Colours of Ostrava is an award-winning festival featuring luminaries and rising artists from the realms of indie, jazz, R&B, and experimental music. Further, Colours incorporates other creative disciplines such as film and poetry, providing both the thrill of massive crowds and more intimate experiences alike. Essential to the ambiance is Colours’ setting — since 2012, the post-industrial environs of Ostrava’s Lower Vítkovice.
Upon arrival, attendees relish the festival grounds. Lower Vítkovice was once the site of old blast furnaces, mines, and ironworks. Its history has earned the area an unofficial title: Steel Heart of the Republic. Admirers liken it to a Hollywood sci-fi setting, with labyrinthine iron towers and pipes. And yet, it’s also plain gorgeous, with vast meadows affording wanderers a chance to commune with nature in the summer. It’s been formally recognized, and even deemed a European Heritage Protected Site.
The surrounding area is in the midst of an ongoing cultural resurgence in general. The region also hosts festivals devoted to classical music and Shakespeare, while nearby metropolitan Ostrava feels old-world but updated, charming and waiting to divulge its secrets. The Colours of Ostrava festival, however, is the city’s gem. Since launching in 2002, the festival’s reputation and offerings have swelled along with its cache of awards, which includes the Czech Angel Award for best music event of the year.
There are over a dozen stages. The largest accommodates about 15,000 people. Otherwise, expect dance tents, Brutalist structures, and renovated industrial sites. Each location reflects the nature of the programming: vast outdoor settings for barnburner pop balladeers, dark interiors for film, and cozy spaces for poetry readings. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Colours is that very diversity, the fact that artists from various disciplines gather together in wondrous spaces, affording attendees the opportunity to hear their favorite film-maker in a panel discussion, for instance, before decamping towards the alien sounds of an indie chanteuse.
Indeed, earlier years involve busking stages, kids’ stages, workshop stages — intended for crowd participation with, say, tightrope walkers and jugglers — and even “discussion stages.” The schedule on the latter might resemble more of a TED Talk program, with prominent thinkers addressing topics such as the state of media, architecture, artists’ rights in the digital age, and other such urgent, contemporary matters. Which isn’t to say that attendees can’t flock towards escapist EDM heavyweights as well, only that the options for intellectual and aesthetic engagement are legion.
Colours of Ostrava began in 2002, at first attracting around 8,000 visitors. And yet even early headliners were jaw-dropping, including titans such as George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Robert Plant, Marianne Faithful, Sinead O’Connor, Dandy Warhols, Hawkwind, and David Byrne.
Since the early days, it’s swelled to one of the most celebrated and widely attended music festivals in the Czech Republic, attracting about 30,000 individuals per day. The lineups are consistently well-curated, with scores of worthy aspirant artists and impressive headliners alike.