Written by our Ambassador for Romania

6 inspiring initiatives by Romanian festivals in 2020

Electric Castle 2018
Foto: Thijs Jacobs / Festileaks
Victoria Balasoiu
Written by Victoria Balasoiu, our Ambassador for Romania
You're reading an article by a Festileaks Ambassador. These are reporters located throughout Europe and the world. Festileaks Ambassadors write about what is happening in their region, in a way you can only do when you're a local. Articles by Ambassadors are in English. Read more.

During the coronacrisis this past summer, quite a number of festivals in Romania changed their focus and decided to do something else for the artistic world. Or they decided to keep on, ramble on, and put on a show against all odds. Some played with the idea of what a concert could look like. And there is one initiative that decided that this was the year of being truly good and doing something palpable for other people.

Festivals scheduled to take place in Romania in 2020 were just as unlucky as all the festivals lovers that did not get to enjoy their magic. It might have been made even worse by the fact that most major and well-known events are usually scheduled for the summer months. So in a year that foiled all expectations, what could festivals do to stay relevant, maintain and even attract more fans, and keep true to their nature?

Below, in a randomly selected order, we present the unique summer of Romanian festivals in 2020! Six of them, to be more exact, plus a special mention at the end of this piece that is well worth checking out.

1. Electric Castle – Bonțida Castle, Cluj

Being creative during a time when you cannot even leave the house is not easy. So Electric Castle, a festival that places a lot of attention on creativity and the arts, asked for help. Over the summer, Electric Castle set up the Creative Camp, a very interesting initiative that drew together creatives from varied artistic fields. Musicians and graffiti artists, DJs and painters; they all came together for a week of pure inspiration. There was even a kite making workshop! 

The EC Creative Camp was set up in the wild and beautiful Tuzla, a quaint seaside village in Constanța county (Romania). This was better known (until now) for its untouched, natural shores and wild rocky outposts. Besides a stunning view of the Black Sea, these also offer a very quiet and tranquil place, perfect for some new jams.

Some of the arguments behind the Creative Camp, as per the creators, were that:

”If we”re to have an atypical year, let’s make it atypical until the end. Let’s send artists and creatives to a seaside Camp.”

And so they did. Each week, EC followers got to enjoy stunning views and of course, the cool creations that came to life during this period. Below, you can check out just two such mixes – one a musical and the other a graphic one. 

The list of creatives involved is quite extensive and varied, so I would recommend checking out all the names. They were written in a series of EC faces poster made for every week. The guest of honor couldn’t miss either: the EC billboard and its ever changing messages.  

As it very well said, let us all have:

The Creative Camp extended over 6 weeks, up until September. After this date, EC officially moved to a new creative outpost – this time, in the very heart of Cluj Napoca. 

You can check up the EC Garden Facebook page for more details – and live streams. Or you can press Like or Follow on the official Electric Castle account to keep up with their latest events and ideas.

2. Summer Well Festival – Stirbey Estate, Bucharest

A festival like a holiday, and one determined to happen, even if not in the way we might have expected it to. This year, Summer Well Festival brought together artists from different countries in an unexpected collaboration. 

The Bucharest Symphony Orchestra played a live concert on the grounds of the festival, while Nothing But Thieves, one of the headliners of what would have been this year’s edition joined via live stream. The public was invited along for the ride as well thanks to another set of lenses. You can enjoy the result below:

The Bucharest Symphony Orchestra has been a treasured guest of the festival for two years now. Beginning with 2018, Summer Well organized the Night Picnic, a special evening on the Friday before the festival’s first day. The Symphony Orchestra always enchanted the public on this night with their interpretation – the set usually included the top hits of the festival’s past and present headliners. 

After the intense live stream, Summer Well also set up the scene for what would have been two concerts. For two special nights, in mid October, they invited people to enjoy two shows that included the Bucharest Symphony Orchestra as guests. The event featured GOLAN on Saturday and Subcarpați on Sunday. The shows would have taken place in special structures that would have respected all the sanitary and health rules. 

Unfortunately, due to the rise in the local number of cases, the double SOLD OUT events have had to be postponed to an as of yet unannounced date. 

P.S. You can also enjoy “Real Love Song” in its re-orchestrated version on the new Nothing But Thieves album, ”Moral Panic”, out October 23, 2020.

3. Untold Festival / Neversea Festival

Untold Festival in no stranger to works of charity, especially those that encourage people to take a step forward and help others. The festival and its associated event, Neversea Festival, have been organizing the Blood Network Caravan for several editions already. 

This initiative encourages people to donate blood and refill the nationwide blood banks. It also offers rewards such as festival vouchers and even day tickets to one of the two festivals involved.

So in 2020, UNTOLD Nation decided to continue and even grow this tradition. Although neither of the two festivals could take place (especially with them being large scale events), the Blood Network Caravan carried on! It traveled the country and hit no less than 10 major Romanian cities. 

Under the slogan #BineÎmpreună, the caravan saw almost 1,500 people donating blood or plasma. It also helped deliver these to over 4,300 patients that needed it. 

The UNITED volunteers also helped deliver packages with food and essentials to isolated villages and families living in remote areas of Romania. With some people living miles away from the nearest village, this can be quite an adventure and trek. A true example of staying UNITED and of being human, with some examples that are just scratching the surface. 

To see more about their actions and humanitarian efforts, you can follow them on Facebook or check their website. Being a local initiative, the Facebook page is almost exclusively in Romanian as of yet.

4. International Festival EUROPAfest – Bucharest 

Anyone who has hosted a Zoom call, Google Meets conference, you name it, knows how hard this can be. You have to make sure that everything runs smoothly, that the connection is good, that the sound is on, and so many others. Well, EUROPAfest accepted this challenge and decided to organize its 2020 edition exclusively and fully online. While this might not be the first initiative of its kind these days, we are talking about a festival that spanned over 10 days and two continents. 

EUROPAfest 2020 went full live stream on YouTube from July 16 to July 25. It featured 27 shows that gathered musicians from 24 countries. Perhaps thanks to this very fact, the festival was also able to play with the locations in took place in. These included the Royal Palace of Romania – the current National Museum of Art – and the Catholic Church in Sinaia (a mountainresort in Romania). There were live shows from Australia, the USA, and Israel, as well as the United Kingdom. 

The International Festival EUROPAfest also encompasses the Bucharest International Jazz Competition – a chance for young talents to show their skills and gain recognition. 

You can find out more about the International Jazz Competition here and about the fully live streamed EUROPAfest by liking them on Facebook or hitting subscribe on YouTube.

5. Jazz in the Park Festival – Cluj-Napoca 

Jazz in the Park, Europe’s Best Festival in 2019 kept true to its small fashion. It decided to go ahead in a … Tiny Version, which is the actual name of this year’s edition. After having to postpone its original June date, the festival decided to go ahead in September, in a new location and in a new form. 

The Tiny Version took place in the Ethnographic Park of Cluj-Napoca (as opposed to the former Cluj Central Park). It also took place over only three days. The festival lasted for four hours each day, with varied chill and distanced activities. And as hoped for, all the days culminated in a spectacular concert.

In the end, I will leave you with this beautiful quote by the Jazz in the Park team posted on their page

”2020 taught us all many lessons. About distances and being with our close ones. About cultivating patience. About learning to stay creative even when the situation doesn’t feel like it.About coming up with solutions when it’s up to you. About going back to your roots.”

6. Special Mention: Home Office Karaoke

This couldn’t miss from this list either. In a show of true festival friendship, a challenge went round Romanian and foreign festivals. As far as yours truly could find, Electric Castle was the one to start it.

I am talking, of course, about the Home Office Karaoke! This saw festival organizers come together (online) to show their singing skills and delight us with their renditions of classics such as ”Stand by me” and the newer “Don’t start now”.

Check them all out below and do let us know if you’ve seen other festivals join in the challenge! Or just other cool and interesting similar such challenges.