Impressions of volunteers 2008 (by Francesco Piccinini)

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Impressions of volunteers 2008

Place: Yukhnov-Bardino, Kaluzhskaya Oblast (-)
Festival dates: June 11th-15th
My working days: June 4th-18th (Yukhnov-Bardino), June 18th-21st (Moskva)
Report by: Francesco Piccinini, EVS Volunteer

About us (Volunteers)

NGO Passage Zebra from Voronezh provides teams of international volunteers, sent by organizations of different countries.

For example, during the 2008 Edition, Passage Zebras Camp Leader Elena A. Nedozhogina coordinated one long-term/EVS volunteer from Italy and four more short-term volunteers from Russia, Slovakia, Germany and Turkey, which worked for the Festival preparation and development according to the needs of the local organizing committee.

Life in the festival

The Empty Hills festival takes place every year in open, green and almost untouched spaces and this implies that people (participants and volunteers as well) live in camping conditions and thus most urban facilities are not available. Nevertheless, this is not something that should be seen as a problematic issue. In fact, it is the spirit of the festival itself which fits best with this kind of accommodation.

Incoming people must be aware that Empty Hills is not just a musical event, but actually deals with some particular basic values such as living and spending time together with other people, sharing food, goods and ideas, helping each other if needed and expecting everybody to share these same fundamental concepts.

More concretely, participants must bring all the camping equipment and devices which are necessary, such as a tent, a good sleeping bag (in open spaces during the night the temperature can get much colder than during the daytime), tools for woodcutting and cooking with fire. The organization provides several toilets which always can be used for free and catering (for sale), provided through the agreement with private food services. Everybody is suggested to bring food from home; however, since it is part of the festival spirit, it is possible to borrow goods and facilities from other participants and neighbors, always remembering to ask for it kindly and to be ready to do the same yourselves, if requested.

Another fundamental issue is how to relate with administration and festival volunteers. Everyone should always remember that Empty Hills is a free festival and that every year it can take place only thanks to a non-profit cooperation. Many people can spend there much time, efforts and energies for making the event as it is. Thus, all the participants are expected:
  1. To be always nice and positively oriented towards the administrating and organizing staff, which also are young, positive and very open persons;
  2. To give their own contribution when volunteers and staff will be promoting the festival and collecting free offers for the organizing committee;
  3. To be respectful of the environment.
  4. It is also a good practice to leave your remaining food at the administration office, before leaving, since even after the festival is over many people will still have to keep on working for cleaning up and leave the environment as it was before the event.
Usually, the interaction between people working at the festival and incoming participants is very positive, and every year many new friendships and pleasant meetings take place among people in Empty Hills. The intention of the organizing committee is to keep on working for achieving this goal, which up to now has been well satisfied.

2008 Festival facts

During 2008s edition:

1. The Festival took place in the countryside near Yukhnov (Kaluga District, two-three hours by car from Moscow), in the green spaces surrounded by woods across the Ressa river. The four stages of the Festival (and many other facilities) were located occupying both sides of the river, and linked together by a beautiful wooden bridge, also realized through the work of volunteers.

2. It consisted of three stages (called Fire, Earth, and Air) where different artists were exhibiting almost during all the Festival time, plus one free stage (called Water stage), where any participant (not necessarily professional musicians) could perform music according to the Festivals schedule.

3. Some of the most popular Russian bands and artists were exhibiting, together also with international guests coming from the U.S., Tibet, Ukraine and other parts of the world.

4. About 30.000 people participated to the Festival, considering the artists, the organizing committee, local and international volunteers, workers and, of course, free visitors. (*This approximate calculation was made according to some indicators, such as the number of tents, parked cars and gadget sold)

5. The team of permanent volunteers (which have been working in the Festival also during the whole period of preparation) counted about 80 people, mainly from Moscow and Kaluga Districts (but not only), also together with our international team.
Then, we should not forget all the other people which came to the place by themselves without being part of any organized group and anyway gave their daily contribution or helped also as volunteers.

6. Volunteers managed to raise about 18.000 RUR by selling Festival gadgets (wooden mascots, T-shirts, ribbons) and by collecting free offers from visitors.

Personal impressions

Empty Hills is more than a festival. If you get there, especially as a volunteer, you have the possibility to become part of a community.

Working there I feel that place growing day by day, together with my habits to that kind of life and people. To find new smiles, eyes, and words becomes easier everyday, and I always have the possibility to choose to stay among this amazing fellowship, or either to find some privacy in beautiful green landscapes, far away from stress and routine.

This is an invisible city, which wakes up for only few days per year, becoming a colorful agglomerate which never sleeps. *

Every day I dive into the river from the Southern part of the Festival, and let the stream drive me till the Northern part, where my camping is. In this way, I can see the event from its very inner part, and imagine how this river, these woods, this place itself can live the event together with us. *

From the river my eyes could see, look, find

And they find unknown people wondering what I am doing here, people which came here probably straight from Woodstock and the sixties, unbelievable hairstyles, hangovers and the smell of the grilled meat

They find naked swimmers, the flavor of the leaves from my favorite Ukrainian tea house, beautiful children with amazing moms and crowds jumping and waving after Fender solos, but-warning-because-waking-up-like-that-in the-morning-could-maybe-be-dangerous

They meet Lennon-style glasses, Joplin-style haircuts, shepherd dogs, soul shepherds and dogs souls, unleashed dogs with unleashed owners, and little aerostatic balloons which quickly fly over the Festival by night, shaping with their fire light spots of constellations which do not exist.

And finally, they find on the stages the huge decorations of the banners I painted, and for one moment I can feel proud *

*These parts have been translated from their original Italian version, all available on my personal blog,

Francesco Piccinini, Italian EVS Volunteer
Project name: Sound Apprentice (EU Commissions Youth in Action Fund)
Hosting organization: NGO Passage Zebra, Voronezh (Russia)
Sending organization: Soc. Coop. Alce Nero, Mantova (Italy)

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