Wait-and-see for Europe fests

Wait-and-see for Europe fests

Observer senior reporter

Friday, March 20, 2020

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IT'S a wait-and-see game. That's what promoters of some European reggae festivals are saying as they ponder a decision regarding their events in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For many years, Europe has become a hotbed for Jamaican artistes during the summer due to its plethora of festivals. However, with the global outbreak of the disease, this year's events are unsure.

The Jamaica Observer's Splash checked on some of the top festivals — Reggae Geel in Belgium; Rototom Sunsplash in Spain; Reggae Summerjam in Germany; Ostroda Reggae Festival in Poland; and Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden. All are assessing the situation before making the call to reschedule or cancel.

For Yared Tekeste, founder of Uppsala, even though Sweden has contained the virus, what is happening in Jamaica is also of interest, and a major determining factor.

“Like the rest of the world, and specifically the reggae entertainment fraternity, we are monitoring the development closely. A few days ago we announced that we are working on having the festival as scheduled, but at the same time monitoring the development worldwide,” he said.

“We have decided to make the final decision by the latest ... the end of April, mid-May. There are so many aspects of it that needs to be considered, even though Sweden has managed to contain the virus, the situation in Jamaica mostly will be a major factor in taking the right decision,” Tekeste continued.

The Uppsala Reggae Festival is scheduled for July 31-August 1. Among the acts which have been confirmed are Max Romeo, Morgan Heritage, Junior Kelly, Lutan Fyah, Hempress Sativa, Mortimer, Lukie D, and Nesbeth.

It is pretty much the same for the Ostroda Reggae Festival in Poland from July 9-12. This event had already confirmed Max Romeo, Xana Romeo, and the crew from Inna Di Yard.

Organisers posted a statement on their website informing patrons of their plans.

“Like you, we are anxiously observing information related to the coronavirus outbreak. We fully understand and accept the authorities' decision regarding the cancellation of mass events in Poland. In this situation, all possible preventive measures must be taken and we all have a great responsibility. However, we remain hopeful that by the start of Ostroda Reggae Festival, the epidemiological situation will be under control and the ban on organising mass events will be lifted. Therefore, we do not [want to] make any hasty moves and [will] continue to work on the 20(th) edition of the Ostroda Reggae Festival. We will keep you informed about further developments. We will continue to announce more artistes who will be on our programme,” the statement read.

Summerjam is also watching developments to take a decision.

“The state government of Nordrhein-Westfalen has banned all major events. We are in close contact with all the authorities and are currently optimistic that the summer festival will take place in July as planned.

“Should the situation change, we will inform immediately. If despite our efforts, we cannot celebrate our anniversary with you in Cologne this year, you will be able to exchange or return your tickets. Please stay calm and follow the hygiene of the savanna.”

Reggae Summerjam has the largest amount of Jamaican artistes. Acts such as Spice, Shaggy, Sean Paul, KyMani Marley, Max Romeo, Jah9, Sevana, Stylo G, Serani, Third World, Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser, Christopher Martin, and Lila Ike.

The organisers of Reggae Geel, which is set for July 30 to August 1, are not looking forward to a cancellation.

“This would be a disaster and will leave the festival in great financial problems,” General Manager Kris Eelen told the Jamaica Observer in an interview. He said things are at a standstill as his team waits to see what will happen in the coming days and weeks.

“This depends on what the decision is from the Belgian Government, but we are afraid that the festival may have to be cancelled. At this time we have stopped with bookings. There are also artistes who have doubts to come to Europe,” Eelen continued.

There has been no word from organisers of Rototom Sunsplash which is scheduled for August 16-22. Among the acts booked for this event are Toots and The Maytals, Barrington Levy, Julian Marley, Protoje, and Inna De Yard featuring Winston McAnuff, Kiddus I, Var Pentateuch, and Steve Newland.

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