Various at Lichtenfels (2019)
Lichtenfels (Lichtenfels, Germany)
April 25, 2019
RAGNARÖK festival is well known for having a completely debaucherous opening party, which happens the night before the festival officially starts. Typically taking place in the hall in which the remainder of the festival takes place, this opening party has it all, from DJs to burlesque dancers. And full of eager anticipation we rushed to the hall that evening, not wanting to miss the party. We were greeted by a fully lit, completely empty hall. A few people wandered around, looking just as lost and confused as we felt. Where was the incredible warm-up party? However, not all was lost, and rumour had it that there would be a substitute party happening in the town. What followed next was a wild goose chase all across the festival area, trying to find a single person who knew where the party was taking place. The security had no clue. No post was found in the facebook event page. Every other person we spoke to knew that a replacement warm-up party was happening, but not where. Finally, we resorted to randomly wandering around the town, stumbling across the warm-up party by accident. And what a party it was: a handful of people, staring morosely into their fast-emptying beer glasses trying to ignore the crappy music. So back off to the festival campgrounds we went, hoping to at least find some lively campsite there. But even here nothing was happening, with almost everyone having decided to get a relatively early night.
This disappointing opening night was the perfect foreshadow of what the remainder of the festival would be like. The next day saw a large number of bands being dropped from the line-up. Due to a strike at SAS, bands like GOD DETHRONED and NAGLFAR were unable to get to the festival. SKELETON WITCH managed to shift their set to the next day of the festival, resulting in a super-long line-up for the festival's second day. And on this day, bad luck struck once more, with XIV DARK CENTURIES having to pull out of the festival due to health issues. They were replaced at the last moment by GERNOTSHAGEN. However, as GOD DETHRONED were a major puller for several fans, this was disappointing news.
Whilst this is something that the festival organisers have absolutely no control over, there are other aspects of the festival which were fully within their control, which were badly handled. The first of these are the dixie/portaloo toilets. In what seems to be an attempt to get festivalgoers to buy a "toilet flat-rate fee" for the use of flushable portable toilets, the number of dixie loos has been reduced to a bare minimum. These got emptied so rarely that they were quite literally overflowing. In my opinion, sanitation at a festival should be a priority, and not one of the aspects where costs can be cut. This way, festivalgoers were forced into a choice: either cough up more money to use the flushable toilets or have to deal with the disgusting dixie toilets.
This blatant attempt at saving every single euro possible was also obvious in the garbage refund system they used this year. Essentially what happens when you buy a camping ticket is that you pay a small garbage deposit in addition to the camping fee. The idea is that you should collect your garbage at your campsite, and return the full garbage bag at the end of the festival to get your garbage deposit back from the security team working at the entrance to the campsite (in this case the deposit was 2€). People in groups who camp together typically put all their trash into one or two bags, rather than each person using their own bag. As an example, our group of 10 people all used the same two trash bags throughout the festival. So, when the 10 of us returned our full garbage bags at the end of the festival, we should have each gotten back the deposit which we had paid (in other words 10 people = 10 deposits of 2€ each). However, we were informed (in a very unfriendly manner) that as we had only returned 2 trash bags, that we would only be getting 2 deposits back. So, of the 20€ that our group had collectively paid as the mandatory trash deposit, we only got 4€ back. Now I know that these are miniscule amounts to a single person, but that is beside the point. The point is that on the much larger scale of the festival, a lot of money is being ripped off from the festivalgoers through this unfair garbage refund system (especially when much better systems exist, like at Wolfszeit festival). And this raises the question of whether the security guard was pocketing the extra money, or he had been instructed to rip people off like this. Either way, that doesn't reflect well on the overall festival.
The cherry on the cake was the weather: cold and rainy for most of the festival's duration, this put a definite damper on the overall festival feeling. However, it's not all completely bad, and the festival does have several strengths. On the one hand, the line-up is usually pretty good; the festival is well accessible as it takes place in a town hall; there is a sleeping hall available if you don't want to camp; the drinks are reasonably priced; and the festivalgoers themselves are as always a fantastic bunch of people that make the whole experience fun. However, RAGNARÖK festival relies on its regular fanbase, with some people returning year after year. Despite this, the festival does very little to promote the festival and gain new audiences. The result: a slow but steady reduction in the number of old fans, with no new fans coming to bolster the ranks (and ticket sales). And I, along with many of my friends are asking ourselves if we should even bother going back next year? With the number of incredible festivals in Germany and Europe growing every year, chances are slim.