An internationally recognized music festival may come and go after a few days, but what most attendees don’t see is the amount of work a team puts into the events throughout the months leading up to it. While things may not get easier with time, having years of experience certainly makes a difference.
Panda Events — a company known for a number of widely popular musical affairs in France and North Africa — clocked in 15 years of expertise. It was founded in 2004 and since then, the group has put together festivals from the South of France all the way to Morocco. Cofounders Benoit Geli and Matthieu Corosine recognized a need for entertainment within these regions and the crowds immediately followed.
Now they’re putting together lineups for up to 40,000 people. Nevertheless, a standout moment for Panda Events is their annual Les Dunes festival in Tunisia held exactly where Star Wars was filmed. When it comes down to adventure, this event is one many of the brand’s followers look forward to. Another set of Les Dunes dates played out earlier this month and it was success — especially considering planning was put on hold for several years due to the country’s political unrest.
All in all, it’s hard to imagine what the process was like, given the unstable circumstances. Luckily, there’s no need to wonder as cofounder Corosine took the time to speak with Forbes about the unique festival situation, how his team hopes to continue to grow in the future, and so much more.
Isis Briones: Let’s go back to the beginning, how did Panda Events start?
Matthieu Corosine: “It was actually my business partner and best friend Benoit Geli who founded Panda Events in 2004. Back then, it was a lot of student parties as he was known to throw parties with crazy names in random places that he would turn into venues. He quickly got the hang of it and started to do more and more events until 2006 when he created Les Plages Electroniques at the public beach of Palais des Festivals de Cannes. The concept was simple: 5 euros a ticket, 5 types of electronic music, and 5 times in the summer. From 400 people on the beach, it became 4000, and 8000.
Les Plages Electroniques quickly became one of the most influential festivals in the South of France until now with more than 40,000 people coming out during a summer weekend every year. As we are based in Nice and Cannes, the activity is very seasonal, so we decided to develop projects outside our territory and seized every opportunity that came to us.”
IB: Why Tunisia, what inspired you two to create an experience there?
MC: “It all started in the heart of Nice where we were organizing crazy parties on the Promenade des Anglais at our friends’ Patrick Elouarghi and Philippe Chapelet private beach. They created this eco-lodge near the desert in Tunisia, which they eventually invited us to.
Once we got there, we found out that the very first Star Wars movie sets were just minutes away from the hotel and we were like ‘whoa, how cool would it be to throw a giant party here?’ With his connection, Patrick exposed the idea to the Ministry of Tourism and they supported us ever since. The thing was, we started to work on the project right after the Arab Spring and the revolution of the Tunisian people who kicked out the dictator Ben Ali. We didn’t do it on purpose, but the festival came right before the proclamation of the new constitution of the country so Les Dunes Electroniques became a way for the youth to celebrate the ‘new’ Tunisia. At first, we imagined an event for 1,500 people and we ended up with 8,000 coming from all over the world. Until today, this has been the hardest event we’ve ever produced, while also being the best adventure.”
IB: Can you explain how the production process differed in Tunisa over other festivals?
MC: “What’s special about Les Dunes Electroniques is the desert, which is seven hours away by car from the capital. It’s surrounded by sand dunes with no electricity, no water, nothing. In terms of production, you have to build everything from scratch and think about every single detail because there’s no second chance in the desert. The conditions also require all of us to be creative and smart as resources, supplies, and energy are very limited.”
IB: If you could choose which area you could have your next big festival, where would it be and why?
MC: “There is definitely something going on in Asia. It’s a huge market and the festival industry is still debuting. We were approached to do something over there, but we were too busy with Morocco and Tunisia. Plus, our main events will always be in France. Overall, it depends on the opportunity and network of forces available to create the recipe for an event in an unknown territory.”
IB: Have you already started planning for Les Dunes 2020? What can festival fans expect next?
MC: “Yes, we are already working on it. As Les Dunes had to take a break for three years, we wanted this edition to live up to the high expectations of our crowds in terms of comfort, convenience, and quality. Who knows, we might continue to do the festival for more than 30 hours and build a real camp, so people can actually stay in the desert.”
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