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  • Writer's pictureLucie Tongelová

Roztoč Fest and its Musical-Circus Program Draws People Even From Overseas

(Not only) in the Czech Republic, this is an absolutely original event that mixes elements of various types of art with music. Its founder Vojta Stolbenko told us how it all came about, what advice he would give to aspiring organizers and how they take care of their artists. And if you check out the Roztoč fest website, you'll see why it's such an original event.


Roztoč Fest was originally born out of your birthday celebration in 2013. Can you briefly tell us how the festival has evolved from a birtday party to its current form?

That's right. In short, it turned out that this event format works, and that there are not many events like it. At the same time, I visited for the first time several so-called Flow festivals in the USA, which impressed me with their atmosphere, but were a bit disappointing in terms of the one-sidedness of the program (focused only on fire spinning, which is always a bit boring for me, if that's all it is). That's why Roztoč was created, combining these "flow arts" activities, juggling etc, with music, concerts, art installations and opportunities for people to share their art on the Open Stage. The first initiative was just on my birthday, and at a time when I had a space at Letná with my friend Michael.

fire show at Roztoč festival

A very popular show was (and still is) Renegade, which for some reason is still not on any other festival line-up. It's a show format where anyone can sign up and perform something on stage, and if they manage to impress the audience, they get a shot. If it's the other way around, they take their clothes off with each failure. The first few renegade shows at the first festivals were truly unforgettable, unbridled fun. Now we're a little more tame, but still, the fun hasn't diminished. Of course, it also contributed to more and more people coming back to the event. With each passing year we invited more artists, organized more workshops, and improved the quality of the production.


What do you enjoy most about the Roztoč organization? And what are the biggest challenges?

I enjoy the event itself the most, everything that precedes it a little less, and everything that follows it the least. The festival is unique for me in that it brings together a lot of friends from all over the world and connects two different worlds in which they kind of occur - namely the circus world and the music world. So it's the people that I enjoy the most about it, and the fact that most of them are great performers who, together with our team, give the event what is unique about it: a good atmosphere and a very high quality artistic production.


How many people do you have in your organizational team and what are their roles?

It changes a bit, but basically we are about 8 people who work at the festival all year round. As the festival gets closer, more members become active. For the event itself, our team includes around 20 members who, along with many other volunteers, pull the event off.


You have visitors coming from abroad as well. Did you do any specific activities for that or did it come by itself in time?

This is because I have always travelled a lot and talked about Roztoč everywhere. This has allowed me to reach a lot of great artists from all over the world, most of whom are my friends. And because of such an international lineup, more and more people from abroad are finding out about the festival and flying in from as far away as South Africa and the USA.

In the last few years, word of the festival has kind of naturally gotten around in the flow arts and juggling community and it started to naturally roll in on its own. Except I see it as a funny drawback that no outsiders can remember how to pronounce the name. I've encountered many corruptions of Roztoč in the world, and it never ceases to amuse me. However, it is likely that it aids verbal proliferation.


You work with a lot of different artists at Roztoč. On what basis do you choose them?

Although I mentioned the fact that a lot of artists are my friends, I don't choose only on that basis. Especially in recent years, I have reached out to some artists that I know personally very little or not at all, purely because I find their art fascinating and appropriate for Roztoč. Through the art forms presented, I try to inspire participants to improve their own art, and to connect previously unconnected genres. Therefore, I select those artists whose work strikes me as innovative in some way and representing the art movement in a way that I perceive as positive for the art.


dance workshop at Roztoč festival

How do you take care of your performers before/during/after the festival?

As best we can and as best we are able to. Our catering, which is always above standard, and the open bar for all the artists, which costs us a lot but contributes to the artists really enjoying the festival, are positively evaluated. Since we don't have the budget to allow for the financial reward that most artists are used to from other (more commercial) events, we at least try to make sure that they are well looked after and that the festival is the most fun weekend of the whole summer for them.


Do you work with visitor feedback? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Sure we do, even if it's sometimes hard to adapt to the feedbacks. Visitors are mostly unaware of the challenges we face and don't realize the difficulty of some things. The festival has always been unfortunate in that the space where it was organized had water issues. Last year, a combination of a major drought and improper water discipline by those involved resulted in no water to wash with for some time. This year we are addressing this by installing sprinklers so that people can't waste water so much.


What are the advantages of online pre-sale tickets? Are there any disadvantages?

I see only advantages. Without the pre-sale numbers, it's hard to have an idea of what the budget actually is, and how many people can be counted on, which is absolutely necessary for to decide about hygiene, security, infrastructure etc. I also see the speed of check-in at the entrance as essential. I really hate spending an hour in line, in the heat, with bags on my back at the entrance to a festival. By just showing everyone a QR code, that doesn't happen.


What advice would you give to people who want to start organising events for the first time?

That's a big question... I guess the main thing is to find a balance in terms of budget, expectations and organization. It seems to me that often a promising project ends up being overorganized. It's normal to make a few mistakes when starting out, and it takes a while to sort out your bearings, form the right team around you, etc. But the opposite is also a problem, many events are poorly organized. As someone who sort of coordinates the festival organisation, I feel that there is a need for someone to decide what to put energy into and what not to put energy into; to discourage pedantic initiatives and also to discourage the egotistical attitudes that some people often go into the organisation with. Action needs to be taken very seriously, but not too seriously. There is never a good atmosphere at an event where all the organisers are heated. And to avoid escalation, you need to listen to each other in the team as much as possible, to compromise - to realize that sometimes it is better to let your friend or colleague do something his or her own way, even if you feel that your suggestion is better, because the stability and satisfaction of the organizing team is even more important than the (often subjective) idea of how to satisfy the visitors. Therefore, my advice is simple: try not to be too attached to anything, listen to others, take advice and always do everything a little smaller and cheaper than you feel like, because nothing will sink a festival more easily than a megalomaniac approach and the subsequent total financial disaster.


We hope you enjoyed the interview and that you are already buying tickets for this year's Roztoč! We have more interviews with the organizers here, see if you can learn anything from them. If you're not already organizing your events with us, sign up for BOOM Events and you can get started in 5 minutes. And if you'd like to share your organising story with us too, get in touch at lucie@boomevents.org and we'll work something out together.



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