by Judith Prescott
Article published on the 2008-09-05 Latest update 2008-09-16 11:59 TU
Le Cabaret Vert rock festival's mix of music and the environment attracted thousands of visitors over last weekend of August. Over the last four years, the rock festival has gone from strength to strength and become one of the 'must-see' events of the festival calender.
Charleville Mezieres in the Ardennes region of France is best-known as the birthplace of the19th century poet Arthur Rimbaud. But four years ago, a group of young people set out to give the region a newer, fresher image.
They came up with the idea of creating a rock music festival with an ecological slant which they hoped would eventually become recognised on a national scale. Julian Sauvage, director of Le Cabaret Vert, says the success of the festival has surprised them all.
"We wanted to organise a rock festival because we wanted something that was aimed at young people and we wanted to showcase the best of the current music scene", he explains. "We never intended to become one of the biggest festivals in France, but that is what is happening. We had 10,000 visitors for the first festival four years ago. This year we've sold 35,000 tickets."
Sauvage admits is not the bands that pull in the crowds. Of the artists booked to play, ten are local bands, ten are "new discovery" and ten are headline bands such as hip-hop, jazz group Beat Assailant and Serb film director Emir Kusterica's band the No Smoking Orchestra. Sauvage says they are not hugely well-known artists and puts the success of the festival down to the identity the organisers have managed to create.
"We've linked the festival to a well-known local figure." he says. "Le Cabaret Vert is a poem by Arthur Rimbaud and we felt the word cabaret evoked an intimate atmosphere. The awareness of Green issues is something we wanted to emphasise as it seems to strike a chord with young people. We are now one of the largest environmental festivals in France"
Evidence of the festival's environmental credentials are everywhere. There are hundreds of recycling bins dotted around the festival site and a large tent houses stalls manned by a dozen ecological associations. The food and drink on sale is mainly organic and a roped-off area - of a dubious level of hygene - encourages everyone to wash their own plates and cutlery in the same basin to save water.
Sauvage says it's still to early to say whether Le Cabaret Vert has succeeded in changing the image of the economically depressed Ardennes region.
"We are constantly changing things," he says. "When we started we had no idea what we were doing and we've gradually learned from our mistakes. The festival is beginning to gain a reputation on a national scale and because of this I think the image of the region is gradually changing."
Sauvage is realistic about how much can be achieved with just one rock festival once a year, but is optimistic that Le Cabaret Vert is well on the way to becoming a fixture of the summer music festival scene here in France.
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