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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Europe's Biggest Festival Too Loud

"Cultural Mosaics" by Timi, writing from Budapest, Hungary

The mayor of the 4th district of Budapest has sued Sziget Festival, Europe's biggest festival of its kind, and one of the most prestigious cultural events of Hungary.

Dr. Tamas Derce, mayor of a neighbouring district of the Óbudai Isle - where Sziget is held every year - claims that there have been several complaints against the popular event as being "too loud". The mayor turned to court justice, and wants the Sziget organisers to conform to the new noise decree of the district that forbids any kind of loud activities between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., reducing the noise level to a maximum of 40 decibels, which is the "noise level" of a person speaking with an average voice pitch. Obviously, say the Sziget organisers, this rule cannot be kept for a musical event, thus if the mayor wins the case, Sziget has to be shut down.

A Sziget poster from 2006

According to the organisers, Mayor Derce could not show any particular proof of extreme noise level in front of the court, as he had only three witnesses claiming they could not sleep at night during the festival days. Experiments and examinations done during previous Sziget organisations showed that the noise level did not exceed that of the average noise level of the district, which is one of the noisiest in town. The Sziget Cultural Office, that organises the festival and various other cultural events, has tried to reduce noise level by surrounding the stages with soundproof walls, but for the Mayor, this is not enough. Decre's previous attempts to ban Sziget were turned down by court, however, the mayor insists on sweeping the festival off Hungary's map, and reopened his case.

Due to the attempts to take Sziget to court, the organisers decided to take further steps to please the people, to whom the festival causes inconvenience, and reduced the length of the festival from 7+1 days to 5+1 days. Still, the Mayor is seemingly not about to compromise. Others suggested that the festival should be moved out of Óbudai Isle to somewhere else, preferably out of Budapest, but the organisers say this would also kill the festival, as Sziget-goers like that the event is in the capital, easy to reach by public transportation. If Sziget is forced to move, foreign attenders might consider not to come any more.

While Mayor Derce continues to sue the festival, the Grand Mayor of Budapest, Gábor Demszky, in an offical letter to Sziget, ensured the organisers and the audience of his support, declaring that Budapest needs such a great cultural event that brings Hungary into the focus of the world once a year, and he expressed his hope that Tamas Derce would consider sitting down with the organisers to discuss the possibilities of compromise, instead of taking the case to court.

Meanwhile, those who would like to protest against the lawsuit, can write to the vice mayor of the 4th district (for the mayor's e-mail address is not published anywhere) by clicking here.

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