Text and Images by Toby Stone
The first weekend of July saw thousands of Brits descend on the Northern Serbian town of Novi Sad for the Exit Festival, a Glastonbury like music festival held there since 2000. The festival is fun and in many ways conventional, but its roots are very different to the other festivals of the season, and this is still reflected in what I found there this year.
The Festival began in 2000 as part of a student campaign against the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosovic. The 100 day festival ended on the day before the election that was to lead to his downfall, with a ‘get out and vote’ campaign. A large gathering of Serbs, with (legend has it) Croatian and Bosnian DJs sneaked over the border in the boots of cars, and with foreign musicians and a reformist agenda, was a strong political force at the tail end of an oppressive and nationalist dictatorship.
Exit has undoubtedly joined the ranks of Europe’s large, commercial music festivals. This year, a four-day ticket cost £90, and the festival attracted around 40,000 people per day. However, underlying the big name acts, the heaving crowds of young foreign people, Exit maintains its original purpose and identity.
Unlike Glastonbury, Exit is a night festival, sprawling over the Petrovaradin Fortress in Serbia’s northern city of Novi Sad, spotlights and lasers shooting up into the sky. Kicking off at around 8pm, but not really getting going until midnight, the last acts tend to fade out around 7am. During the day, attendees sit around the cafes and restaurants of Novi Sad’s pretty old town, or party some more at the ‘beach’ on the Danube.