Two years ago I wrote about the final chapter of one of the world’s oldest running festivals in the world: Southport Weekender. Not only did I write about it but I also had the privilege of attending and had the experience of a lifetime. I’m a soulful head at heart and nurse a UK fetish to boot, so SPW had me musically satiated for months.
The silver lining to Southport’s finale was that there is always
SuncéBeat, what they called “the Croatian lovechild of the UK event…” Now going on its 8th year, SuncéBeat is based in gorgeous Tisno, Croatia. It was awarded the winner of the best Disco and House Festival in Croatia last year, which is no small feat given the proliferation of music events there.
So once again I speak with Alex Lowes, founder of both festivals, to get a sneak peek.
So I was at the final Southport Weekender. You took such good care of me as press, but even as a regular partygoer I was so moved and so impressed by the whole experience. The programing, the vibe, the location, the staff – everything! And everyone was lamenting the end, and here you are doing a one day SPW! What gave you the idea to do it like this? Will this be a regular thing, “SPW London?”
Southport Weekender was an opportunity that came along through friends of mine to do something different: a festival, an open air festival on a one-day basis. We thought, alright: capital city, wonderful park (Finsbury Park)… Yes, let’s do it! To be honest, we’ve been absolutely blown away by the response, the number of tickets gone on the first few days was just crazy! We sold more on the first few days than we’ve ever had at Southport Weekender, so the demand is undoubtedly there.
We are really looking forward to it, I think a lot of people are excited to be gathering together. They haven’t seen each other for awhile and being in the center of London is a great location. Everyone’s gearing themselves up for a really big day out.
What initiated something as massive as an island festival when you were still doing SPW? That must have been nonstop work going from one to the other! And what drew you to Tisno?
Tisno is actually again from old friends in Croatia. It gave us the opportunity to have a look at this beautiful bay in a beautiful location and we thought travel is a lot easier nowadays, people are always looking for something different and the whole idea of a holiday really appealed to us, and that’s just grown and grown! The amount of DJs and artists there now has turned into another mini Southport Weekender.
We would love to be able to get a new set of music lovers to come to SuncéBeat. Can you tell us about the different parties and stages that encompass the event and what a typical day would be like from start to finish?
With SuncéBeat it’s a very leveled worldwide audience – it’s European as well as a UK and American audience. In actual fact I think 150 flew over especially from America, nearly 100 from California and well over 100 from France last year.
A typical day would be: going out for breakfast at Magnolia Restaurant, then going down to the Beach Stage to listen to some chilled out vibes, even some of the bigger DJs are doing some lovely beach sets to get you in the mood. As the day goes on and picks up, we would then be opening the Olive Grove which a is cool and trendy spot, and we have different things going on like the South African and Detroit Sessions. Then of course you have Barberellas Nightclub late at night and the infamous Boat Parties which are incredible: they’re four hour trips in general although we do a couple of picnic boats as well, which go to a secluded restaurant. You have four or five of your best DJs on a 200 capacity boat. You’re right in front of them and even the DJs love the intimacy of it!
The village itself is so beautiful, you can take some time out and go to some lovely restaurants – there’s dozens of nice restaurants! National Parks are also around the area – Krka National Park, Kornati Island is where the boat goes round, they’re all World Heritage. It’s just a lovely vibe, everyone says hello.
I know that a lot of your musical programming is soul-based. Has this changed at all throughout the years?
It was originally soul-based, on the House side it’s quite soulful too but we touch all the big forms of music. Like I said we have the Detroit lot coming for both our London festival and our Croatia festival as well. Across the board we are always introducing new people like Dan Shake, Anthony Naples, as well as the old guys. It’s just a matter of mixing up the music, old and new but keeping it on a soulful level.
What are some of the most memorable experiences from SuncéBeat that stick with you?
Beautiful sunsets and people, and the fact that we are attracting people from all around the world, literally from round the world – from all four corners! Also, the music and the boats. It’s the boat trips that do it for me. Barberellas, the open air nightclub you just don’t get anywhere anymore, it’s a magical experience all round. The country is beautiful, the food delicious and the local people are just so nice.
What is it about Tisno Croatia as opposed to other areas that it seems a lot of people are doing music festivals there?
It’s a beautiful secluded bay and a perfect setting for an intimate vibe for about 3,000-3,5000 maximum, the village is beautiful and the location is set between Split and Zadar which are two big cities on the Dalmatian Coast. It’s just idyllic, so easy to get to and cheap compared to a lot of other European destinations for food and drink, the quality is brilliant. The setting is just to die for, the bay is just unbelievable, lasers going off at sea, the boats coming in and seeing 200 or 300 excited people getting off a boat trip is just amazing.
Are you planning on maybe doing a traveling or mobile party with these concepts? Maybe a SuncéBeat Hawaii?
If someone is offering (ha ha!) I’ve been to Hawaii, I don’t think we could do SuncéBeat Hawaii but you never know! Listen, if someone told me 20 years ago when we were fighting about the wars that I’d be doing a wonderful festival in Croatia, I would have said, “Not a cat in hell’s chance!” You know the world is changing all the time and I’ve learned now you never know what you will end up doing. Nobody would’ve predicted this 20 years ago!
We have Liverpool Disco Festival this week and we have our London Festival of course which is massive for us, it’s certainly the biggest gig we’ve ever done and then we have SuncéBeat. Future plans for next year, we’ve got lots of irons in the fire and of course we are going to try and continue with the London Festival, SuncéBeat and Liverpool but we are looking at other things. We’ve got club nights coming up and we’ve got stuff coming off in Amsterdam, Berlin, Italy, and boat parties going around Venice. There’s lots of stuff on the go, but not trying to overdo it with the same customers and trying to span out a little.
SuncéBeat returns to The Garden, Tisno, Croatia on July 19-26 2017.