Interview: Jonathan Scratchley, Dimensions festival

The man behind both Dimensions and Outlook festivals explains how the summer scene exploded in Croatia, what’s the connection with the local creative production and how well excited he is about the new project

The debut edition of Dimensions is taking place in an abandoned fortress in Pula from September 5-9, offering a number of beach and boat parties with an impressive line-up, perhaps compared only to the legendary Sonar.

Why did you decide to do the festival down here?

It was by luck that we got here in 2008. We got invited by Nick who runs Garden festival and he wanted to bring over promoters who have good relationships with performers and a big network to come and set up weekend events. So the first year none of us really knew what to expect, we just came here and managed to convince about a 1000 people and artists to come. It all started there really and the moment we arrived in Croatia and saw how beautiful it was and how excited the people were and how special the vibe it created with the music that we added to it, we knew we had to continue it!

It seems like there’s quite a lot of festivals now in Croatia.

Yeah, everyone followed!

Are you competitors or do you have friendly relations, is there enough space for everyone on the coast?

I think there is definitely. There’s enough people in the world and with Outlook it has become a global thing. We throw parties all around the world in 5 continents and we have people buying tickets and flying over from South America and New Zealand and Australia. But, what’s really interesting about all the other festivals is that there is a only one small degree of separation between all of us. We pretty much know everyone and not only know, but have worked with them in the past. So we know everyone, and there’s obviously an idea of competition but as long as someone doesn’t suffer from it it’s not a bad thing.

Are all the festival run by British promoters? Are there any Croatian festivals in Croatia during the summer?

I think a lot of it got started from the guys who run Garden festival, cause they came from Liverpool and they had their network to build on that. There’s also local Croatian promoters who run their own events and also we have Croatian partners that we worked with in the last 3 years. It’s pretty much Croatian hold-in hands in an English driven event. There’s a lot of Croatian festivals as well and a lot of Croatian promoters turning into festival promoters which is brilliant. In our area around Pula there’s five festivals on during the summer.
I suppose one big issue in having a festival sold to Central-European and UK crowd is the income. This group of countries doesn’t balance with the income that you currently have in the Balkans and South-Eastern Europe. That’s a potentially big problem. We’ve managed to combat it by offering half-priced tickets to anyone with a passport from ex-Yugoslavian countries. We don’t make any money from this but hopefully it’s opening our arms to the people who’re gonna drive us forward. It’s so important to us to support the local scene.

Dimensions festival has a pretty impressive line-up of international acts, but are you supporting local scene at all and will you manage to avoid the criticism that you’re not doing enough for the artists in the region?

Interesting, just recently I had quite a long meeting with Exit festival directors and I was really keen to find out about the way they could work with it, and they do have a few systems in place. The politics based on supporting people in the region is part of their manifesto and I know they’re really trying hard, but what is quite difficult is that the press will always focus on what the artists they want to focus on and for people buying tickets the most exciting thing about a festival like this is a chance to see this combination of international artists.
But, having worked with local partners we have events set up all throughout the year in Zagreb and in surrounding countries. They have a big group of artists that they filter through and we give them a stage at Outlook and with Dimensions we’ve done the same thing. And with Dimensions it seems that this music is more relevant at the local ground. With Outlook it’s more about bass music and soundsystem culture and Dimensions is almost straight house and techno and it has a more solid foot hold in the region. We added Marko Nastic to the line-up and that’s going really, really well. We take it as a very important element of what we’re doing and we know it’s a slow process, but just what I’ve seen from the impact that Oulook has had on 18-19-20 year old local Croatians has been brilliant and it’s really motivating and we’re getting them to play and we’re supporting them as producers and that’s what we see as our responsibility.

How did you decide to make Dimensions when you have already one super successful festival?

We spent about 2 months arguing over it. We wanted to try something new and we wanted to capture something really exciting that we thought was happening in the world of music. As promoters we want all of our decisions to be driven by the love of music. So we had these arguments until last December and we were really excited about exploring the combination of house, techno and dub and the way that it’s naturally developed especially in what’s considered to be post-dubstep or what people call future house and things like that. So you have elements of techno or bass driven sounds in house music and people coming from straight techno background or dub background making slow music which is more bass weighty with a lot of space in the sound. And we saw that and linked it directly back to dub music. That’s what we wanted to explore, really.

It must have been quite easy to persuade the artists to come and play once you presented them a perfect venue and location, otherwise, I guess it wouldn’t be that easy to put on a line-up like that?

Yeah, we were lucky with that. We created a PDF document which had pictures of the fort and other beautiful things that we have discovered in the area. So we sent that out to all the artists and booking agents in order to create the initial line-up. Booking A line-ups is really really hard, booking big artists and putting them all together and making it work is very hard and we were really lucky that we already had good connections with 90% of the line-up that you see out there as were involved in techno events in the last 15 years.

How many people do you expect to come?

The capacity of the venue is 10 000, but we’re not having that much this year. It’s our first year, so we’re gonna have around 4 500 – 5000 people which for me is the perfect introduction and I’m really looking forward to Dimensions. What really excites me is that a lot of people buying tickets don’t know anything about that venue. And to be there and see people interact with it and enjoy it and especially this whole new crowd and this combination of artists put together….I’m just so so excited to see how it comes off.