Quest Festival is a hidden gem in the north of Vietnam that the rest of the world is on the cusp of discovering. This year Quest saw 2,000 locals, expats and travellers a like flock to its premises tucked away amongst the beautiful surroundings of Son Tinh Camp, 40 minutes outside of Hanoi. Here is a night of exploration if there ever was one; this is a festival that holds an atmosphere unlike any I have been to before. Its popularity is beginning to spill out of Asia and this year the festival is expected to see crowds of just over 4,000.
However this festival did not simply appear, it originated from a group of twenty somethings, who recognized that Hanoi has a rich undercurrent of arts and culture and that a festival such as Quest could act as a real platform of expression in both music and art. The original founders were Ben Nicholsan, Amanda Marshall and Jeremy Wellard and the first Quest (2013) drew in 400 of their friends. The team later grew in 2014 to include Luke Poulson, Tuyen Hoang, Mark Harris, Seb Delorme and Malcolm Duckett.
The decision to expand was unquestionable and finding an unforgettable location, has played a key part to its success, although logistically difficult in Vietnam. As Jeremy told us ‘Organizing anything in Vietnam is a constant challenge. The rules do not work here the way they do in other countries and there is always a hiccup or an unexpected turn of events. So (to be successful) we became very good at improvisation’.
There was a unified agreement that the team wish they had known certain things then that they are now more prepped for now, ‘I wish I knew how much poo 1000 people could produce. There isn’t much data on that online, so we had to make a best guess when we built toilets. That was a messy affair’ (Malcolm). And with any large scale event there are plenty of mishaps along the way that the team have openly embraced as learning curbs and have since relished in. ‘Rain is always a huge concern for any festival organizers. At one festival our main stage and most of the camping was completely destroyed by a massive thunderstorm. Another festival we tried at a different site and the road was washed away and guests had to walk 2km into the site. But we didn’t let this stop the show and on the whole people still enjoyed the festival regardless’ (Jeremy). They have since solved this by keeping to just one festival date a year (November-a great month for Hanoi) to avoid any chance of being hit by monsoons in previous months.
Like everyone they were not immune from doubt, ‘the prospect of handling 2000 people scared me for sure but doubt keeps you on your toes – there’s so much support from the community for this event that its hard to get too down about it’ (Luke). For anyone thinking of going down the festival road, Jeremy advises you should ‘Focus on building your community and a really supportive team. Don’t expect to sleep too much in the early stages. Remember to keep your sense of humour and focus on why you began the event when times get tough.’ Whilst there are fears there are also shared experiences like no other ‘For me (Jeremy) the best moment of any festival is the point that happens during every event when all the initial crises have been solved, the wheels are turning and the event is really humming along. This is the moment when the whole team stops to take a breath and really enjoy the atmosphere and the music for the first time.
What they are all in unanimous agreement about is the future for Quest, in which they hope it remains true to its roots and continues to ‘grow at a sustainable rate, without having to compromise the heart and soul of the event’. Plan ahead to be a part of this amazing festival this November.
Photos above are from the Quest just gone. © for photos go to Jesse Meadows and Dao Tiep
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