When some of the leaders and former leaders of the local Chiro first organized a free pop festival at Arendonk’s Market Square in 2001, they were pioneers in the area. Their village’s former rock festival, the infamous Bemd Festival, bled to death seven years ago because rock bands became too expensive. Status Quo, Bob Geldof, Katrina and The Waves all stood on stage at Bemdweide in Arendonk. But since the ’90s, when Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop came along, all the international rock stars suddenly couldn’t afford them. Which is exactly why the Arendonk Chiro boys and girls, along with some Bemdfestival veterans, decided to start something completely new.
Instead of programming expensive groups, they deliberately chose free artists from their own village: ordinary people like you and me together formed one big choir and sang all Flemish and international rock, pop and slasher songs right on stage, some complemented by cheap pop bands. The whole village was free to enjoy it. Everything was free except for drinks and food. and proceeds? Donated to the local Chiro and the Flemish Association of Athletes G.
Today, two decades later, the basic concept hasn’t changed since: The festival is still free, a large village festival for young and old still goes to Chiro and G-sport as usual. I have become much larger. More than twenty thousand visitors are expected on Friday and Saturday.
The first Arendonk Zingt & Swingt competition took place in 2001. Today we are in 2022. However, are you talking about the 20th edition?
Sim Helsen: “Because of Corona we have been on vacation for two years. However, we have always organized an online festival. For example, last year we set up our own disco bar at St. Clara College Stadium, where nine DJs rotate behind the turntable. You can follow the beats and the beats Live from your room, alone or with friends. Overall, it was a huge hit, because the live stream scored more than six thousand clicks. Actually, this weekend will be our 19th festival, but with the addition of two online versions, we have already reached the age of 21 years old, so we decided to make Arendonk Zingt & Swingt 2022 our 20th Anniversary Festival.”
When AZ&S celebrated its fifteenth anniversary in 2016, you had Arendonk bakers baking giant eight-square-foot birthday cookies. Is there a free cake for everyone on Saturday?
“No, but all kids get free ice cream. We’ve also invested more in our kids’ entertainment, with bouncy castles, make-up and a cool drum caravan, where kids can enjoy themselves on electronic drum sets.”
The program on Stellastage and Bemdstage and the main stage is also festive?
“Yes, we’ve increased our budget by 30% so we can book bigger names, and with more ambiance.”
Who are the most expensive birds on the bill?
“We have put together an outstanding program for children, youth, and older adults, from Samson & Marie to Mama’s Jasje, Ronny Retro, Dikke, Mandy, De Kreuners and Goldband. We had to go the extra mile, especially for the last two ex. Thanks to our sponsors.”
Not left with financial waste from Corona?
“We haven’t made a profit in the last couple of years, but we haven’t made a loss either because we had almost no expenses. Our organization runs entirely on volunteers, so we don’t have to pay the staff and we don’t have to rent or heat the offices. Since we always decided in advance not to let With the festival, we had not rented tents, platforms and other infrastructure at that time. For the few costs we have already incurred, we can count on compensation from the municipality’s anti-coronavirus support fund.”
AZ&S operates entirely on volunteers. How did you keep all those enthusiastic employees warm after two years of inactivity?
“We are a core of 100 volunteers. Only a few schools have dropped out in the past two years, but many have since re-emerged. There is also great urgency in our working group. The desire to go back indoors is greater than ever: Whether for a party or to organize a party.”
Is Bemdweide still big enough to welcome those thousands of birthday girls and their desire to pop?
In 2018, we recorded a record attendance of 22,500 visitors spread over both Fridays and Saturdays. We can definitely deal with that number again, because we have our third podium (The Stellastage, editor) Transfer to the skating rink behind Bemdhal. The food stalls will be moved to the Petanque field in Diepenbeemd. And the big tent is also interpreted differently: as a kind of covered stage. With all these interventions we create a lot of extra space on Bemdweide. I estimate that we can receive at least a thousand additional visitors to the site.”
But full full?
“If the site gets too busy, we close the site and only allow new visitors in when others leave.”
Asking for income is not an option?
“No, we consciously stick to our free festival: because we believe that AZ&S should remain first and foremost a village festival, but also because something like this has major logistical consequences. For example, you have to shut down the entire site with fences and invest heavily in security. It costs More than you earn.”
The Arendonk Zingt & Swingt takes place on Friday the 13th and Saturday 14th May at Bemdweide in Arendonk. The top performers on the bill are De Kreuners and Goldband. free access. Information: www.arendonkzingt.be.
Top 10 deals of all time
According to arranger Sim Helsen and his music team, The Van Jets’ 2019 performance was the best ever in Arendonk Zingt & Swingt’s 20-year history. Rock band Ostend, famous for its success The future, Tvi And broken bonesIt was one of the last concerts before the band finally stopped. “The Van Jets have been on our wish list for a long time, so we were so glad we were able to book them at the last minute,” Sim says. “The concert was great, live, hit after hit. The audience was hugely excited and the band members were clearly enjoying too. The most important moment of the concert was when singer Johannes Verschiff jumped into the audience and allowed himself to be highly respected.”
1. The Van Jets (2019)
2. Equal Idiot (2018)
3. Gers Bardel (2017)
4. Youth Today (2016)
5. DJ Christoph Lambrecht (2015)
6. Click on Baba (2017)
7. Gorky (2014)
8. Jabro (2019)
9. Jet Rebel (2015)
10- The Black Box Vision (2009)