BY ISIDORA STANKOVIC:
There is something magical about the outdoor music festival. Thousands of people gather for the sole purpose of rocking and rolling to rhythms and grooving together. In Serbia, however, EXIT music festival represents more than just an opportunity for individuals to listen to live music. EXIT is an example of the Serbian people’s efforts to revitalize the country’s image and economy through public activism and by encouraging tourism. The annual summer festival was the creation of three college students as a form of protest against the Serbian government, and since its conception in 2000 EXIT has enjoyed tremendous success. Local acts and entertainers from across the globe come together for four days of music, and the festival has also grown to feature well-known performers such as David Guetta, Franz Ferdinand, Guns N’ Roses, and M.I.A.
EXIT takes place on the Petrovardian Fortress in the city Novi Sad, blending together Balkan history with the trendiness of contemporary music festivals. The festival’s basic appeal to young people is obvious, but it moreover aims to empower a younger generation and give them a voice. Aware that there needs to be a change in the Serbian government and in the identity of Serbian youth, State of EXIT was founded in 2006 as a branch of the music festival. The organization acts as a platform for innovation that aims to allow young people to discover the potential of their creativity and culture. In addition to serving as a grassroots political organization, State of EXIT seeks to bring awareness to diseases of addiction and to issues of human rights. The foundation wants young people to tap into their creative energies in order to promote development within Serbia and around the world, and State of EXIT uses new forms of media such as the Internet and social networks to reach out to its audience.
State of EXIT also aims to rebuild Serbia and the Serbian people’s image and has fostered discussion through a program called “National Branding.” The program features conferences such as “Rebranding Serbia,” which emphasizes the necessity of action in improving the global perception of Serbia. Through talks from eminent speakers such as Sudhir John Horo, who participated in the image rebranding of India, individuals will discover ways in which the world can see Serbia’s strength through the promotion of its cultural, intellectual, and athletic achievements.
In addition to “National Branding,” State of EXIT also features a program called “Youth Heroes” which encourages scholarship and volunteerism. “Youth Heroes” recognizes young people who have done something to benefit their communities and oftentimes gifts them with passes to EXIT festival for their involvement in providing humanitarian aid or commitment to studies. For example, State of EXIT gave tickets to high school seniors in the town of Stare Pazove because they donated the money that would go toward graduation festivities to the improvement of hospitals instead.
On four summer days in Novi Sad, the city will light up as EXIT music festival rages. The festival offers a good time with a unique addition of Serbian culture and hospitality, and the rest of the world has taken notice. CNN included EXIT in its list of top 50 world summer destinations, in 2007 EXIT won “Best European Festival” at the UK Festival Awards, and UK’s The Sun has rated it as one of the eight best festival destinations. EXIT has brought increased tourism and notoriety to Serbia, but even more importantly it has become an organization that encourages the advancement of a new generation eager to uplift the course of Serbia’s history.
Isidora Stankovic ‘16 is in Timothy Dwight College. She covers a Balkans beat, focusing on current events in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. Contact her at email@example.com.