Known as the ‘City of Smiles’, Bacolod’s world-famous fun-filled MassKara festival, now on its 38th year, is a popular celebration that traces its roots back to 1980 when it was introduced as a way to boost morale after poor sugarcane sales and a tragedy that took the lives of 1,000 people. Since then, this vibrant and brightly-coloured festival has become a much revered annual happening. Named from a combination of the English word “mass” and the Spanish word “kara” meaning face, MassKara is recognised by the ornate smiling masks worn by thousands of revellers performing in the streets. Spectators are also treated to food festivals, live music, street dance competitions and a parade of illuminated floats and giant puppets. Sports events, pageants and street parties also feature during the main few days of MassKara, but what makes this festival particularly standout is the genuine warmth and friendliness of the welcoming locals.
Attended by HRH Princess Anne and the Duke of Fife, these old military exercises remain the same as they have for hundreds of years yet have grown into a worldwide exhibition, where everything from traditional tug-of-wars and caber-tossing to dance competitions and solo bagpipes performances are used to determine the skill, prowess and endurance of those competing. Often divided into categories of heavyweight competition, dance and music, the burly strongman esque events have evolved into something of a Scottish rite of passage. The caber toss is considered by many to be Scotland’s signature event and sees logs more than a dozen feet long carried by hulking men and women. Other more inventive ways of pitting man against man include the Maide Leisg, when two men sit on the ground with the soles of their feet pressed against each other and, holding a stick between their hands, pull back and forth until one of them raises off the ground.
1 September 2018
The Netherlands’ capital is known for its artistic heritage, colourful culture and outrageous parties, all of which are brought to life every September at Valtifest, the wild child of Amsterdam’s summer festival programme, staged in the NDSM Wharf. A former shipyard located on the banks of the River IJ in the north of Amsterdam, in recent years the NDSM Wharf has blossomed into an enormous cultural hotspot, atmospheric arts and festival location. Boasting a heavyweight line-up of DJs playing dance, electro and thumping house as well as dubstep, hip-hop and punk, Valtifest caters to all tastes, and besides the main DJs you’ll find sideshows and performance artists allowing you to take time out from the dancing and check out the general bizarreness. The music at Valtifest is as eclectic as the dress code, and whilst the organisers specify that festival goers should wear “Grotesque Carnavalesque” costume, anything really goes on the day!
1 September 2018
Every September the 500 townsfolk of In-Gall, in the Agadez region of northeast Niger, grows to upwards of 50,000 as nomads and their herds make the pilgrimage to the tiny West African town to celebrate the annual gathering that serves as a harvest festival, a marketplace, a gathering of the tribes, and, most importantly, a spectacular male beauty parade. Here the roles are reversed, and it is the men who paint their faces, don ceremonial costumes and sing and dance to impress the female judges, in an effort to be named the most attractive man of their clan. The talent portion of the show, known as Yaake, is akin to line dancing, with men standing shoulder-to-shoulder, swaying, singing and chanting in a hypnotic fashion, fuelled by a stimulating tea made of fermented bark, rumoured to have a hallucinogenic effect, enabling them to dance wildly, often non-stop, for hours on end.
Drink beer by the litre, feast on traditional Bavarian foods (including 15-inch pretzels!), be entertained by live brass bands and carouse away the days and nights with thousands of other revellers from all over the globe at the world’s largest Volksfest, held annually in Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest is a 16-day folk festival running from mid-September through to the first weekend of October, held in the Theresienwiese area (often called the Wiesn for short) located close to Munich’s city centre. The Schottenhamel tent is the place to be if you want to catch the official opening ceremony on 22nd September, since it is here, at 12 noon, that the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Now in its 185th year, this year’s festival which will cover almost 35 hectares and a variety of new rides will be introduced, including “Chaos Pendel” which combines a swing and slingshot firing two cabins each containing 8 passengers in all possible directions!
This distinctly African gathering was founded in 2004 by Will Jameson who first visited Malawi as a student in a gap year, working with The Wildlife Society. Upon returning to college in the UK, Jameson started a clubnight called Chibuku Shake Shake (the name of a Malawian beer) which Mixmag named the UK’s best clubnight in 2004. Later the same year, Jameson staged his first festival on the shores of Lake Malawi. In 2014 Lake Of Stars was named one of the top seven African music festivals by CNN. Past headliners have included Andy Cato of Groove Armada, Beverley Knight and celebrated Cape Town DJ duo Goldfish. This year’s three-day event is sure to attract thousands courtesy of multi award-winning headline group Sauti Sol, which has garnered much critical acclaim across the continent, and the festival’s new location in Leopards Bay, Lifuwa Salima, located at the foot of Senga Hills to a backdrop of lush, wooded hillside.
This much-lauded art fair takes over a large part of London’s Regent’s Park every year and features more than 160 of the world’s leading galleries at Frieze London plus 130 at Frieze Masters. These two fairs, alongside Frieze Sculpture, provide an exceptional cultural attraction at the heart of the British capital and catalyse one of the most significant weeks in London’s cultural calendar. Frieze also showcases short films, runs workshops, hosts seminars and shows performance-based installation artworks. Opening for the first time with a two-day preview on 3rd and 4th October, the 16th edition of Frieze London will see the introduction of a new themed section, Social Work, featuring works by artists who challenged the male-dominated art market of the 1980s, selected by a panel of leading female art historians and critics from UK institutions, including Iwona Blazwick, Katrina Brown, Louisa Buck, Amira Gad, Jennifer Higgie, Melanie Keen, Polly Staple, Sally Tallant and Fatos Üstek.
While the origins of this festival are a little fuzzy, the most agreed-upon version of events, is that a wandering Chinese opera company fell ill en mass with Malaria while performing in Phuket. In an attempt to beat the disease, the group adopted a strict vegetarian diet and prayed intensely to the nine emperor gods for purification of their bodies and minds to be cured. Surprisingly, the group made a miraculous and complete recovery, and they celebrated by originating a festival to honour the gods. Thus, Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival was born. Attended by thousands, the festival features a number of rituals, including participants performing ritualised mutilation upon themselves and one another, without anaesthetic but while under a trance-like state, including piercing their mouths, cheeks, ears and arms with fish-hooks, knives, razor blades and bamboo poles in dramatic fashion. Countless offerings of food and drink are also made to the gods in temples throughout the city.
Since the first Festival of Music and the Arts took place in October 1951, Wexford Festival Opera has grown into one of the world’s leading opera festivals. For 67 years the festival has breathed new life into forgotten or neglected operatic masterpieces, establishing a reputation for high-quality productions that every year bring thousands of opera lovers flocking from all over the world to the beautiful harbour town of Wexford, in the southeastern corner of the island. All operas are performed at The National Opera House, Ireland’s first custom-built opera house. This year’s festival includes the European premiere of Dinner at Eight, which will be attended by its composer William Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell who will give a talk about their journey in creating this opera, which was originally commissioned by Minnesota Opera. The festival will also feature a special double bill of Franco Leoni’s L’oracolo and Umberto Giordano’s Mala vita on five dates.
31 October – 2 November 2018
At the beginning of every November in the city of Oaxaca (approximately 280 miles southeast of Mexico City), 3,000-year old Día de los Muertos which can be traced back to pre-Colombian times, is celebrated for three days. During these 72-hours, the dead are honoured and their souls welcomed home as a blessing. Throughout this annual festival, images abound of the iconic, animated skeletons called calaveras, which was invented by 19th century printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada and popularised by artist Diego Rivera. October 31st is preparation day, when the women clean the house and get food ready while the guys build clay altars. November 1st is dedicated to children and infants – Día de los Angelitios (Day of the Little Angels). The main event on 2nd November – Día de los Muertos – is usually an adult affair, with bigger and more elaborate costumes, more complex rituals, spicier foods and plenty of tequila.
In the Ajmer region of the northeastern Indian state of Rajasthan, the somewhat sleepy lakeside town of Pushkar, which borders the Thar Desert, springs to life every year for a unique and incredibly colourful pageant. Pushkar’s camel fair coincides with the religious festival of Kartik Purnima, which sees thousands of devotees bathe in Pushkar Lake on the pageant’s last day. Close to 50,000 camels are trimmed, coiffured and decorated in order to be entered into beauty contests and raced. Adorned with silver bells and bangles around their hoofs, and embellished with all manner of vibrant adornments, they are paraded past the golden sand dunes to an excited crowd and intense scrutinisation and judging. Aside from the thousands of camels also traded during the course of the fair, other livestock are haggled over, bought and sold, as well as local textiles, arts and crafts, saddles, jewellery and a variety of camel finery and embellishments.
Celebrating its tenth birthday this year, Strawberry Fields is held in a beautiful Murray River site in Tocumwal, a New South Wales town in Yorta Yorta Country on the Victorian border. Over three days, Strawberry Fields celebrates the finest electronica of the present day, complete with art installations, market stalls and workshops, whilst respecting the ancestors and elders of the people of Tocumwal and Berrigan Shire where the festival is held. Patrons are invited to rock-up on the Thursday to secure the best camping sites and celebrate the start of the festival at a live reggae party that night, before embarking on days of adventures which might include discovering an oriental tea lounge or swinging to a jazz quintet improvising on the beach. Topping the line-up for the Ten Year Anniversary Edition is original superstar DJ Sasha, who has been omnipresent in global dance music scene for three decades and remains as popular as ever.
Laos’ grand stupa, Pha That Luang (pictured), was built over an ancient stupa in the 16th century by King Setthathirath when he moved the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. It has since become the national symbol of Laos and is profoundly revered by all its countryfolk. Once a year for three days, That Luang stupa is the focus of a three-day religious festival celebrated at full moon in November, beginning with a pre-dawn gathering of thousands of pilgrims from Laos and Thailand who listen to prayers and sermons chanted by hundreds of monks all representing Lao wats. There follows a grand procession to pay homage to Lady Si Meuang, who was crushed to death as the city’s foundation pillar was about to be planted and has since become the protector of Vientiane and its inhabitants. The procession ends with a giant firework display which symbolises an offering of flowers of light to Lord Buddha.
Now in its 47th year, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta brings together pilots, crews and hot air and gas ballooning enthusiasts from more than fifty countries and draws a crowd of up to 100,000. With hundreds upon hundreds of brightly coloured balloons taking off, the fiesta is an impressive visual spectacle. Mass ascensions (when many hundreds of balloons lift off together into the morning sky) are held on all four weekend mornings plus one day mid-week, but only after a dawn patrol carefully examines the morning’s weather conditions. When the dawn patrol gives the green light, balloons from all over the world rise together in a harmonious lift off as dawn breaks over the Sandia Mountains. The sight of 500 balloons in the sky is as breathtaking for first-time visitors as it continues to be for veteran attendees. And on the weekend nights, laser lightshows and firework displays bring the days to a spectacular close.
6 October – 25 November 2018
From early October to mid-November every year, the pretty town of Alba, nestled in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, about an hour by car from Turin, hosts the annual Alba International White Truffle Fair to coincide with the late autumn harvest period of Tartufo bianco di Alba, which are characterised by their irregular shape, due to the unevenness of the soil in which they grow. Known as the town of a hundred medieval towers, Alba’s old centre is beautifully preserved and strolling its streets and piazzas, with a gelato in hand, is one of life’s great pleasures. As the truffle fair approaches, international chefs, gastronomy buffs, oenophiles and travelling foodies all descend upon Alba to sample the decadent, aromatic and wildly exclusive white prizes. During the fair, the little unattractive mushrooms – sniffed out by trained dogs and pigs – are cleaned, meticulously preserved and shaved sparingly over pasta, risotto, grilled vegetables and just about everything else.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018 and with more than 285,000 visitors attending last year, the Frankfurt Book Fair has firmly established itself as one of the most important events in the global literary calendar. Thousands of publishers, authors, retailers, illustrators, librarians, self-publishers and multimedia suppliers from around the globe converge annually on the German powerhouse city to exchange information, launch books and negotiate the sale of international publishing rights. This year the fair welcomes Georgia as its guest country of honour, with a view to discovering the diverse culture and literature of a country located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile THE ARTS+ business festival, aimed at the cultural and creative sectors, runs side-by-side with the book fair and offers top-notch speakers, technology innovations, best practice cases, creative presentations and networking events, plus a salon for exclusive talks and a lab for interactive performances (www.theartsplus.com).
Born in 2007 as a one-nighter called SWEET, the following year, founder and festival director Lee Brian Schrager took the event to the next level, launching what is now the New York City Wine and Food Festival, routinely acclaimed as one of the country’s most successful food festivals. For four days each autumn/fall, culinary giants, celebrity chefs, mixologists, vintners and foodies from around the globe unite to eat, drink and end world hunger, with 100% of the proceeds – upwards of USD 1 million per festival – going to hunger relief organisation Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Now in its 11th year, NYCWFF offers a diverse range of dishes and culinary experiences across a broad range of price points across New York City, including intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs, late night parties, hands-on classes, educational seminars, coveted wine tastings and more, providing passionate gourmands with something for every palate.
Dubbed the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate innovations and cocoa expressions, Salon Du Chocolat is a unique happening revered by chocolate aficionados the world over. Now in its 24th year, the decadent annual chocfest is held in the heart of the French capital at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center, which provides acres of space to host hundreds of international chocolatiers. Visitors have a unique opportunity to discover and taste chocolate products found nowhere else, courtesy of more than 500 chocolatiers and confectioners hailing from 60 countries, including more than 200 of the world’s greatest pastry chefs and cocoa experts. The highlight of the festival is undoubtedly The Chocolate Fashion Show on 30th October, when a number of duos of chocolatiers and fashion designers showcase an incredible collection of couture outfits made entirely out of chocolate, including creations by Maxence Barbot for l’Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris and talented young French designer Julien Bonnet.