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Istanbul´s biggest free festival, Hıdrellez, gets canceled
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 30 Apr 2011 Sat 10:20 am

İstanbul´un en büyük ücretsiz festivali Hıdrellez iptal edildi.

Istanbul´s biggest free festival, Hıdrellez, gets canceled


Each year, Roma music would echo through the streets as revelers pinned wishes on wish trees and jumped over fires to purify their souls.

Each year, Roma music would echo through the streets as revelers pinned wishes on wish trees and jumped over fires to purify their souls.
Istanbul´s biggest free festival, the Hıdrellez celebrations that mark the arrival of spring and the awakening of nature, has been canceled this year due to security precautions after an attempt to institute an admission fee. Organizers say it was becoming increasingly difficult to control the growing crowds, some of whom say they will still go to the festival site May 5 and create their own celebration

If any celebration in Istanbul has approached the energy and colorfulness of Brazil’s famous Rio Carnival, it would be the Hıdrellez festival, typically held the first week of May to welcome the arrival of spring.

Each year, Roma music would echo through the streets as revelers pinned wishes on wish trees and jumped over fires to purify their souls.

But the increasing crowds drawn by the free event, along with a lack of security and coordination between civil and city officials, has led organizers to decide first to charge an admission fee, and then to cancel the festival altogether.

Originally celebrated in the streets of various neighborhoods, the Hıdrellez festivities in Istanbul’s Ahırkapı district had grown into a meeting point for thousands of people since 2000. Last year’s crowds of 130,000 people attending the May 5, 2010, event, sparked a controversy this year.

Organizers’ initial decision to charge a fee for the festival led more than 3,000 people to protest the change on Facebook.

“For years, it has been a free event. Everybody got their drinks and went there to have fun. Since they saw the crowd was getting bigger, the organizers wanted to make money out of it but they encountered major resistance,” Murat Akbal, one of the organizers of the Facebook protests, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“We tried to reach the organizers but they refused to speak to us,” Akbal said. “But they saw there were increasing protests and I think that’s why they had to cancel the whole thing.”

Roma community

The Hıdrellez fest has its roots with the prophet Hızır, who brings wealth and remedies to troubled people, and has marked the arrival of spring in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran and Greece since ancient times. The festival has become associated with the music and dance of the Roma community, which also reacted this year against the proposed admission charge.

“In the past, everybody got their instruments and food and went out to green fields to celebrate,” Şükrü Pündük, the chairman of the Sulukule Roma Culture Cultivation and Solidarity Association, told the Daily News. “Who will go if they have to buy tickets for a family of five?”

While protesters said they were coming up with alternative ways to enter the festival, its organizer, the Hıdrellez Fest Association, announced the event had been completely canceled.

“I myself started this celebration as a small neighborhood gathering, found some small sponsors and brought musicians. But it turned out to be something we couldn’t control. This year we expect more than 150,000 people. What could I do if someone had a heart attack?” Kasım Zoto, the head of the association, as well as the owner of the Armada Hotel in Ahırkapı, told the Daily News.

“We first thought about issuing tickets to limit the crowd but we got a lot of protests [from people] who said they would enter the park by making fake tickets or using other methods. This could have led to more security issues, therefore I decided to stop [the festival],” he said.

Musician Kerem Turan, who played during last year’s festival, agreed with the decision. “It was really so crowded that the audience couldn’t have fun,” Turan said. “I don’t think this space could handle another 20,000 people this year.”

An official from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily News that the municipality “knew about the controversy but didn’t want to sponsor the festival lest something bad happen right before the upcoming elections.”

Few free festivals in Istanbul

Istanbul hosts several music, theater and other cultural festivals throughout the year, but many of them are paid events. According to Hıdrellez Fest Association head Zoto, the reason so many people came to Ahırkapı is because there is a great demand for free festivals.

“The only reason people stormed here was because there are no such [other] festivals in Istanbul. People are in need of these events, where they can come with their families and drink, dance and have fun,” he said.

“The Hıdrellez festival was the only free festival where people could celebrate something together in Istanbul,” said Osman Nihat Aydoğan from the Association of Tourism Journalists. “That’s why it attracted so many people. But it became so big that it couldn’t manage to carry itself. The organizers wanted to enliven that area but unfortunately the opposite happened.”

Members of the Facebook protest group will go to Ahırkapı Park on May 5 and hold their own celebration, Akbal said: “We are planning to make our own celebrations. At least 10,000 people will be there.”

“Nothing bad will happen as long as people enjoy themselves. I am only afraid if the opposite happens,” Zoto said, bringing up the example of the 2008 Taksim New Year’s celebrations. “When the celebration was canceled, people had fights and there were cases of sexual harassment. I hope our peaceful event doesn’t turn into chaos.”


Edited (4/30/2011) by tunci

2.       Nanou
36 posts
 30 Apr 2011 Sat 05:50 pm

I like the festival´s idea, it reminds me of the latin festivals like in Murcia, Mexico, and Brazil of course!! But shame on the government if they want to make money out of it, i think every country has to have a free festival to gather all different kind of people together!!

tunci liked this message
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