Wow! It's amazing to think that almost a whole year has gone by and I'm returning to the wonderful Garden Festival! I had such a good time in 2009 that I decided I had to go back again, this time for both weekends!! It's credit to the organisers for spotting the potential of a beautiful and emerging country and finding the ideal location to bring a 'new' kind of Ibiza spirit and place for people to gather. It seems the vision was real, as five years on, Petrcane, Croatia is indeed a great place to be and many people from all around the world are heading there.
It doesn't seem so odd anymore the thought of going to Croatia. At one point it was known for war and Balkan trouble. Eastern Europe wasn't the place to be, however things have changed considerably. As Europe becomes one and with travel becoming a lot more convenient, we can now access hidden treasures that at one time didn't seem so inviting. Croatia has a wonderful climate, fantastic scenery and great prices. There are so many places to discover in this stunning country and the post war Croatian mentality is on the 'future thinking' tip. I've heard people say how nice it would be to go to a festival by the sea and the Garden Festival is the perfect place to be if you want that!
Music producer Nick Holgan with drummer James Brown from UB40 saw the potential in Croatia. The Garden Zadar, an amazing bar in Zadar, was created in 2005 and set the wheels in motion for The Garden Festival. In a nearby village they found the perfect site in Petrcane and now we approach the fifth Garden Festival. In fact the site has become so popular that there are festivals happening all through the summer and from just a 'word of mouth thing' the energy of the 'garden' has attracted an increasing amount of fans.
It's testament to the promoters for recognizing many factors that create the idyllic vibe in Petrcane, they've by contained ticket numbers to two thousand per weekend to keep the community vibe but also extended the festival to two weekends to accommodate the growing demand. It definitely is important as you can easily meet people and feel a part of the event which is great. It's so friendly and accessible therefore there's no bad energy. The site is stunning and all the factors, like the lighting and the gorgeous climate, create a fantastic atmosphere that is free and fun, like Ibiza of old! The conscious choice to keep numbers low shows respect for the locals that certainly keeps the charm of the old town alive, creating an ambiance that couldn't be manufactured. It's excellent!
Music brings people together and dancing in your shorts or bikinis with loads of lovely people is always a winning formula. The types of folk that get drawn to the Garden Festival are particularly special and that's got lots to do with the choice of music. The vibe is perfect for progressive music due to all the mentioned factors that make it so positive and also due to the open minded nature of the Croatian people. There's room for underground scenes that brings upcoming and interesting people. There are so many artists that keep coming back and you're guaranteed to see something you've never seen before. The Argonaughty Boat Parties are of legendary status, dancing on a boat, through crystal clear waters on the Adriatic Sea is seriously hard to beat! Barbarella's discotheque has a great feel to it and you're always sure to see some amazing live acts on the main stage. The beach bar too is superb! They've definitely got the sound systems nailed with Funktion 1 sending out deep sounds and crisp beats to the pleasure of the dance floor, dancing in the fresh air of the outside! It makes for a great experience.
So who's on this year? It's great to see Norman Jay back on the line up and those who had the pleasure of going the 'Good Times' boat will be pleased to see it happening again! Mayer Hawthorne, Crazy P, Breakestra, Henrick Schwarz and Ty will all be playing quality live sets and they are joined by some excellent DJ's who are sure to deliver quality performances, these include Shur-i-kan, Mr Scruff, Jimpster, Kelvin Brown, Horse Meat Disco and Bonobo all spinning, as well as DJ's from your favourite club nights Back To Basics and Futureboogie. No matter where you step, you're always sure to stumble upon a little party and I'm sure many will have something to do with watching the World Cup in the sun. I can't wait!
It's great to see festivals in Croatia developing their own identity and it's clear that The Garden will always be at the forefront. Thinking back on my trip last year, I can't wait to reach the site and see some familiar faces year like Ole Smokey, Eddie and Gail who all made my - and many other festival goer - experience so special.
It's easy to get caught in the energy of The Garden Festival, there's a natural buzz that doesn't require messiness; it makes you feel recharged and alive. It's definitely the reason why I'm going back. Bring it on!!