An Interview with Gerke de Groot, Director of DGTL Festival

Known for its huge line ups and crazy art exhibitions, DGTL festival will be returning to Barcelona for its 5th edition on the 23rd and 24th of August 2019 and you can expect this one to be the biggest one so far. That’s right, the festival team have been working very hard preparing this event for what is going to be a 2 day/4 stage spectacle of electronic music held at one of Barcelona’s best raving venues, the Parc del Forum.

If you have been to DGTL before then you will know that the parties that they organise are some of the biggest in the world. But, if you have never attended and are coming this year or thinking about it, then this article is for you because I had the pleasure of talking with the Director of DGTL, Gerke de Groot to bring all you clubbers the low down on what you can expect from this year’s edition in BCN. Let’s jump straight into it!

Nice to meet you Gerke! I am a big fan of DGTL. DGTL is a world-famous electronic music festival concept. Can you tell our readers how DGTL began, where it all took off and also how you personally got involved with growing the DGTL brand?

Gerke: DGTL started as a fusion between two other Dutch festivals: Pleinvrees and Straf_Werk. The combined sounds of Pleinvrees (melodic house) and Straf_werk (a bit darker house and techno) proved to be a successful formula. Personally, I joined DGTL three years ago with a clear focus on growing the festival’s concept with some additional elements next to our musical program: innovation, art, technology and sustainability.

We are now approaching the fifth edition of DGTL in Barcelona. No doubt BCN is an amazing city for such parties and the venue you have chosen Parc del Forum is the best place in the city for it. Can you tell me how you guys have made DGTL different from the rest? What the main areas you’ve focused on this year as organisers? And what you most excited about?

Gerke: Barcelona is definitely one of the best cities in the world to organise DGTL. The location is breathtaking and the audience is extremely enthusiastic and hungry for quality electronic music events. Although every DGTL city has its own characteristics and benefits, what I like about the Barcelona edition is the fact that it’s both a day-time event and a night-time event. During the day you can explore the terrain, test the sustainable projects we have selected, meet new people and start dancing at a tardy pace. When the sun sets, the stages lit up and all the art and decoration projects really come to life.

We are also pretty excited to be offering our very own lodgement solution for visitors coming from abroad: the DGTL Hostel. A brand-new hostel equipped with numerous sustainable measures, vegetarian breakfasts and a parallel programme that we’ll soon reveal.

Regarding the last part of your question, we have one big art installation that I am really looking forward to seeing it placed at Parc del Forum this year, but you will have to wait to see it!

The DGTL brand was born in The Netherlands. Has it kept any specific Dutch characteristic up until today? What would you say is the most Dutch influenced feature of DGTL when it is showcased outside of its home country?

Gerke: The Dutch are very spoilt when it comes to good festivals. They don’t like to wait in line for anything and we pay close attention to this on our editions abroad. Often, I see that entering a festival takes an unnecessary amount of time, together with ordering drinks or going to the toilets. To us, this really spoils the experience and it’s something we like to avoid at all our events. We wouldn’t like our visitors to miss out on their favourite acts!

DGTL is famous for combining music, technology and art as we have seen from previous editions. Do you have anything special planned on this front for DGTL Barcelona 2019?

Gerke: This year we will present a very advanced, technologically-driven art installation, the aspects of which are soon to be revealed. We are also furthering our electronic payment system, which allows visitors to use their debit or credit cards at all bars and food trucks. This creates much shorter cues for getting a drink or something to eat. We’ll also introduce some more innovations, but that is top secret for now 😉

You mentioned earlier about the  DGTL hostel. We have also heard a lot about this new hospitality initiative you are starting. Can you tell our readers a little bit more about this and what makes it a unique place for them to stay during their visit to Barcelona for the festival?

Gerke: Yes sure. For starters, the DGTL hostel is located at the perfect spot. It is only a short 10-minute bike ride to the venue. It is also well-connected through public transport, just four metro stops away. But what makes this hostel really unique is the sheer amount of sustainable features it has: a smart resource & energy plan (which saves up to 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year thanks to its automated AC/heating system, for instance), a pneumatic waste management system, working with proximity products and providers, vegetarian meals… even their toothbrushes are 100% bio and recyclable! Furthermore, we are talking about a fully-renovated building with comfy rooms and ample leisure spaces. It’s the perfect place for our visitors, whether they’re coming with friends (you can book full 4 PAX & 8 PAX rooms) or wanting to meet new ones right before heading to the festival.

I know that DGTL in Barcelona will only cater vegetarian food as this is part of the sustainability vision that the brand DGTL is promoting. Can you tell us a bit about your sustainability vision for DGTL and does this apply to all the events around the world?

Gerke: DGTL aims to be the first environmentally circular festival in the world. This means that we have to look carefully at all aspects of our event to achieve this. That’s why serving meat is not an option for us, the footprint that the meat industry generates is enormous. Also, we’d like to prove to our audience that you can simply skip meat for one or two days, there are plenty of delicious alternatives! Asides from this, we also believe that reducing waste, for example, is not enough – we aim to have no waste at all. Another sustainability measure we are especially proud of has to do with energy optimisation: last year in Barcelona we succeeded in organising our event without using a single generator. It was the first time in Europe that a massive, outdoor festival run on an all-green, grid-only energy supply.

Needless to say, we try to apply as many of these measures as possible in our other editions around the world.

Can you tell us what you are particularly excited about for DGTL Barcelona in August? Are there any artists you are really happy are gonna play? or anything about the festival that you think our readers should check out while they are there this year?

Gerke: Personally, I am a big fan of acts like Mr. G, Mr. Scruff and DJ Harvey. So if I was a regular attendant, I would mostly spend my day at the Frequency stage. Asides from my own personal taste, I can certainly recommend our audience to check Dubfire & Tiga, frankly, I have no idea how that could sound like. I’m eager to find out and I guess I’m not the only one!

My final question is, DGTL has been showcased in many cities around the world including Sao Paulo, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Are any other cities which you wish to expand the concept to?

Gerke: We are always looking for interesting cities to take our festival concept to, but at the moment we don’t have any news on this.

Thank you for your time Gerke, it has been a pleasure. See you on the 23rd and 24th of August at the party!

Clubbers DGTL is just months away and the full stage line up has just been released. Check it out below! 

For tickets to DGTL BCN 2019 click here.

Read more of my articles here.