The first to bring boats, beats and beachside stomps on the Croatian coast to a UK audience, The Garden — now at Tisno — prompted a swathe of followers when it emerged seven years ago. We caught up with co-founder Eddie O'Callaghan to talk about life at what's now the world's most popular alternative party spot.
“We always realized that although we may have been the first to recognize the potential of the glorious Croatian coast as a venue for gathering music lovers from the UK and beyond, we certainly were not going to be the last,” Eddie O'Callaghan muses when asked about the recent influx of UK-led dance projects onto a playing field he effectively helped discover.
“Of course, there are a number of other events that have sprung up in recent years, which is natural; our only concern is that the standard and quality is maintained, and the reputation of the burgeoning Croatian underground dance music scene remains intact. We have all lived in Croatia for many years, so have seen everything change first hand.”
Indeed, both expat residents for over a decade, Eddie and co-creator Nick Colgan's involvement with the indigenous workings of their baby's motherland sets The Garden (both festival and location) apart from other events tapping the Adriatic coast for dance festival trinkets.
After attracting 300 non-Croatians to a spot opened as an extension of their Zadar bar of the same name in 2006, The Garden location — tucked under some pine trees at the end of a charming horseshoe bay at quaint fishing village Petrcane — welcomed four other events to the site during its first few years, “each with their own individual musical identity”, says Eddie.
Electric Elephant, Stop Making Sense, Suncebeat and Soundwave, while not a million miles apart from their founding forefather, all tweak the formula, catering especially for the followers they've accumulated over the years, moving with The Garden to its new, larger (3500+ capacity) site in Tisno last summer. Still, it's The Garden — the location's first of the season — that people identify as the most explosive. So what's its secret?
“The intimacy and the family feeling that has been nurtured over seasons is what we feel makes Garden Festival so special,” Eddie explains. “We have really built our crowd, largely from word-of-mouth, which has helped to ensure everyone is 100% into the music, and having the best time imaginable with old friends and new.”
With Hideout, Unknown and a host of others springing up this season to attract a younger, fresher-faced crowd to the beautifully rustic coast of Croatia, The Garden might be where it all started, but it's certainly not getting left behind — it's only getting stronger.