Rock for People begins in blazing sunshine after two-year Covid break

Biffy Clyro

The Czech music festival Rock for People opened its gates to festivalgoers from around the Czech Republic and beyond at noon on Wednesday, after a two-year break when the festival couldn’t go ahead due to Covid restrictions. The festival, now in its 26th year, opened on its first night with international headline acts such as Biffy Clyro, Wolf Alice and Idles.

Photo: David Taneček,  ČTK

Some ticket holders had been waiting almost three years for this day to come – but after a lot of hope and frustration, music lovers from all over the country and beyond finally streamed through the gates of Rock for People at an unused airport in Hradec Králové to a backdrop of bright sunshine. The headline acts this year include Biffy Clyro, Fall Out Boy, and American rockers Green Day, who will cap off the festival on Saturday night. Around thirty-five thousand people are expected to attend the four-day event.

However, putting on the festival this year after a two-year global pandemic, with a nearby war and rising inflation still ongoing was not without its difficulties, says festival director Michal Thomes:

Michal Thomes | Photo: Ondřej Vaňura,  Czech Radio

“It’s a big challenge for us, because this is our biggest festival ever. We started in 1995 so we’re in our 26th year, but we’ve never experienced such a large event with such large economic demands.”

Because Rock for People, like all music festivals in the Czech Republic, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, tickets bought for those years remained valid for this year’s festival, the first to take place since 2019. Marek Vohralík from the association of festivals FESTAS, gives more background to how this contributes to the challenges festivals going ahead this summer are facing:

Festival Rock for People | Photo: David Taneček,  ČTK

“It’s a bit like life after an earthquake, what we’ve experienced. When it comes to the operational side of things, the situation is very complicated, primarily for the reason that a large proportion of the people going to festivals this summer bought their tickets in 2019 or 2020, at prices which were conceived from a budget that took into account the price levels of that time, but now the economic situation is completely different. The price hikes are really large - costs haven’t just gone up by 15 or 20 per cent – it’s more like 50 per cent.”

However, despite financial challenges, Rock for People’s first day went off smoothly. The festival is also not ignoring events currently going on in Ukraine, as festival director Michal Thomes points out:

Photo: David Taneček,  ČTK

“There are stages here which are going to be purely devoted to discussions on environmental or social topics, or problems in Ukraine. As a gesture of solidarity we invited the organisers of the Ukrainian festival Atlas Weekend, the Ukrainian ambassador will come and we’ll have five interesting bands from Ukraine.”

But, despite the ongoing problems the world is facing, most people attending the festival are just happy to be able to listen to live music in the open air again.