Author Archives: celtadmin

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (2/3)

At Keltfest 2015 we had a very open and heartfelt talk with none other than Mark van der Stelt, one of the driving forces behind Castlefest and everything Vana-related!

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we talked for almost 45 minutes about the festival scene, how Castlefest and other festivals came to light. We talked about the importance of music and creativity, and of course about the future!

Because Mark was so kind to take a lot of time for us we had to cut the interview into three parts, of which the second part is released today! Mind you, it’s audio only, though you can find the written text right here. 🙂

And of course, stay tuned for part 3 🙂

CeltCast: Well, you know, you have become like a godfather to this scene for a lot of people. I know you are probably to modest to accept that title…

Mark: That’s too much credit, really!

CeltCast: But really, people have, I think, really developed into themselves because of festival scenes like this. You’ve created an atmosphere in which they could. Take Brunhilde who now designs her own clothes and makes a living out of it, or Lunadea who stepped into the more pagan scene and has found grounds here to, you know, have her own public come over here and do her thing.

Mark: We give, together with other festival organizers, we give a platform. A place where they could do their thing. But more than that we don’t give them. So the creativity comes from themselves, and when they go for that they can make beautiful things.

CeltCast: You said music was central when you started out. What does music mean to you?

Mark: Everything. From our youth, my wife’s and mine, music always has been a main part of my life.

CeltCast: Do you remember the first album or single that you bought?

Mark: I think it’s Thriller from Micheal Jackson. I don’t know what LP or song it was for Natasja, but it will probably be some kind of hard rock band. She was very much into hard rock. And we like about everything, except a few kinds of music we don’t like, most kinds of music we like.

CeltCast: And when did you come into contact with the more Celtic, or Pagan/Viking scene?

Mark: Visiting Elf Fantasy or Anno Domini in Limburg and MPS. There we got in contact with that kind of music, and Celtic Festival before it was named Schotland Festival.

CeltCast: And what about yourself? Do you play an instrument yourself?

Mark: I’ve tried desperately to learn to play the guitar, but I don’t have the patience or the skills to do that.

CeltCast: I know what you’re saying, I’ve been there myself. But have you ever dreamed of being in a band yourself?

Mark: Yeah, that’s why I bought the guitar. I wanted to be famous and be a rock-star like most kids I guess.

CeltCast: For me music is equal to emotion. It’s like a thought or an emotion put into sound. What is the last song that made you shed a tear?

Mark: I don’t know which song it was, but it was at Wave Gotik Treffen last weekend at the show of Cesair and it was so, that show was so good, that I got tears in my eyes. But I like the music program on Dutch television “Best Singer Songwriter” and there are pearls that can really touch your inner emotion.

CeltCast: Ah, here’s Soar Patrol starting now. I haven’t seen many people shedding tears at Soar Patrol but ehm…we went from the rain in the background now to Soar Patrol. But is that how you find the new bands for your festivals, visiting MPS or…?

Mark: Visiting as much festivals as possible yeah.

CeltCast: Because there are a lot of uncut gems out there.

Mark: Next to that we get, almost every week, CD’s in our postbox, or emails, and sometimes there are very very nice rough diamonds in that. And then we try to visit them at a concert because we don’t book bands we, or someone we trust, haven’t seen themselves play live. If we don’t see a band play live, we don’t book them.

CeltCast: So that’s the secret to getting in to Castlefest for a young band? They have to invite you to a live show so you can watch them perform?

Mark: No, first send a CD. All CD’s are listened to, and when we think of possibilities to put them on one of our stages then we get in contact with them. And then after that we find someone, perhaps, who has seen them already, because if a band plays gigs already, they play gigs at a certain festival, and then we find out who has been to that festival and if they have seen them.

CeltCast: Last year a group called Pyrolysis crashed Keltfest here. They just went in with their instruments and started playing. Which is kind of daring of course.

Mark: Yeah, they sent me an email asking if they could play on Keltfest and I said “our stages are full, I don’t have a place anymore.” And they said “but could we play on the terrain?” I said “sure, ok, no problem.” And they did an it was nice. They made a party out of it and this year we booked them for the camping stage at Castlefest.

CeltCast: Brilliant! We love them. We did an interview with them yesterday and we think they are marvelous. They have a bright future ahead. Well, you do Keltfest as we mentioned, Castlefest, but you also have other festivals?

Mark: Yeah. We have our medieval festival, Middeleeuws Spektakel, where we start a stage this year, first time. Before, the other years, it was just knights on horses and totally medieval entertainment, so now we added a stage to that to make it more interesting, also for ourselves. We have two editions of that, one in Dordrecht and one in Amsterdam. Then we have our Halloween festival, Haunted Castle, which is really a Halloween festival with haunted houses, scary acts, a lot of costumes. And this year we had our first Castlefest Winterparty and we will have, next December, our first real Castlefest Winter Edition in Lisse.

CeltCast: Real, as in outside, because the other one was in a theater of course. It was totally crammed. It’s a good sign of course!

Mark: It’s not that we want to expand or anything, that’s never the goal, but we have so many ideas and so many dreams, and a Winter Edition was one of them. And now we have the possibility to go and explore our dream.

CeltCast: Yeah, and of course there are people coming to those. I mean, it’s like you said a natural evolving scene. You started Castlefest with like 8000 people the first year?

Mark: 5500.

CeltCast: 5500? And last year I believe you had like over 30.000.

Mark: yeah, 32.000.

CeltCast: There were people waiting for an hour in their car, you had to hand out water bottles to keep them hydrated. It’s amazing.

Mark: And what’s even more amazing is that that was our tenth edition, so we expected to have a lot of extra visitors. Not this much, but we expected growth. But we thought the next year, the eleventh edition, will be a bit less crowded or the pre-sale shall be less. That’s what we expected. But at this moment we sell much more tickets than we did last year. We sold already 150% of what we sold at this moment last year. So we don’t understand. But for us it’s never a goal to have more visitors or to get bigger, but it’s always the consequence because now we know we sell that much tickets in pre-sale we think OK, but if all those people come and we have that same growth at the door, what will happen and how are we going to entertain all of them and how can we get all of those people on the terrain?

CeltCast: Yeah, because you already expanded a couple of times.

Mark: Yeah, and there is not much more space, there’s no more space extra to get. So what we are trying to do now is changing the terrain so we split the public more, and pull them to all the sides of the terrain so it’s less crowded, it feels less crowded. That’s really important. The feeling and the quality of the festival is more important than how much people we can push into that. And we have ideas about that. But if the sale will go on like this there could be a possibility that we will sell out in the pre-sale for the Saturday. We don’t know if the sales will go on like this but we anticipate on that possibility at this moment.

CeltCast: Wow! Well, if people are aware of this I’m sure you’ll get another run on tickets ’cause nobody wants to miss out. Last year you did something new. You had a live feed streaming on YouTube. Bastaard, of course who already made lots of videos and does wonderful camera work for you, they innovated. You reached people in Brasil or all across the world, it was a huge success.

Mark: Yeah, that’s the same growing thing as we were talking about earlier. Bastaard does his film shootings at all fantasy festivals in Holland and make very nice compilations, and Erik, Erik Wildeman, who does now all registrations at, all stage videos at Castlefest for us, grew so much in the couple of years we are working together, we tried to find new things together and last year it was the live stream. We didn’t promote it, at all, until we really knew that it would work. So the first time we ever told anyone about the live feed was when the first band was on stage. And it worked and we said OK, now we put on Facebook that we have a live stream. And we had a lot of visitors on that. It was a real success. So we will do that again this year and add a new extra to it by putting a LED screen on the festival terrain so the public can also see more. Because sometimes it’s so crowded, you can’t even see the stage. And then they can see the show also.

CeltCast: So you reached out to people abroad. I don’t know if you can measure this, but can you see in the pre-sales that people from abroad, more are actually visiting Castlefest?

Mark: I could probably see that but I didn’t check that yet. But we have visitors from all over the world.

CeltCast: And how about the other way around? Because the Netherlands is only so big. Do you have plans on going abroad?

Mark: That question is asked us since I think our third or fourth Castlefest. “Please bring Castlefest to Belgium, Germany, France.” And the we always said “No, we’re not going to do that.” Because it’s too risky, it’s too difficult. We don’t know the culture good enough, we don’t know the rules good enough. But last year when we were at Trolls & Légendes in Belgium I said to my wife “I think I’m not willing to say no all the time.” Because there I got the same feeling I had when we came with the idea of organizing a market, what eventually went to Castlefest, what became Castlefest. And we very much want to follow our feelings, so if we feel that, we try to open up the possibility, and if something happens then, perhaps, who knows? And in this particular idea, when I told just one person that I would probably, if someone would ask me now I would probably not say no again, but who knows. And after that so much happened! So yeah, we are going to organize a festival in Belgium next year. The guys from Bastaard had it right!

CeltCast: “Kastelenfeest” all along! Congratulations! I think you will be changing people’s holiday destinations, depending on the time of the year of course.

Mark: Perhaps. The time of the year is already…we already know where and when it will take place. We are even already in contact with bands for that festival. At this moment the website is created, so we are working hard on the background to present it to the world, and we will present it before Castlefest.

CeltCast: OK, well we will sure be helping you along to let the world know that Castlefest is coming to Belgium!

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (1/3)

Mark At Keltfest 2015 we had a very open and heartfelt talk with none other than Mark van der Stelt, one of the driving forces behind Castlefest and everything Vana-related!

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we talked for almost 45 minutes about the festival scene, how Castlefest and other festivals came to light. We talked about the importance of music and creativity, and of course about the future!

Because Mark was so kind to take a lot of time for us we had to cut the interview into three parts, of which the first part is released today! Mind you, it’s audio only, though you can find the written text on our site. 🙂

And of course, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 🙂

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (1/3)

At Keltfest 2015 we had a very open and heartfelt talk with none other than Mark van der Stelt, one of the driving forces behind Castlefest and everything Vana-related!

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we talked for almost 45 minutes about the festival scene, how Castlefest and other festivals came to light. We talked about the importance of music and creativity, and of course about the future!

Because Mark was so kind to take a lot of time for us we had to cut the interview into three parts, of which the first part is released today! Mind you, it’s audio only, though you can find the written text right here. 🙂

And of course, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 🙂

CeltCast: We are currently at Keltfest, which is sometimes called Castlefest’s little brother. We’re having a chat with Mark van der Stelt, one of the founding fathers of the Dutch festival scene, that makes the world behind the music your hear on CeltCast come to life, if only for a few days. So Mark, thanks for finding the time.

Mark: You’re welcome.

CeltCast: Now, your involvement in this scene goes way back. Last year Castlefest had its tenth anniversary. What were your first thoughts behind Castlefest, creating the festival?

Mark: We were first just visitors of festivals. We went to some festivals in Luxembourg, of course Elf Fantasy in Holland, and also some festivals in Germany, and what we saw in Holland was that we missed some details. We missed some real important atmospheric pieces and we thought “perhaps it’s a good idea to organize a little market.” And so it went on and on and that became Castlefest.

CeltCast: You started out with a little market. Where do you find those people?

Mark: Because we were visitors, we already had contact with the market salesmen, and we knew a couple of bands like Omnia and Rapalje and they helped us a lot in starting the event, getting us in contact with important other salesmen and other entertainers. So we did it all together with a lot of people.

CeltCast: A lot of people, a lot of volunteers as well. Were they there from the start? Because you have like an army of hundreds of volunteers?

Mark: Our first edition we had a hundred volunteers.

CeltCast: How did you manage to round them up?

Mark: It’s quite simple. We just put a question on our internet site and they registered. And we went to a lot of festivals with a promotion booth. There we also got in contact with a lot of possible volunteers.

CeltCast: It’s a wonderful world, with people that are willing to do stuff for free, just to feed the flames of this scene. Castlefest of course is more than just music and merchants. Where did you find the source of inspiration for the way Castlefest presents itself? Like the way you have The Wonder Of It All, Twoia as a symbol, but the whole entourage of Castlefest, it’s like you’re stepping into another world.

Mark: Yeah, that’s something that’s not “created”, that’s grown. When you come in contact with people and you talk to them about the plans, they got inspired by that and they added their own creativity to the festival. Twoia, The Wonder Of It All, is something our good friend Martin Jansen made and we talked a lot about Castlefest with him and brainstormed about the feeling, about everything creative. So that grows. It’s not something that you can say “OK, we’re going to put a festival and it has to be that kind of atmosphere and we put some thing over here and some other creatures over there and then you have something.” It doesn’t work like that. We still don’t know why Castlefest became what Castlefest is now. We don’t know.

CeltCast: I think that’s actually the best answer you could give. You didn’t start, because we are at Keltfest now, that’s a festival you didn’t start but you, say, took over?

Mark: Yeah, when we took it over it was Schotland Festival, but it’s not that festival that became Keltfest. We recreated the festival.

CeltCast: How did you make it yours? Because then it was more like a deliberate way of redesigning the festival.

Mark: When we started with Schotland Festival it was more a bagpipe contest festival than it was a music festival. And our heart is more in the music than in the bagpipe contest, so that was the main switch we had in the second year by not inviting, or not doing the cooperation with the bagpipe contest and instead of that put a bigger stage with more music. And then we also changed the name into Keltfest.

CeltCast: Yes, because it was originally of course called Schotland Festival.

Mark: Yeah, and before that Celtic Festival.

CeltCast: Even before…see, I didn’t know that!

Mark: It exists for fourteen years now.

CeltCast: That’s incredible! And when you first started out doing this, what were the thoughts of your family and your loved ones? Because it’s kind of a risky undertaking, it’s a weird undertaking, it’s not something that would be considered normal. Only yesterday I was picking up one of my daughters at her, shall we say, mother in law, and when she opened the door, her mother in law, she had to take something like a minute because I was dressed the way I am now. It was a huge leap for her to understand what I was saying, I had been to a festival, it’s like a different world, like a modern Woodstock. It’s like neo-hippies, police are there to support but they actually haven’t got a thing to do because it’s all just weirdo’s, goofballs and many lovely people enjoying music and the company of each other. But what were the thoughts of the people surrounding you when you said “I’m going to do something else. I’m going to do this”?

Mark: That was not a big change. It was just a bit more work, more to do. When we started Castlefest we did it in the night time. We had a full-time job, so it was a hobby and the first two years it remained a hobby. After that is was too much to keep doing that next to our jobs and my brother stopped his work and started working for the festivals almost full-time. And we got our first employee, Frank, to do the organization of our festival. And that was almost the same time that we started talking with the old organizer of Schotland Festival. For us it was a chance to have the possibility of paying someone for his work. Because before that it was just a hobby. We didn’t get any money out of the festival, the first year it even cost big money.

CeltCast: I know, it was kind of tricky.

Mark: Yes, but we only found out it was tricky after the festival. We didn’t realize that. Totally not! We believed so much in what we were doing that we didn’t even consider that it could go wrong. Not ever, not a moment.

CeltCast: Just blindly stepped into it, you followed your heart. There’s a lot of kids in this scene who would also like to follow their heart, but then you have like, you know, parents, who allow them to go over here, but who wouldn’t applaud a career in music or festival. You have made a family business out of it.

Mark: No, I don’t think my parents, when they thought of a future for their kids, ever would have thought of this. No, you keep a steady job and earn your money so you can pay your bills. That’s the kind of way you try to bring your kids to adulthood.

CeltCast: That’s the mantra of parents. What would you say, what would your advice be to young bands who are starting out in music now?

Mark: Follow your heart! And do what you like. That’s the main thing. Everybody should do, not only bands, but we see a lot of salesmen and women, or artists, who also need to follow their heart and their own creativity, because everybody has one kind of creativity. For one it’s sculpturing, for the other it’s making music, for another it could be accounting, but everybody has his own creativity.

Kees’ special bio!

CeltCast is very pleased to announce that we have another addition to the team!
Kees (intro) If you haven’t seen the man himself, we’re sure you have at least seen his work.

Ladies and gentlemen, our very own photographer,
also known as photographer of the stars:

Kees Stravers!

We have been using a lot of Kees’ pictures for reports and cover photo’s, and he is a very familiar face at festivals throughout the Netherlands and Germany. He is close to Omnia, and had recently released some amazing shoots of FAUN and Wardruna, among many many more.

We would suggest that you go and follow him on Facebook to stay up to date, and if you want to know all about how Kees came to be, do read his bio.

Omnia – Earth Warrior (2014)


The name of latest album by the Dutch Paganfolk band Omnia leaves very little to the imagination. Earth Warrior is an album dedicated to the fight to protect and save the Earth. This resonates not only in the music and the lyrics on the album but also in the fact that part of the proceeds from this album will be donated to Sea Shepherd, an organization that the members of Omnia hold very close to their hearts.

The first song Weltschmerz, which can be translated as Worldpain or World fatigue, immediately sets the tone for the intent of this album. A beautiful deep piano song, it definitely makes you focus your attention on the album.

It is followed by Earth Warrior which through the lyrics certainly calls everyone to fight for the Earth. The reggae sounds, being a new sound for Omnia, succeed on drawing you in to the song as well as the cause. Daphyd’s typical didge sounds almost sound like the animals of the world add their voices to the song. Being the title track of the album, it could easily be a soundtrack for Sea Shepherd itself.

Next up is Babu Bawu. Starting with what feels like a prayer, followed by Steve’s bawu, this song moves towards the tribal sound that we love and want from Omnia.

This tribal feel continues in Kokopelli, a song rooted in Native American lore. The opening of the song feels like opening the door to a mysterious realm. Once inside we find vibrant dancing in a near perfect animalistic world. The chants and flutes, as well as Rob’s pounding percussion complete a pagan party.

Crazy Man has a sound that steps slightly away from the traditional Omnia sound into more of an 80’s old-school rock and roll type song. But as we might expect, Omnia takes this sound, rolls with it and makes it their own.

Triceltika. What to say about this track? A beautiful harp piece by Jenny that slowly but steadily evolves into so much more. As the song progresses a story starts to unfold, told in sounds rather than words. This song will be a delight to hear live, though I can’t imagine how I would actually react to it. Stand still with closed eyes, swaying to the sounds to let the music flow through me, or move to the front of the crowd to add my motion to the energy of the song.

Epona, a song about the Celtic horse Goddess, is an older part of their repertoire. They have played this over the years, but it feels like an almost completely new song. Omnia have not just dusted off an old song, but polished it into something very “Omnia of today”. The power and energy make the blood boil and the song is a feast to the heart and soul.

With the next song Black House, Omnia displays yet another musical style. The deeper sounds and Steve’s raw voice draw you in to this dark dwelling which feels like an escape from every day troubles. Jenny’s “harp from hell” gives a very surprising refreshing effect to the song.

Mutant Monkey is of course the name that Omnia gives human beings and this song is about humans and their approach to the earth. A satirical protest completely in line with the theme of the album, with rhythms and sounds that lift you up and make you want to do some crazy dancing.

Cernunnos, the Lord of Beast, in the form of Herne the Hunter is the leader of the wyld hunt. It is therefore only fitting that this song is a new and improved rendition of Omnia’s song The Wyld Hunt. When you close your eyes it’s very easy to envision yourself running through the thick forest to the sounds of this song.

The next song, Noodle the Poodle, is a song that Omnia performs on stage a lot, and it’s just pure fun. Bluegrass country and western style and very energetic, it certainly gets the crowds moving, and even on CD it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to yell “Yeehaw” at the top of your lungs along with the song.

Call Me Satan might be seen as slightly controversial, as many pagans have been called Satanists while they are no such thing. However, in this song it seems that Omnia states that Satan is merely one name given to a deity that has had many names in the past and is only one of many. Though the song itself has a very constant vibe the musical style varies as the song progresses, giving me the feeling that they want to communicate that although the figure they sing of has changed over time the underlying thought remains the same. Musically enticing, with thought provoking lyrics, this song actually might be considered very typical for Omnia.

Free Bird Fly starts off with a very down and blue feeling but that quickly changes. The vocals, the piano play, the rhythm, the children’s choir, everything soon starts to lift you up and motivates you to take the steps to make everything better. Maybe the song was written for an actual bird, but the metaphor grips me and gives me goosebumps, and I do believe this song can actually help people.

Lament for a Blackbird is a very emotional and soft instrumental harp piece, where Jenny’s amazing harp skills are only accompanied by birdsong. For an album directed at the earth and with so much power, it’s a great way to bring you back and to let you digest it all.

This album is one with a familiar feel, as all songs on Earth Warrior are unmistakably Omnia songs but at the same time it is also very surprising. The variation in musical styles from one song to the next is astonishing, yet it all does fit together as one. The deep love of, and reverence for nature that the band holds, shines through in almost every song of this album and certainly lights a spark in the heart of the listener. I have so far not had the chance to hear much of this album live, but I really can’t wait. I’m very curious to find out what the post-album addition of the musical talent of Satrya brings to the sound, but I’m convinced it will be awesome.

If I were to be forced to choose a favorite song from this album I would definitely have a hard time at it, due to the very high level of the entire album. However, I think that my love for all things Celtic, the harp and emotion in music would lead me to pick Triceltika. As said before, I really want to hear this song live and feel the energy of it coming off the stage.

In conclusion, Earth Warrior is a brilliant album that lives up not only to the reputation of an experienced band like Omnia, but also to it’s name. It truly is the soundtrack for anyone that wants to fight for the earth.


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