Island of Freedom: The Sziget Festival in Hungary
The Sziget Festival in Hungary grows year for year in popularity. Over half a million people were entertained by artists like Dua Lipa, Kygo, and Shawn Mendes, on the self-named ‘Island of Freedom.’
Starting in 1993 as a low-budget student event, the festival is now in its 26th-year and is known across Europe. This year’s theme was the ‘Art for Love’ and the installations, sculptures and art projects on display exemplify what love means to different people.
Additionally, the festival advocates for greater sustainability, with their ‘Greener Sziget’ initiative, which aims for environmental consciousness and greater equality. Alongside this, the nationwide ‘Superar’ initiative works toward tearing down social, ethnic, religious, political, and educational barriers facing young people from less privileged communities.
Moreover, the Sziget Festival is making positive social change by promoting a ‘Love Revolution.' A campaign, which as stated on the festival’s website, strives toward 'using the power of our community, guided by love, to support causes that could help our planet become a better place.' Aiming to ensure everyone’s freedom of thought and lifestyle, regardless of religion or sexual orientation, are respected.
Clearly the festival’s positive social message is needed. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government are internationally known for their atrocious decisions and actions in the recent refugee crisis; for example, implementing a 25% tax on funding for refugees. The latest target of the Orbán government was the cultural sphere, with different cultural institutions, like theatres and museums being attacked and accused of critical and anti-government behaviour.
Billy Elliot shows were even cancelled in Budapest after a malevolent homophobic campaign by the pro-government journal, Magyar Idők, suggesting that the content of the musical ‘could transform Hungarian boys into homosexuals.’ This ludicrous campaign saw a huge drop in ticket sales and the Hungarian National Opera was forced to cancel 15 planned shows.
Another recent legislative decision in the ongoing ‘culture war’ affects Hungarian universities, which have been forced to take Gender Studies off of the curriculum as the subject was banned by the Hungarian government. Critics suggest that this ban is part of a bigger government plan, to restore and maintain a solely Christian based society.
Michael Ignatieff, president of the Central European University, has said that this is happening the European Union is partly responsible: as no sanctions have been applied to combat the aforementioned issues. Furthermore, foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, of Luxembourg’s claim for Hungary to be expelled from the European Union have remained unheard.
Since no change is in sight, more and more cultural and pop events, like the Sziget Festival are stepping into action. Hopefully, their international presence will cause enough furore that the appropriate steps will be taken to help everyone to live freely and equally.
The next Sziget Festival will take place 7th to 13th August on the Òboda Island, Budapest, Hungary.
[Photo Credits: Pamputt CC BY-SA 4.0.]