Reggae Geel, one of Europe's oldest reggae festivals, was born in 1978. At the time a few friends joined hands together to organise an open air reggae party. There wasn't much to it in those days. A modest disco bar and some precarious dispensing equipment. But what started as a spur-of-the-moment idea soon became a modest success.
Three years later the organisation shifted into higher gear: the very first Reggae Geel live concert took place. The atmosphere was unique and a growing amount of people enjoyed it. Visitor numbers rose every year. We put more and more emphasis on live music and with time artists were flown in from as far as Kingston. We amazed the press with what was happening in the woods of Bel and newspaper reports followed. In a mere five years' time our visitor stats increased tenfold. From 1990 onwards the line up became a mixed bag of national and international groups.
In 1993 we treated our audience to a little something extra. Since that year the festival consists of a double program with multiple acts, one of which would always be a top of the bill performance on our increasingly large Main stage. We built a side stage and brought you an eclectic selection of improv theatre, up-and-coming DJ talents and poetry. We wanted to implant a cross-section of the Jamaican isle in the woods of Bel.
In 1995 the Bounce Dancehall was added, which has since grown to be the flagship of Belgian dancehall. Year after year the sharpest sound systems from around the globe and from Belgium stepped into the limelight. Audiences raved. So much so that the festival, which was a one-day event at the time, burst at the seams. In 1996 we therefore decided to expand the festival package to a full weekend. Fridays would be all about dancehall, while on Saturdays the Main stage would offer a selection of sweltering reggae.
The whole weekend was marked by an ever-present love of music. But it was the programming of Jamaican film, circus, art, poetry and a dazzling Reggae Market that allowed every visitor to get their kicks. The response was overwhelming. Thousands of people came to Reggae Geel every first weekend of August. This is why in 2005 we decided to add an extra venue; one aimed exclusively at dub: the unparalleled 18" Corner. We found a perfect dream spot among the trees. To this day you can hear the pounding heartbeat of Reggae Geel at this exact location.
2008 saw the establishment of the Skaville Circus. This baby brother of the other stages opened on Saturday. A thrilling menu of Ska and Rocksteady have earned it its place on the festival grounds. The Skaville Circus also made a perfect setting for a juicy splash of poetry and interviews in its early years. In just a few years' time the Skaville Circus became a much lauded venue on the festival grounds. In 2012 it would open its doors on Friday night, coming into its own as a fully-fledged Reggae Geel stage. Live performances of local ska heroes as well as Jamaican legends are added to a diverse spread of Ska sound systems. In 2013 poetry, film and interviews leave the Circus and the stage becomes the Skaville, which is to focus entirely on Ska and Rocksteady.
However, as we've stated before, Reggae Geel is ambitious and aims to give as complete an image of the cultural life on Jamaica as possible. Poetry, art, film, interviews, ... all of these needed to be given a new spot at the festival after the Skaville's reorientation. Additionally there was a strong urge to offer more space to local and young talent. The Yard was born. Indoors in a tent in 2013, but since 2014 in open air. In no time at all this eclectic stage became a breeding ground for musical talent, a place for interactive fun with interviews and workshops, and experiments with word and image, a place to discover new artists or to quietly indulge in a cocktail or jacuzzi. The best compliment we could be given on this stage is that it buzzes with the atmosphere of early reggae. This musical hotspot proves our dedication to the mission we set ourselves from the start.
In the future we will go on clinging to these values like a leech to its prey. We will continue to invest and experiment. In the coming years we won't just sit around, but persevere in our efforts to import the best and the hottest from Jamaica to Geel.
Good Vibes, Love And Harmony. Come Catch A Vibe, at Reggae Geel!