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May 23, 2014 7:11 pm
To most millionaires, a rock festival arriving on the doorstep of their Umbrian holiday villa would be the stuff of summer nightmares. Not so, though, for Yashwant Bajaj, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers and founder of Singapore-based hedge fund Juggernaut Capital Management. He is the festival organiser.
Bajaj, 51, is taking a sabbatical while overseeing preparations for the event at Massa Martana, an ancient walled town in the Martani hills. The August festival will take place on open farmland behind the eighth-century Santa Maria Church, close to Bajaj’s luxury villa. Among the acts confirmed are Paul Weller, Kaiser Chiefs and indie band James. Bajaj hopes to sell 10,000 tickets for the inaugural event, costing up to €300 for a three-day pass.
There is, of course, nothing new about music festivals taking place in the grounds of grand country houses, whose owners are often motivated by the need to pay for the upkeep of their property. It’s an arrangement that can lead to unlikely pairings: Robin Neilson, for example, whose family has owned Derbyshire’s Catton Hall since 1405, now hosts an annual heavy metal festival called Bloodstock.
But Bajaj, who was born in India but grew up in Britain, appears to be driven by other motives. “We want to recreate the Bohemian atmosphere of Italy and Britain in the 1960s,” he says. “That was a time both countries were at the centre of the universe, in regard to culture and art. I want the festival to breathe new life into that, uniting Italian natives, tourists and expats.”
The financier says his own musical tastes were influenced by Britain’s punk and new romantic scene of the 1970s and 1980s. He had the idea of running a music event after visiting festivals at Reading, Knebworth and Glastonbury.
Nevertheless, festivalgoers used to Reading’s beer tents and mud baths might find the surroundings of Umbria Rock something of a surprise. Wines from local producers will be on offer, and food will be supplied by leading local restaurants. As well as music, there will be art and cultural events, and Bajaj plans to indulge his passion for postwar Italian cinema.
Such “destination festivals” are growing in popularity in Europe. They range from events such as Electric Elephant and the Garden Festival, which take place on Croatia’s sun-drenched coast and offer boat parties, beaches and open-air nightclubs, to the tiny Traena festival on a remote Norwegian island, which has a stage in a sea cave.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” says Bajaj, “and my three young daughters now think I’m the coolest dad too.”
Umbria Rock Festival runs from August 1-3; umbriarock.it
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