A level-5 fire risk may have cancelled the festival, but Camp Cosmic’s handling of the aftermath ruined it.
A guest article by a BLY reader.
A couple of weeks ago, Camp Cosmic, a Berlin-based disco beat festival was set to open its doors for their ninth year running. However, it resulted in more ‘panic fever’ than ‘disco fever’, and this would be the year where the Camp Cosmic group would show their true colours.
Hundreds of excited festival attendees from all over the world, pre-paid tickets in hand and ready for a weekend of fun in the forest (some already on their way), were stuck in limbo when they received news on the first day that the festival had been cancelled. The organisers wrote a post on the Camp Cosmic facebook page at 14:00 on the first day (Friday) that read:
“Camp Cosmic 2018 has been cancelled. The authorities have decided to shut it down because of the Fire Risk level 5. It is beyond our control and we hope for your understanding. We are currently looking for creative solutions on another location in Berlin. Please be patient and we will get back with further instructions. Please don’t come to the area!”
After this post, there was radio silence throughout the day and until the early hours of Saturday morning where their next statement simply said:
“Hi there. We started the deconstruction and are good in time. We are enough people to finish it in time. Just a reminder: Dont come to the venue! The event is cancled and you cannot enter the area.”
By this point there was an influx of people growing anxious, wanting to know what was happening and what would be done about the situation. They had been left in the dark for way too long. Angry comments began to pop up on Camp Cosmic’s Facebook page (some had even been deleted by Camp Cosmic admin) and people were questioning their ethics and asking for refunds for their pre-paid tickets. When they did finally get a response from the organisers, it was only to say that refunds would not be issued, instead fobbing off their followers with a “creative solution” which amounted to a couple of last-minute compensation parties in Berlin bars. A half-cut attempt to save face and rectify the situation.
Camp Cosmic describe themselves as a “non-profit” organisation, and a “caring and loving community” whose main purpose is to bring like-minded people together. However, the organisers charge a mid-range ticket fee (85€ per ticket) as well as taking a reasonable chunk of rent from the food stands, considering their size. They also heavily rely on 100 or so volunteers to build and run the festival grounds, with only a handful of around 5-10 people actually getting paid. They dealt with the unfortunate situation with little to no compassion and care for their many followers, as well as refusing to refund and compensate. It makes you wonder, are they really the disco-loving, in it for the love, caring community that they make out to be… or is this just a greed-infused business and a good marketing strategy?
My partner and I were at the location when the shit hit the fan and experienced the aftermath chaos first hand. We were pretty hard hit by the sudden cancellation of the festival (financially and emotionally), but more so appalled at the way the organisation handled the situation. What made the biggest impression was the total lack of responsibility that the organisers showed whilst they blame-shifted their way through the weekend. This, partnered with a non-existent contingency plan and no immediate genuine apology infuriated us as well as so many others. For an organisation that has been running for nine whole years, you would think that they would have stopped hiding behind the fact that they are apparently a “non-profit organisation” and would have their ducks in a row. Did they even have correct permits for the festival?
Angry festival-goers took to Facebook where many posts were deleted by admins.
How to protect yourselves in the future.
Here is some advice from me (learned the hard way), which I would like to share with those of you who plan to attend or work at a festival this summer or in the future. The five points which I’m about to cover may be the difference between a great festival experience or a really, really bad one:
1) Evaluate the risks. If an organisation claims to be “non-profit” then bear in mind that this organisation may try to use this to their advantage and may not be held liable when things go wrong.
2) If buying a pre-paid ticket for a festival, try to pay via Paypal or something similar where you can request a refund in the case of last minute cancellations, even if the organisation refuses to issue you with one.
3) If you will invest a lot of cash to be there (flights, train and bus tickets, camping gear etc..), make sure you have a plan B just in case. The festival might not have a contingency plan, but that does not mean you can’t have one.
4) If you are planning to volunteer at a festival in exchange for a free ticket, just be aware that if the festival gets cancelled you would have spent your time and effort in vain. A festival which relies heavily on volunteers will most probably come with many risks. Know what the risks are and ask a lot of questions beforehand to make sure you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for.
5) If you are planning on working with a festival for the first time, for instance as a food stand, try not to invest too much in supplies and test the waters first with either frozen food which can be stored for later or a smaller amount of fresh produce. If the festival gets cancelled, you’ll have to deal with the cost of your leftover stocks so it’s best to not purchase your whole inventory at once.
Festivals can be amazing when they are organised well, or they can be total disasters filled with disappointment. Camp Cosmic 2018 wasn’t as bad as Ja Rule’s ‘Fyre’ festival from last year, but it certainly could have ended in one.
However, failed festivals don’t always leave a bad taste in your mouth. Take Woodstock, the first music festival of its kind. It was not without its share of problems, with a last minute change of location due to unhappy neighbours, artists not showing up and attendance exceeding estimations. However, Woodstock still remains one of the most memorable and famous festivals… this could perhaps have something to do with the fact that they made it work despite adversity and did the hippie-loving thing by making it free entry for all, even though this resulted in their own personal loss. Maybe Camp Cosmic could take a few lessons from them if they want to ever redeem themselves to their fans.