by Sarah O.

If you don’t know, Saristra Festival is a 3 day arts and music festival held in the abandoned village of Old Vlachata near to Sami. It’s been held annually (missing just one year) since 2012 and it attracts many artists, bands and visitors from all over Greece and the world! This year I got to take my 73 year old dad with me, his first time at Saristra, and I asked him to share his experiences with you. I also asked one of the artists – Melentini, an Avant Garde soul musician – for her perspective of the festival, she was also a first time visitor to Saristra.

We drove up the windy country road through agricultural land to reach the festival site just before dusk, parked up and took the short walk into the village entrance. We strolled around the ruins and looked at the amazing, and totally varied, art installations and then went to one of the workshops that took place over the 3 days. I asked my dad about his first impressions and this is what he told me

I had visited the village in it’s natural state (as above) trying to imagine how people lived in the small houses and narrow streets. We arrived just before dark and the transformation was astounding…the lighting, and different art installations and then everything exploded with sound. The way the artwork was presented was great, especially as something would appeal to every age range. We watched a great demonstration of woodturning by local artisan Kostas Annikas Deftereos (from Annikas Greek Handicrafts). The bands were really good, and very different from each other. I’m really impressed by the festival and it’s organisation, and the fact entrance is free – I hope that the sponsors continue to fund the project” (you can check out the Saristra website to see who it’s generous sponsors were).

After walking around the local craft stalls we bought a beer from the bar, a t-shirt, a CD and tote bag, and sat and watched people for a while before the music started. Around 9.30pm the bands took to the stages and the site exploded with sound and light. We watched three acts – Ta Toy Boy from Thessaloniki, who opened the evening on the main stage with a great set, the amazing Josh T. Pearson (from Texas), and the beautiful sounds of Melentini on stage B.

Melentini was invited to play at Saristra and performed with her band the Running Blue Orchestra, travelling from Berlin to play. She told me her experiences and impressions of the festival

“The ruins in the village create a fascinating and haunted atmosphere, there were desks placed with handicrafts in one space and inside the wrecked walls of the rooms there were different artistic installations and activities, also very interesting stuff for children! I performed with my band the Running Blue Orchestra on stage B. We had the trees for background and that was beautiful, the scenery was very simply set for this stage, eventually I loved it because I don’t like in general explosive lights and stuff, so we just added a couple of colors with the help of Nikos. The people were enjoying concerts all three days with a free entrance. Nikos Goudinakis and Iro Liatou were running up and down the place being super helpful with artists’ needs. The concerts were fully crowded and we had a lot of fun performing, although at some point I could listen the heavy sound coming from the big stage while I was still performing but the audience couldn’t hear it so that was a relief after all. Many people from the audience came to talk with us and share their excitement for this gig. A lot of friends drove all the way from Athens just for our concert and that was very touching. We were spending the day at the small beaches near Sami and then we were giving appointment at the village to watch the other bands. The party was going until 4am with the dj sets. There was something pure in this year’s Saristra that also made everyone come together, visitors and artists”.

There were many other bands and DJ sets to watch but we just didn’t have the time! As we left we saw lots of Greek dancing going on to the lively Εβρίτικη Ζυγιά on the main stage. While droving away we were passed by many cars driving up to watch the late DJ sets with many locals going along after the end of their work shifts.

Here’s looking forward to next year’s festival! Thanks to everyone who organised and worked the festival.

Saristra photos taken from my mobile phone

Sarah O