Exit Festival 2014 has come and gone. It was great to explore Novi Sad and observe some of how the Exit Festival history has shaped the experience that is today’s version of Exit. We look forward to being back again and to seeing how Exit will reflect and shape the future of Serbia and the region.
Exit Festival History
Spanning most of the 90’s, the Balkan conflict brought catastrophe and loss for all the peoples of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. This loss took place on multiple levels including loss of life, property, vision for a better future, and arguably even moral bearings for some. There is no way to assign blame to a person or country as there was so much history and emotion tied up in the whole conflagration. Depending on an individual’s perspective on history would often determine whether a leader was acting as hero or something more akin to villain. With the physical fighting stopped already, many were looking for a change of leadership in Serbia and with this change a different, better future. In the summer of 2000 a mass of students from different countries that comprised former Yugoslavia gathered to countdown the last 100 days in power of Slobodan Milošević, the then president of Serbia or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During this time of leadership change which included voting in a new leader, the students gathered along the Danube near the university campus for community, conversations, debate, film showings, and concerts by bands from the region. It was a time of peaceful revolution where the unity of the students stood in stark contrast to the violent fighting that had marked the area. This was the birth of Exit as a movement and a festival.
The Music of Exit Festival
While the bands in the initial ad hoc gathering were Balkan only, the musical gathering became a European festival in 2001 and continues to have more European influence and prominence. While there are a number of local bands still playing at the festival each year including 2 Cellos on the main stage in 2014, there has also been a list of big names from a range of music genres that play at the festival each year. Some of the big names over the years include the White Stripes, Fat Boy Slim, Morrissey, Billy Idol, Robert Plant, Moby, Korn, David Guetta, Arcade Fire, Guns N’ Roses, Avicii, Damon Albarn, the Pet Shop Boys, Rudimental, Dub FX, Skrillex, Hurts, Suede, etc. With such strong lineups and a huge commitment to bringing in different genres and making the festival an interactive experience, it was awarded the prestigious Best Major European Festival this year.
The Future of Exit
In 2000 it was time for the region to leave a decade of insanity. Exit was there as a reflection and speaking into this time of change. Today Exit continues to be a voice in the rebranding of Serbia for the international community. Also, in 2010 the Exit Foundation began helping students pursue education with a range of scholarships and funding academic projects. Providing a range of quality music acts to perform is a huge part of the success of Exit. Promoting improved branding for Serbia and education for students are the two areas where the festival organizers continue to put their other energy and resources. Moving forward Exit should continue to craft its’ story by making a difference for and also influencing others for good. Continuing to seek opportunities and take action where the festival can be advocates for improved relationships, seek justice for the oppressed, or help advance beauty is essential for the long-term success of Exit as a difference maker in Serbia and beyond.