Eight music festivals making a positive impact in 2022

If the pandemic has left you yearning for travel and live music, but also keen to make sure your hard-earned money goes to a good cause, check out this selection of festivals from Porto to New York.

A light show during a performance at DGTL Amsterdam.

Photograph by Tim Buiting
By Lisa Henderson
Published 16 Apr 2022, 06:06 BST

After two mainly fallow years, music festivals are making a triumphant return — and most are bigger and better than ever before. This year’s festival calendar is bursting with old favourites and new offerings alike, catering to pent-up demand for live music. From mega weekends and boutique affairs to greenfield gatherings and metropolitan multi-venues, festivalgoers are spoilt for choice this year. So perhaps it’s more critical than ever to ensure time, money and your travel miles are spent wisely this summer.

The enforced downtime gave organisers a rare chance to reflect on the environmental and societal impact of their festivals and make changes for the better. Issues such as sustainability, gender equality and activism have been bumped up the bill and now take centre stage. From a fully circular electronic event in the Netherlands to a gender-balanced festival in Spain, we’ve selected six festivals that are making a positive impact in 2022.

1. DGTL, Amsterdam

16-17 April

The DGTL brand is as widely celebrated for its electronic music events as it is for its green technologies. The brand’s flagship event in Amsterdam’s industrial NDSM Docklands has become somewhat of a testing ground for urban sustainability, pioneering solutions for all kinds of green issues. According to DTGL, the 2022 edition is set to be the world’s first fully circular festival, including ‘pee-to-tea’ concepts and optional steps to reduce CO2 emissions. The event, held in a huge former shipyard, also uses less than 100ml of waste per visitor and zero usage of diesel. What’s more, DGTL is sharing the secrets to its sustainability success via a blueprint, which can be used by other festivals and cities. So, this Easter, electronic music fans can dance to artists including Jon Hopkins and Âme & Dixon with a cleaner conscience.

2. Primavera Sound, Barcelona

2-12 June

In 2019, Primavera Sound launched its ‘New Normal’ campaign, becoming the first globally recognised music festival to achieve and commit to a gender-balanced line-up with a bill comprised of at least 50% women and non-binary people. While some festivals are using the pandemic as an excuse to take a raincheck on such pledges, Primavera Sound’s Marta Pallarès says that festivals “can’t afford to go back to pale, male and stale”. Despite the Barcelona festival doubling in size for this year’s belated 20th anniversary edition, it has made good on its promise once again. Acts including Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Lorde, Jorja Smith, Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, Clairo, Little Simz, Courtney Barnett and Celeste are helping to tip the gender balance scales. These are just a few of the 400+ acts due to perform at Primavera’s waterfront residence, Parc del Fòrum, across the two weekends in June. Located between the district of Sant Martí in Barcelona and Sant Adrià, the venue provides a lush Mediterranean backdrop for world-class acts.

A child on his father's shoulders in front of the stage at Primavera festival.

A child on his father's shoulders in front of the stage at Primavera festival.

Photograph by Kimberley Ross

3. LGBT+ music festival, Portugal

1-3 July

Porto will become the epicentre of Europe’s Pride festivities in July, when the city plays host to both the Gay Pride March and the LGBT+ music festival. The festival will see LGBTQ pop stars, gay icons and allies perform on four different stages across Portugal’s second-biggest city. Iggy Azalea, Melanie C, Little Boots, Gloria Groove, Bimini Bon Boulash, Todrick Hall and Jodie Harsh are slated to make appearances. The main festival site will be taking place on the banks of the Douro river, with other stages located around the medieval Ribeira district. Festivalgoers will also have the chance to explore Porto’s vibrant queer scene via a number of afterparties in venues across the city, too.  

The main stage at Exit festival.

The main stage at Exit festival.

Photograph by Exit Festival

4. Paradise City, Belgium

1-3 July

Earlier this year, the electronic music gathering — hailed as one of the world’s greenest festivals — was awarded four stars (the highest rating) in the A Greener Festival Awards. A 10-point plan helps the festival minimise its impact on the environment and 12-century Ribaucourt Castle, in Perk, where it takes place. Community camping, eco-toilets and organic and Fairtrade vegetarian food are just a few of its greener offerings, so you’ll be able to dance to DJs, including Maribou State and Shanti Celeste, knowing it won’t cost the earth. 

5. Exit, Serbia

7-10 July

Social activism is in Exit festival’s DNA. The Novi Sad-based event launched two decades ago as a student movement against President Milosevic, as they fought for peace and freedom. It’s said to be the first place that youth from all former Yugoslav republics gathered after a decade of civil wars. Following the Yugoslavian general election in 2000, Exit moved from the city's University Park to Petrovaradin’s medieval fortress on the bank of the Danube river, but social responsibility has remained a key focus. Through the festival’s foundation and partnerships with the Serbian government and the United Nations, it’s working on projects to combat the hunger crisis, deforestation and climate change. These projects and partnerships are woven into the fabric of the event, where festivalgoers can see some of the world’s leading speakers, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and activists take to the stage alongside music titans such as Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Calvin Harris.

Stage at Pol'and'Rock festival.

Stage at Pol'and'Rock festival.

Photograph by Michal_Kwasniewski

6. Pol’and’Rock, Poland

4-6 August

Known as Poland’s Woodstock Festival, Pol’and’Rock aims to create “a haven for all lovers of freedom”. The Płoty-based event has been running for more than 25 years and typically attracts an audience of almost half a million people, making it the largest free festival in Europe. Pol’and’Rock uses its mammoth platform to promote ideals of love and friendship, thus forging a refuge from some of the more conservative aspects of Polish society. One of the event’s traditions is unfolding a huge Polish flag over the main stage audience to show that everyone has a place underneath it. The festival is also an advocate of LGBT+ rights in Poland and has previously invited queer-friendly artists such as Skunk Anansie, Polish pop star Majka JeżowskaPol, and Polish singers Ralph Kaminski and Krzysztof Zalewski. Another staple of the event is the Academy of the Finest Arts tent, which hosts hundreds of different NGOs, associations and organisations. Greenpeace and Amnesty International are among the organisations that pitch up to educate festivalgoers on their initiatives via workshops, debates, and presentations.

7. Let’s Get Fr.ee, New York

20-21 August

Launching this summer in New York’s diverse Queens borough, the Let’s Get Fr.ee festival will celebrate artists of colour. The festival is the brainchild of Afropunk founder Matthew Morgan, whose aim is “to close the equity gap for Black, Brown, Asian, and other underrepresented people in the entertainment industry, with the aim of achieving a diversified workforce across all levels in the industry by 2030”. To implement this, the festival is vowing to only work with brands and companies who commit to long-term systemic change. Morgan has enlisted acts such as Missy Elliott, Kali Uchis, Jhené Aiko, Ozuna, and Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals for the cause. They will perform in the historic Flushing Meadows Corona Park, home to the US Open tennis championships and a 12-storey globe sculpture from the 1964 World's Fair.

8. Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík 

2-5 November

Held in the world’s northernmost capital at the darkest time of year, Iceland Airwaves provides a festival experience like no other. Staged across a multitude of venues and featuring hundreds of acts — including Arlo Parks, Metronomy and Amyl & the Sniffers this year — it’s been likened to a musical treasure hunt. The event also has a longstanding commitment to gender equality. In 2018, it became the first major music festival to deliver a bill consisting of over 50% female acts. Since then, closing the gender gap has remained a top priority for the organisers. 

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