Ever since its inauguration in 1971, the Roskilde Festival has always been based around a simple ethos — community. For one week each year, an empty field outside the town of Roskilde is turned into Denmark’s fifth biggest city, where the rules and etiquettes of uptight normal society break down and are replaced by a free- spirited, booze-driven-friendship way of living. At the heart of this community are its nuclear families – the camps.
People band together to form these mini towns within the larger festival city, where resources are shared and parties held. The festival has always recognised the importance of the camps to the festival experience, and annually award one for being the year’s Best. While most camps are just a huddle of tents, there have always been some that have put in more ambition and effort.
For the past three years, the Dream City project has removed almost all of the previous limitations to the types and designs of structures permitted – imagination is only limitation.
We picked five of the more ambitious camps and asked why anyone would spend months – and a lot of money – making structures that will only stand for a week.
The Bastards of Winterfell
Robert Baratheon (above) sits on the Iron Throne beneath an impressive tower. He reads in muddled English from a scroll that contains the first book of the never-ending series A Song of Ice and Fire. His subjects are gathered in a semi circle around him. Jon Snow is bored, and stalks off in his black, fur-collared cape.
“A few of us started talking at Roskilde last year about the fact we had always just had a normal camp, never anything special,” says Mikael, aka Jon Snow, who has been to Roskilde Festival every year since 2007.
“But we wanted to do something more because many of us have been to Roskilde nine or ten times and it was getting pretty repetitive. The idea for having a Game of Thrones camp started out as a joke, but as the festival went on and the more we talked about it, the cooler it sounded.”
The camp’s centerpiece is a tower and an impressively constructed Iron Throne. But the camps in Dream City are not just defined by their structures, but also by their events and functions.
“Yesterday we had a big party we called the Orange Wedding and about twenty minutes after it started more than 500 people had shown up. Seeing all these people going crazy made all the hard work we have put into the camp worth it.”
The Post Office
As Kevin Costner taught us in his seminal film The Postman, no society can function without a working post office. Dream City too has its very own Post Office outfitted with cargo bikes for delivering mail, an overtly complicated bureaucracy and a number of postal workers.
“We built a post office because we think it is nice to do something for other people, like delivering post to other camps and seeing how they respond to the real world in a weird kind of way,” explains Rasmus, the Post Master General Rasmus, in a hoarse voice that indicates he has had a difficult week at the office. He is a Roskilde veteran of sixteen years and is dressed in a full postal-worker outfit.
“We send a lot of mail out to the real world. You can send a letter to your mom or whatever. But we also made this form that you can fill out to send post inside the festival. It is really fun because we made it as difficult as possible, just to make fun of people. The form is two full sides and the terms and conditions are written in Latin, just fuck with people. We also wanted to make fun of the bureaucracy that we have in the real world.”
He explains that they have also sent gifts between camps that include things like cucumbers. But one of their main businesses seems to be love letters.
“We have sent a lot of love letters to boys, girls and animals. There are a lot of animals at Roskilde, so we have to, for instance, deliver letters to all the giraffes that are around.”
Jam Camp: The Live Bands
Most of the camps in Dream City are outfitted with a complete sound system, but the young members of Jam Camp went one step further and incorporated live music.
“We all have a musical background, and we when to concerts our fingers start tingling we just want to play,” explains Mads, one of the founders of Jam Camp. “So that is what we wanted to bring to Roskilde and that is what it is all about—jamming.”
None of the music is rehearsed and everything, from the guitars to the singing, is made up as they go. The stage is very impressive, and it becomes even more so when considering that the oldest member of jam camp is merely twenty years old and the youngest just sixteen. In fact, this is Mads’ first Roskilde Festival and it is fair to say that he decided to go all in from the start.
“We are about six or seven people who really contributed and it took us two months to build everything. We thought that the stage would be the most difficult part, but was the speakers that were the most complicated. We were done with them only last Saturday, so it was really close. But the reception from people has just been so amazing and there are so many cool people and I really want to thank Dream city for this incredible opportunity.”
The experience: Burt Reynolds
While slightly less impressive than some of the other structures in Dream City, what Camp Burt Reynolds lacks in architectural finesse, they make up for in grit, communal spirit and experience.
“The concept is all about having a great community and having a blast,” explains Kevin, a bearded member of the camp with a raspy voice from partying.
“As you can see on the t-shirt we won best camp in 2012 and were invited onto Orange Stage to accept the prize. Now it is just all about having fun and helping the newer camps, like Jam Camp. We want to give them a boost and teach them how to do things, because by now we are a bunch of old motherfuckers.”
The wealth of experience they have accumulated started back in 2006 when a couple of drunk friends were sitting around at Roskilde.
“There was this god damn amazing icon called Burt Reynolds and these guys started spraying his name on some silly, ugly yellow t-shirts and the camp started from there. It was never decided, it just came out of the blue. But a big part of it has always been about doing something for the community.”
Many of the people at Dream City refer to this sppeial community. The way Kevin sees it, this place helps Danes stop being Danish, if only for one week.
“People definitely stop being as reserved as they usually are,” he says and laughs. “There is so much love and so much openness.”
Each Dream City camp has its unique look and feel to it, but the Terrace sticks out because of its high tech design and an impressive utilities system.
“In previous years, our camp had loud music and bright lights. But now as we get older we decided to make a nicer camp for fewer people,” explains Christopher (above) one of the founders of The Terrace, who has been to the festival fourteen times, since he was just fourteen.
The camp has a functioning windmill for electricity production and a pipe system that pumps clean drinking water (below). It might sound impressive, but he assures me it was all rather simple.
“It took us about three or four days because we had computer animated everything. Then we sent 3D drawings to the lumber provider to get standardised sizes. My best friend is an electronic engineer and I’m a furniture designer, so I’m used to building using wood and instructing people how to build from drawings. So this was easy peasy.”
Ever since his first festival, Christopher has been slowly upping the ante, going from a tiny tent to a bigger one and then finally moving onto the Terrace structure. But despite getting older and the festival experience getting more luxurious, the appeal remains the same.
“I have started buying suits and going to business meetings, it’s hilarious. I used to smoke a lot of weed and do all sorts of shit, but now I have to be straight. But one week in the year I go to Roskilde and not just get fucked, but properly fucked. I can run around in a monkey suit at three in the morning – just be whoever I want to be.” M