Park Festival: a free festival with a 100% homegrown lineup.

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In an oversaturated festival market that’s focussed on ‘bigger’ and ‘louder’, a small, free festival in an urban environment with a local lineup can feel like a welcome breath of fresh air. If you haven’t heard of it already, Park Festival is the 4-year-old brainchild of David Tricot Mizero (better known as DTM Funk) that will take place on Saturday, April 28. After a couple of successful editions in Antwerp’s Albertpark, the time has come to set up shop at ‘Het Stadsbalkon’, a location that has never been used before: a kind-of elevated platform right next to the train tracks of Antwerpen-Centraal. Taking into account the lineup is an exclusively local affair, we felt like we had to exchange a word or two with Tricot and his plans with Park Festival. And, to get in the mood, you can check out the dedicated Park Festival mix by DTM Funk below.

A 100% Belgian lineup - and except for Lefto and Mixmonster Menno, all acts are from Antwerp. Did you do so because of budgetary limitations or because you believe in booking local?

"Definitely the latter; we’re all about supporting local artists. As we were forced to look for a new location without much notice, we didn’t have enough time for long brainstorm sessions to form a lineup; so we figured a completely Belgian bill is a much more interesting story anyways. Overall, I wouldn’t say these acts are necessarily cheaper than international ones – but this selection perfectly matches the vision of Park Festival."

And what is that vision?

"Social cohesion, artistic freedom, empowerment and approachability."

How well do you think Antwerp is currently doing in terms of nightlife and music output?

"We’re doing well – although I have to admit that when I visit Brussels, I can’t help but notice that they are a little more progressive. Antwerp can be quite strict in terms of putting its music and events in particular categories; and that doesn’t happen as much in the capital, where people don’t really care if a performance is labelled as ‘house’ or ‘hip hop’ for example. That said, I’m not saying there’s no talent here, on the contrary: Antwerp has plenty of fresh, exciting artists!"

We’re particularly interested in seeing Blu Samu and Luie Louis, two fresh artists on the block. How do you see their future?

"I’ve known both rappers for a long time already. Blu Samu even played Park Festival 3 years ago, but it might have been a bit too early at the time. Talent is something she always had in abundance, so it was just a matter of time before she could show her potential to a larger audience. Both she and Luie Louis stand out from the rest, because they have very specific career visions; and we hope we can help them to build upon that career by booking them at Park Festival. Right now, both artists are racking up gigs, so I truly wish the best for them."

Do you think the locality is welcoming towards open-minded and multicultural events like Park Festival?

"I think so. The city shows a lot of trust in our organisation; they have given us a fair chance to prove ourselves. The fact that we prioritize a diverse lineup with local acts definitely helps, though."

How feasible is free entrance in a highly competitive festival landscape?

"It’s a bit tricky. I believe people should pay for quality – but on the other hand, free entrance usually makes sure your visitors are more open to discover new things. Another obvious downside is the fact that you make your event really dependent on the weather. If they would predict heavy rainfall, I know I’ll have to live on bread and water for a while (laughs). Although, I’m really optimistic, I believe in our project and I want to push it upwards with every edition, whatever comes our way."

The new location is a truly unique location in the heart of the city that hasn’t been used before… But it’s technically not a ‘park’ anymore, is it?

"No, you’re right! That’s why we called this the ‘railway edition’, as it’s located right next to the train tracks on an elevated platform, close the Central Station. This space is actually brand new, no one has used it for music events before! Needless to say I’m really curious to see how things will turn out!"

It’s literally located right above Ampere, the venue for the after party. Niels Broos B2B Frank Wienk (aka Bink Beats), Lefto B2B Benji B, the Champion Sound winner of the year Susobrino. Not a bad bunch if we may say so…

"Yeah, the initial goal was to offer a contrast with the daytime’s Belgian lineup with an international night program – but then we had the opportunity to book Lefto and Susobrino and I thought: “I need to have these guys any way I can, people need to hear this”. So then I diverted from the plan (laughs). Lefto proposed to do a B2B set with the BBC Radio 1 affiliated and all-round badass selector Benji B, so obviously I complied. Niels Broos similarly suggested to let Frank Wienk join his live-set."

And what about Lander Gyselinck from STUFF.? He'll be doing a DJ-set, which is quite unusual…

"Lander is not really a DJ, true – but he can actually beatmatch really well! I mean, he’s a drummer in one of the best bands of Belgium, surely his sense of rhythm is on point! I’ve heard two mixes of his (one for Dimensions Festival and one for Moodprint’s B-Side mix series), after which I realized he couldn’t be omitted from this year’s lineup."

Apart from the location, what else will be different this year compared to last year’s edition?

"I’m proud to say that the entire festival production is done exclusively by young people; and I’m talking sound, lights, bar, etc. We’re also working together with Fameus, an organization that supports young people in amateur arts. They have trained a few young creatives to host DJ, dance and rap workshops during the first two hours of the festival. So yeah, please come down early!"

Park Festival takes place at Het Stadsbalkon in Antwerp on Saturday, April 28. Head over to the Facebook page for more information.