"Illegal" music festival sees far different outcome in 2006

CzechTek, photo: CTK

For years the CzechTek music festival was the source of certain controversy and for some, apprehension: as an "illegal" techno festival it attracted thousands to locations disclosed at the very last minute, most often in fields or meadows near unfortunate villages hit by a sudden surge of visitors and techno music from dusk till dawn. Last year the situation reached a head when riot police intervened on fields in western Bohemia, and dozens of people - both officers and visitors were injured. Television images of unarmed young people being beaten up caused a political storm. By comparison, this year's CzechTek - which took place over the weekend - was a walk in the park.

Photo: CTK
CzechTek may have enjoyed a less than glorious reputation with many in the past but for thousands of techno fans it has always been a cutting edge event. Still, local property owners often complained their rights and property were being trampled on by countless uninvited guests, and damages often went into the tens of thousands of crowns. No more. After last year's clash with riot police who used truncheons, tear gas, and water cannons, to bring the festival to a violent end, it was clear the situation could not be repeated. It wasn't: on the initiative of the Defence Ministry an appropriate location in north Bohemia - one that could handle the dusk-till-dawn onslaught of thousands of young people - was found by the Czech Army and rented to organisers, and that made a world of difference.

Photo: CTK
Earlier, I spoke with 26-year-old Andrea Vaclavova, a first-time visitor from Prague, who described the atmosphere:

"It was really great because the people were really nice, and behaved very nicely towards each other. I really enjoyed it. I was there with a group of people there for the third time. I think it's quite a strange festival because you don't have to pay for [tickets] and I really like the idea that somebody says where it is and immediately 40,000 people arrive, that it's not prepared. I like this idea. For two days it's great."

Photo: CTK
With so many people on hand the event also went surprising smoothly, and after last year's oft-criticised intervention, police this time stayed outside the grounds and only helped with traffic or stepped in in isolated cases - to investigate petty crime and a reported rape. Otherwise, organisers can probably be quite happy: 40,000 visitors is a number that long established Czech summer festivals can only envy. While perhaps not "perfect" since some hardcore techno fans will grumble that CzechTek in its new inception loses its original allure - namely its "anti-establishment" edge - the images from this year's dance party were certainly far more attractive than the view from CzechTek a year ago. And, not surprisingly, when CzechTek returns a year or so from now, many fans say they'll be back.