Getting Benicàssim back on track

This weekend’s edition of the Valencia music festival, the 21st, saw a 6% rise in ticket sales

‘Fibers’ during one of this weekend’s concerts.
‘Fibers’ during one of this weekend’s concerts.Martí Domenech

The International Benicàssim Festival (FIB), the 21st edition of which took place over the weekend in the small Valencia town of the same name, has, in the words of its promoter, begun “an upward curve.”

Melvin Benn, the British organizer of the event, took the reins of the troubled festival shortly before it went ahead last year, but now after overseeing the first edition that was completely under his control, he is convinced that FIB will “recover the position it deserves.”

The music festival, one of the most important in Europe, managed to maintain the number of festival-goers that came through the gate for the first time in many years and, according to Benn, ticket sales actually rose by 6%.

There are the same number of people here as last year, but more of them are Spanish”

What’s more, for the first time in years there were also more Spanish ‘fibers’ in attendance – the line-ups at recent editions have been mostly aimed at British festival-goers. “There are the same number of people here as last year, but more of them are Spanish,” explained the owner of a restaurant in the main street of the tiny town. The observation was confirmed by the promoter: “The presence of the Spanish public appears to have risen by 25% this year,” Benn explained.

In total, 115,000 fibers passed through the gates of the festival between Thursday and Sunday, attracted by bands such as Blur, Portishead and Florence + The Machine, as well as Spanish acts such as Los Planetas and Vetusta Morla. Half of the attendees were from the United Kingdom, 45% were from Spain and the remaining 5% from a mix of other countries.

For Benn, the figures are a “statement of intent” in terms of FIB’s future. Last year, when he hurriedly took the festival off the hands of promoter Vince Power, FIB was struggling financially. Back then he announced that he would be trying to attract audiences from other parts of Europe, and not just focus on the British public. On Sunday, he stressed that his vision was a European one, and that he is not looking just to attract more Spaniards.

In total, the event provided direct employment for 1,205 people, 80% of whom were from the Valencia region

That said, the festival is not out of the woods yet. In 2013, the company that organizes the event began bankruptcy proceedings as a result of the poor financial situation of Vince Power’s parent company. In fact, the event nearly didn’t go ahead. Benn admitted on Sunday that these problems have not completely gone away, given that creditors still need to be repaid – he has, he explained, inherited a “historic debt.” But he insisted that things are now looking up.

The new FIB sought more sponsors, as well as to increase what’s on offer for the fibers. For example, the South Beach zone provided a slice of Miami from a bygone age in the festival grounds, while Trenchtown was a Jamaican oasis of reggae, ska, dance hall and dub, located in one of the campsites. There was even a charanga band on hand – Banana Boom, from the nearby town of Almassora, who are normally more of an attraction at local fiestas than at one of Europe’s biggest festivals.

In total, the event provided direct employment for 1,205 people, 80% of whom were from the Valencia region. And according to the mayor of the town, Susana Marqués, hotel occupancy rates were at 100% over the weekend. “FIB is the only macro-festival that carries Benicàssim in its very DNA,” she added.

“This year’s formula,” concluded Benn, “has begun to work.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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