Tomorrow’s the day when Roskilde Festival finally gets to celebrate its 50th anniversary! But for its founders, Year One still feels like yesterday

The pandemic prevented the event from taking place in 2020 and 2021

The Roskilde Festival, originally known as the Sound Festival, was only supposed to have been a one-time concert in 1971 to promote and bring mainstream music to the province of Roskilde. Now, in 2022, the music festival is finally celebrating its 50th anniversary edition after the pandemic.

Created by two high school students, Jesper Switzer and Mogens Sandfærd, with the help of music promoter Carl Fisher, Roskilde Festival was originally meant to have been held in Borrevejle Vig.

However, Borrevejle Vig decided last minute that they did not want to be a part of hosting the festival and withdrew. As the festival was fast approaching, Jesper and Mogens decided on Dyrskuepladsen.

A hectic start  
Back then a ticket to Roskilde Festival cost 30 kroner, compared to over 2,000 kroner today, and the maximum number of tickets the organisers could hope to sell was 5,000, as this was all the venue had room for. So it was a big shock to the organisers when more than double the amount of people showed up on the first day of the festival.

The unexpected swarm of guests put an immense amount of pressure on the food and toilet amenities at the festival and, according to Mogens, they desperately called all the beer and water vendors they knew. Thankfully, many of these were able to come to the festival and sell refreshments straight out of the backs of their trucks.

To make matters worse, the weather was also not in their favour as they experienced heavy rain on the first Saturday of the festival. The rain was so intense that the festival headliners, Grease Band, refused to go on stage until the rain stopped. This was largely due to the tarpaulin hanging above the musicians that was falling down due to the pressure of the rain.

The aftermath
The Roskilde Festival has always been known for its high litter rates and this has apparently been true since the beginning.

Before the start of the festival 15,000 kroner was paid as a deposit to Roskilde Municipality. After the festival this money was paid towards the clean-up and both Mogens and Jesper did not earn anything for their contribution as there were several other fees that had to be paid.

The Under-25 group
Some 12,000 people showed up to the first festival in 1971 and this number has continued to grow as the years have progressed, as well as the festival’s popularity.

It has attracted people of all kinds of different backgrounds and with different motives for attending. In the beginning it was many students that would go, and this still holds true today, as more than 80 percent of those who attend Roskilde for the first time are under the age of 25. This has also led to the festival selling tickets specifically targeted at the under-25s.

Jesper and Mogens were students themselves, and their busy schedule at the time of the festival almost caused them to miss out on being eligible to graduate. They were both behind in several of their classes, but were luckily able to make this up and graduate on time with the rest of their class.

Today’s Roskilde Festival
The Roskilde Festival has continued to develop over the years and today everything is on a higher level than before.

The 12,000 attendees in 1971 has increased to an average of 135,000 in more recent years, including this year, the 50th anniversary edition.

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