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Flash Festival's on a mission to take the joy of a camping festival to the Italian countryside

The Tuscany festival has much, much better food than the usual fare, though

  • Words: Sean Griffiths | Photos: Jacopo Bille
  • 6 August 2019

“The police came this morning and they were just confused,” says Flash Festival organiser Benedetta Venturini. “They were asking me things like, ‘Where do the men shave in the morning?’, and ‘Is that where people go to shower?’” While Italy has become a destination in recent years for large-scale techno raves like Kappa Futur Festival and Movement Torino, and avant-garde showcases like Club To Club, the idea of spending three days camped out in a field to watch music isn’t embedded in Italian culture the way it is in Britain. But Flash Festival hopes to change that. Organised by London-based Tuscan native Benedetta and and her Australian partner Karl Schussig, the event is in its second iteration after a first edition in 2017. “Look around you at how beautiful the countryside is!” says Benedetta. “It’s such a perfect place to throw a festival.”

There’s a sense of cultural exchange going on at Flash Festival. Karl and Benedetta are bringing their experience in running festivals (Benedetta has worked at Festival Republic, while Karl has worked as a tour manager for some seriously big bands), and a largely British and Australian crowd, to the Tuscan countryside – but they’re also keen to not isolate or annoy the local population, and make sure the festival crowd leave having experienced a good dose of Tuscan culture. The first night of the festival saw to that: taking place in a theatre in the iconic hilltop town of Castiglion Fiorentino, away from the main festival site, it saw a mix of festival-goers and locals mingle over local food and Aperol Spritz, with live music from singer-songwriter Mary May and Berlin based r’n’b star J Lamotta in an exquisitely preserved old theatre.

But the main thrust of the festival starts on Friday, when Bosconi Soundsystem warms up the dancefloor after the crowd returns en masse from an afternoon of wine tasting. The trio from Florence are behind one of Italy’s best house labels, and in an increasingly rare appearance together, pull out plenty of classics to make sure the tentative crowd get fully involved. Everything from ‘Blue Monday’ to the Star Wars Cantina Band to the Dimitri From Paris remix of ‘Everybody Dance’ gets dispatched in what becomes something of a big tunes Top Trumps that tees up the crowd perfectly for the night ahead.

Flash festival might be pretty small-scale in general, with a crowd of around 300–400 people, one stage, a bar and a couple of excellent local food stalls dishing out local specialities like hare ragu and truffle pasta, but the one thing organisers have gone big on is the soundsystem. For something so small-scale it pulls no punches, and once the sun goes down, the lasers kick in, and you’re stood smack-bang in the middle of the dancefloor, the party feels much bigger. This suits the rest of Friday’s line-up perfectly: Dukwa heading into some heavy tempo house and acid excursions, Dan Shake flitting between italo and acid before dropping rave anthem ‘Meet Her At The Love Parade’.

After a pretty idyllic Friday afternoon and night, an unseasonable downpour puts things in a different cast for the Saturday. Hangovers and soggy trainers put a bit of a downer on proceedings, but it doesn’t take long for Lawrence Guy to lift spirits with a perfectly placed ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ edit and CC:Disco to bring two hours of pure joy with a set of euphoric house and italo. It feels like everyone on site knows each other by this point, so there’s plenty of rave camaraderie and ad-hoc, tent-based carry-ons in the face of the weather.

“We want this to grow, but not too big,” says Benedetta towards the end of the weekend. “Something like three thousand maximum, to keep that intimate family vibe.” With one of the most unspoilt and awe-inspiring festival settings we’ve been to in a long while, a quality atmosphere and thoughtful programming, there’s no reason it can’t.

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