Alternative and ambitious to the core: the Horst Festival interview

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Vilvoorde’s alternative arts and music festival is set to take place from September 10 to 12.

You can finally start making festivals plans for this summer, and Horst Festival should definitely be a part of those. Set on a beautiful former industrial site taken over by lush greenery – and a delicious looking line-up that includes Jeff Mills and Mr Scruff – the seventh edition of this festival promises to become the most thrilling one so far. The organization has always had a keen eye for detail regarding the guest experience, so we hit co-promoter Jochem Daelman up for a chat about what we can expect from the upcoming festivities.

How big has the personal impact of a year without events been on you?

“We did host a few events; they just weren’t the ones we expected to organize beforehand. We decided to try and do something relatively quickly during the first lockdown because not doing anything wasn’t an option. We needed to think outside the box. This resulted in the successful Restaurant Club last summer; in December, we transformed Horst Lab into a digital conference on the future of nightlife”.

“The past year has made us, like many, I suspect, reflect on what we do, how we do it, and what we would like to do differently. Now, at last, when things are opening up, there's room to put this into practice.”.

How disappointed were you when you found out that Horst 2020 would not take place? What did we miss?

“It was a massive blow, of course, but we were glad that we could give shape to alternative ideas. We are fortunate that our diverse festival grounds, the Asiat site in Vilvoorde, allow us to anticipate unforeseen circumstances. In addition, the cancellation of a festival remains relative, given the scope of the situation in general. It’s a shame we couldn’t take some of the confirmed 2020 names into our 2021 line-up”. 

The lockdown made us reflect on what we would like to do differently. Now, there's room to put this into practice.

What is your current financial balance? Are you still in good shape?

“We are financially healthy still. By continuing to organize events, we were able to count on the grateful support of our partners and still have some income. In addition, the measures taken by the government have also been very kind to us. All in all, we have nothing to complain about”.

As rules and regulations for events are loosening up towards the latter half of the summer, you are in a relatively good position, given that Horst takes place in September usually anyway.

“The prospects for September are looking good, and we are a comparatively small festival, of course. Hearing events for up to 75.000 people are allowed to take place again in August definitely gave us more confidence. But the big uncertainty remains: how will we practically organize our guests' access to the festival? Will we have to set up rapid testing at the door? Will everyone have to be vaccinated? Will we be back to normal? Opinions differ, and protocols change every week, so it remains difficult to prepare”.

One of the basic questions we ask ourselves: how can a festival add as much social value as possible?

Any acts we shouldn’t miss at Horst 2021?

“Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the many cutting-edge talents on the program. Juliana Huxtable is very inspiring in everything she does as an artist, writer, performer and DJ. I'm curious about India Jordan, the performance of FOR ALL QUEENS! with MC Zelda Fitzgerald and ARAKAZA in b2b MICHIKO and Donato Dozzy. And, of course, the experimental film that Grace Ndiritu made with an amazing team of Belgian dancers. The whole video was filmed on our festival site, and the soundtrack was made by Jeff Mills, who headlines the festival on Friday”.

How do you see Horst's long-term plans? You look like the festival that thinks ahead.

“We’re lucky to have the current Asiat grounds, a place with endless possibilities and much room to grow. We feel that, as a festival, we can add value to the long-term development of the site. That is what we were looking for. It's one of the basic questions we ask ourselves with Horst: how can a festival add as much social value as possible. Today, the Asiat location is still relatively quiet, but it should become a thriving, progressive and unique place near the water in the next ten years. We want Horst to be an important catalyst in that ambition”.