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Orlando Calling: A Q&A with Melvin Benn

Festival Republic's managing director talks about his company's first foray into the states

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Orlando Calling is a production of Festival Republic, the organizers behind overseas festivals in Leeds, Reading, Berlin and elsewhere. We spoke with Festival Republic’s managing director Melvin Benn about the company’s first foray into the states.

Orlando Weekly : Why Orlando?

Melvin Benn: Well, I’d wanted to produce an American festival for some time. I’ve been looking in lots of different places, and really [Mayor Buddy Dyer] was very enthusiastic to try and encourage a festival into Orlando, or more music into the Citrus Bowl, in particular. It became about his enthusiasm.

What did he do to win you over?

Essentially, the reason Orlando became a better option was because it allowed us to do the festival in the fall. To do it in New York would’ve been more difficult.

What kind of incentives did the city put on the table?

There were no massive tax breaks or anything like that. It was really the good weather.

What went into the decision-making process regarding the lineup?

That was very much just myself and my team. I wanted to have a day that would be supported by the college kids and one day more aimed at the other people.

Why the concession to the ‘other people’ when Festival Republic’s other events don’t exactly keep that in mind?

It’s a demographic consideration in general. There’s no science to it. I wanted a festival that I felt would be of interest to people representative of Central Florida, and I felt the Sunday lineup would provide that. The other festivals are camping festivals. This is not a camping festival, which is why it’s not progressively more alternative.

Is there a long-term plan for Orlando Calling? Is it set in stone to be a yearly event?

No, it’s not in stone, but there’s a general desire. If the area is willing to support, then I’m willing to continue it. I have every expectation that it will continue.

I noticed there isn’t a whole lot of hip-hop represented. How come?

I mean, you start to build a festival; it starts to take a particular shape. There’s no particular agenda; it’s about what artists are available at a particular time.

What’s the big logistical issue that’s keeping you up at night right now?

None at all. We have a terrific relationship with local police and the city, and everything seems to be coming together really well. I’ve had no hiccups at all.

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