in the eyes of the audience and feeling their energy.

Eventually, she and her partner moved back to Europe, to the German capital of Berlin, and that’s where the idea to launch a festival first hit her: “I thought, there’s an opportunity here to bring all my friends from around the world to see Tuscany the way I see it, the way I live it, the way I eat and drink, sat down at a long table in the middle of a garden for hours, and, of course, the way I dance,” she explained.

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Meeting around long tables to eat and drink for hours is part of the Tuscan way of life.

“As you can imagine, I’ve gone to many festivals, I’ve seen loads of other concepts, I fell in love with some elements. I wanted to create an intimate festival, where I could curate the program in detail. That’s why we want to keep it at a maximum of 1,000 people in its third edition,” she said. Venturini isn’t opposed to growing the event in the future but wants to make sure it all happens organically. The site would easily accommodate 3,000 at least.

It’s a multi-program festival, where the music forms the beating heart. But the delicious Tuscan cuisine, prepared by a chef following ancient secrets and authentic dishes passed down through generations, while a real Italian ‘Nonna’ (grandma) will run pasta making workshops, and of course the wines, are an integral part of the Flash Festival experience, too. Visitors can even take a pasta-making class with one of these knowledgeable women.

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While there’s a lot on offer at Flash Festival, the music still forms its beating heart.

It was quite a challenge explaining to the traditionally minded village folk, what exactly she had in mind with Flash Festival, Venturini recalled, “a 30-year-old female entrepreneur, trying to communicate to people, who have never seen a festival before. I was told by many that I couldn’t do it. I was like, ‘how can you tell me I cannot do it if you don’t even know what I would like to do?’ But now that I’ve realized it, I can see the excitement in the eyes of the decision makers from the local council, who will be looking at the glamping tents and say, ‘Wow, this looks like a Leonardo da Vinci painting. It’s so unique to make a very traditional country meet a very innovative concept.”

For three days, Flash Festival takes place May 19-21, Venturini and her team set up in the middle of the Tuscan countryside of Castiglion Fiorentino, where Flash Festival takes place. There are no external vendors involved, everyone from the pizza maker to the Salumiere come from the local area. Venturini’s friends, who happen to be wine producers, will host wine tastings.

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A real Italian ‘Nonna’ (grandma) runs the pasta making workshops at Flash Festival.

All ingredients are ethically sourced, the wine is naturally produced, eschewing additives and synthetic chemicals for a genuine, deep bottling of Tuscany’s local vineyards. This, paired the Mediterranean food and sun, should make for the perfect weekend getaway.

Within this authentic Tuscan village life experience, the music remains the glue, Venturini emphasized. The only criteria she had when booking the lineup, which includes Bradley Zero, DJ Boring, Eclair Fifi, India Jordan, Jaguar. Laurence Guy, Salute, Yu Su, and many more, was that it’s “vibey,” and danceable.

Flash Festival can be experienced as a stand-alone event, or incorporated into a wider Tuscan holiday, which many ticket buyers obviously intend to do. “I’ve looked at the statistics ahead of this call, and we’ve got ticket buyers from the UK, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, America, Canada, and even two from Saudi Arabia,” she said. Most of them have been holding onto their tickets for two years, which has kept the festival afloat despite two years of downtime.

Venturini doesn’t like the term boutique. She prefers intimate. “I prefer managing something smaller, to have the sense of giving everyone a great experience. At the end of the festival, everyone knows each other, which is really special because it creates a sense of family. It’s hard to achieve on a large scale. Some can, like Glastonbury, but that has been growing for 50 years,” she explained.

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Beautiful Tuscany.

The sense of family can also be felt behind the scenes. Aside from her partner, Venturini has help from a strong network of international collaborators spread around the world, people she has met in the industry on previous jobs, some of whom are based in UK, with teams in Europe and Australia as well. They’ve been involved in Flash Festival from the beginning. On top of that, volunteers, including friends, lawyers, managers, artists, help set up the festival. Her mom takes care of staff catering. “I’ve built an extended family through setting up the festival,” she said, “It’s beautiful.”

Tier three tickets starting at €93 ($98) are now on sale.

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