Once one of Europe’s best kept secrets, Serbia’s Lovefest is now renowned as one fo the continent’s best house and techno festivals. Set in Serbia (itself a beautiful but somewhat overlooked holiday destination), this year’s event should be a very special one indeed, and features a bunch of artists from both sides of the superstar divide. From Michael Bibi to Jamie Jones to Patrice Scott and Tama Sumo, it’s an eclectic line-up that’s in keeping with its penchant for the unexpected. All in all, it should make for a magnificent week of partying, and with the festival even giving away 500 tickets to international visitors to encourage tourism, we’re expecting something very special indeed. We checked in recently with Zlatana Pavlović, the festival CEO, recently, to find out what we can expect over the coming week…

How are you, how has the last year been?

I am great, thank you for asking. Finally, I feel alive and on my own well-known turf again as the festival is happening in just a few days. Last year was, to say the least, challenging. We had to overcome many obstacles to come to where we are today. For several months we were just negotiating with the government to bring the event industry back to life, educating people that we can and must organize Covid-safe events. As a result, we made a special protocol by which every major event in Serbia can be organized safely these days. So, last year was hard but also very rewarding since the whole Serbian event industry gathered around the same goal, and we are on our way to succeed.

How did you get to where you are today, what was your root to the top?

This industry is very complex and changing, so I won’t say that there even is such a thing as ‘a route to the top’. My journey to where I am today was very organic. I was lucky to meet the right people at the right time and I started out as a PR for the festival. After a very short time I got interested in every phase and aspect of festival-making and I started to learn lots of different things at the same time. Fast-forward ten years and I am surrounded with brilliant young people eager to learn and bring new energy to Lovefest. So, if this is how the top feels it is very rewarding and the people and specific love to this kind of industry brings that.

How was your journey to get to where you are in Serbia then – what adversity and challenges did you face?

To be in an industry like this in Serbia is a great challenge in itself. Today, Lovefest is an internationally-known festival because of the great enthusiasm and thousands of hours the two founders put into it from day one, when they made a decision to make Lovefest come to life. We still have lots of challenges on a daily basis – from budget cuts to feeling obliged to educate – so we’re always learning.

How hard has this year’s event been to arrange given the pandemic? Was there ever a chance where you thought it might not happen? 

The hardest part was to convince the government, which I have to say had a lot of consideration for our industry, and to educate people that in a state of pandemic there is a secure way to organize safe events. From the first day we created a special pandemic protocol and we strongly believed the festivals in Serbia are going to happen. In the end, our wish has come true!

What measures have you had to put in place, and why do you feel this year is right to bring the event back?

If you want to visit Lovefest this year, you will have to be either vaccinated or with a negative PCR or fast antigen test, so these are concrete measures we have at the venue. We need to continue to live, and I think one big question that will be brought up in the Covid aftermath is the mental health of people.

You decided to give away a bunch of festival tickets to international visitors – what was your thinking there? 

We wanted to give a special opportunity to people from other countries with more strict current measures to come and enjoy Lovefest from 5th till 7th of August in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia and come back to life together with us. We all need that.

How important is the local scene and developing it and local DJs to you? Do you try and do that with the line up and bookings?

The local scene is very important to us, and I want to underline that. The local scene is the ground of everything we built up from the very beginning. We strive for Lovefest to be a platform that makes and discovers new local DJs and names and this year almost half of the line-up is made out of local and lesser known but equally talented young performers from Serbia.

There is a real split on the line up between underground names and big name superstars – why is that your approach? Do you have a personal preference? 

Yes, you noticed this very well. We are very lucky to have our booking manager who has been building and grooming the line up for almost ten years now. In the past decade he always felt it made perfect sense to strike a balance between big names, popular underground DJs and DJs that are yet to be discovered on the world scene. I think his tactic hasn’t changed and being a DJ himself he has a great gift for creating a  perfect line-up that consists of music for everyone.

What are you most excited about at this year’s event and why?

I am most excited about the work and seeing all those people we are building the festival together with for years. I am getting goosebumps just thinking about the fact that in just a few days from now Lovefest will come back to life.

Lovefest Serbia takes place from 5th – 8th August. For more information and tickets, see: https://www.festicket.com/fr/festivals/lovefest/