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.