Aarhus Volume Turns up the Party
The small start-up that in just a few short years has evolved from pirate parties via small-time street festivals to having more than 20.000 guests at their street party last year has high ambitions for the street festival in the years to come. We have talked to the instigator and driving force behind Aarhus Volume’s urban festival, Albert Helmig.
By Mikkel Wenzel Andreasen
“We’ll talk in the glass cage”. The small meeting room at the SPOT secretariat office. Informally and quickly, because Albert Helmig isn’t much for sitting on his thumbs for extended periods of time. Aarhus Volume is just a few months away of putting on their own urban street festival for the third year in a row, but as something new, they are going to take admission fees for the event. That sets a whole other bar for the festival, and it has to be perfect – this could be make or break for Aarhus Volume, whose ambition for their event is for it to continue for ten more years or even more.
“When we did this for the first time, it was more of an experiment, whether we could even pull it off; now it’s about us having struck a chord with the guests and the people of Aarhus, and that is why we are introducing an entry fee this year: To make it a sustainable business model and be able to actually pay the artists something and keep innovating this festival for the next 10 years and hopefully even longer,” says Albert Helmig.
Albert Helmig in his right element at the center of the event. Photo: Johan Adrian Buus
“Down to its roots we create musical and cultural events, but with our larger, outdoors events we try to add more genres such as street sport, food, and art. Because we want to contain all these different projects inside our organization, we decided to go with the street festival concept. What that actually is and should be is so loosely defined that we can do pretty much what we want with it. If someone wanted to organize a chess tournament, that’s what we’d do,” explains Albert Helmig.
Prior to Aarhus Volume staging their own festival in June, the start-up festival makers are warming up by being in charge of their own area during SPOT. An area where the party is to be dominated by the urbane music. A genre Albert Helmig defines as electro-r’n’b-hip hop, but the absolute focus is going to be on the bountiful and upcoming hip hop scene. A genre he believes is too often overlooked.
“We’ve evolved and become a far more integral part of SPOT this year, and that is why we’ve been able to move our part of the festival ground even closer to Scandinavian Center. In addition to that, this year we’ve added a long list of partners and collaborators to our project, so on Friday we’re going to put on a grand presentation of urban music, primarily purebred hip hop. It is going to be an asphalt party in front of Scandinavian Center,” Albert Helmig explains, as his face lights up with anticipation. Clearly, the crew from Aarhus Volume have grand plans for the festival this year.
A small community with a big heart for collaboration
In Albert Helmig’s own words, Aarhus Volume is a non-profit cultural organization, but it didn’t start with such a lofty label. Five or six years ago, it all began with just a group of friends and entrepreneurs getting together at Frontløberne (a platform for cultural start-ups in Aarhus), with a common goal of creating cool pirate parties.
As the years passed by, more and more people have joined up – everyone with a common goal of creating some life in an urban setting. Today Aarhus Volume consists of some 20-25 people who together cover a broad segment of Danish cultural life.
But even though it’s a loosely knitted community of entrepreneurs with a wide range of projects, it still demands a level of commitment from those who are a part of it:
“Some people sit a home playing PlayStation with their friends – our friends just organize Aarhus’ biggest street party. And we’re always on the lookout for more friends to join us. The only thing that matters is, that you want to do something, otherwise you might be a wrong fit for us – you have to want it!”
Aarhus Volume equals street party and quality craftmanship
Aarhus Volume is far more than just a one-day area during SPOT, though. It’s a sprouting organization that in just a few short years has grown into working on things such as their own festival, SPOT, but also “Kærligheden”, a large area at SmukFest, the second largest festival in Denmark, held in Skanderborg. An area primarily comprised of many individual promoters, builders, and creators. Aarhus Volume takes on the daunting task of guiding all these people into making a cohesive project that covers the festival grounds.
Building has been one of the cornerstones of Aarhus Volume ever since its beginning. Even though it always has to end up a great party, the way leading there has to be their own, too.
“We’ve always been about building things. It’s in our DNA to build what we need for our own events: Stages, decorations, booths. We don’t use big, pre-bought mobile stages or tents. Everything we do, everything we display is something our people have put together over the course of several months before,” says Albert Helmig.
The future of Aarhus Volume is looking very interesting right now, and hopefully it’s going to branch out and be even more about culture incubating alongside the parties and stage building.
The buildings where it all began around Godsbanen in Aarhus are slated for recommissioning, as the new school of architecture is going to be built there. But instead of seeing that as a defeat, with the entire start-up community having to vacate the premises, Albert Helmig and his crew are seeing this as an opportunity and a possible stroke of luck.
“As part of Aarhus Volume we feel a little like ambassadors of the urban music here in Aarhus, so right now we’re going all-in on applying for grants towards gathering all the small studios, the musicians and the cultural entrepreneurs that had to leave and set them up in a new community beneath the Ringgade Bridge (“Ringgadebroen”). We’re calling it Volume Village, and it’s supposed to be a creative and urban incubator with music studios, offices, workshops and a big production area where we can build stages and host concerts,” says Albert Helmig.
The level of ambition is sky high, and we’re all out of time to talk further. Albert Helmig has to leave, because there’s a street festival to organize, and there’s a village to build.