Tijs Vanderbroucke is our modern-day Noah as chief operating officer of brand-new festival The Ark, a four day ‘cruisetival’ setting sail from Barcelona. Ministry of Sound of course would not miss out on such an epic party and we'll be hosting a stage on the ship with an eye-watering line up. We caught up with the man running the show to have a chat before we take to the high seas!
What is your professional background and how did you come to work with The Ark?
Well, for the past 13 years I’ve been involved in Tomorrowland, I’m one of the five founding fathers. Since September I stepped out of the management and a couple of months later, somebody called me to tell me about a great project but he didn’t have anybody to do the operational part of it. So, we got together and we ended up with a team of seven investors and I’m one of the seven to build this project.
Was the idea for a festival on a cruise ship set from the get-go, or did you have input in that idea?
The only thing we had when we created the company in September, was the idea, and a potential partnership with Royal Caribbean. The ship fits 4500 people, it’s huge. During a visit, I really had a lot of ideas what we should do, what areas we could use and how many stages we could build. There is a huge difference in building a festival on a ship. This has everything already there, gym, water, toilet, beds. You don’t have to think of the basic needs of people, which I have had to do for the past 13 years. We could concentrate mainly on the artists, first of all, and then secondly on the marketing and making sure we had a story to tell.
Briefly, what goes into organising a festival on the water compared to one on land?
It’s easier, on the operational part, on the other hand, the costs are way higher. When you charter a 4500-capacity ship you have to pay for it no matter how many people are on board. Although, I have to admit the technical production is a big headache. We have to be very well prepared, everything you want to bring on board needs to be cleared through customs. We have a lot of extras on the ship, so our production team board the cruise 5 or 6 days ahead of us to make sure that we have everything on the ship.
What do you think is most special about running a festival on a cruise ship?
Oh! I think every passenger will have their own magic moment. Whatever happens when you party, it all comes together, the music, the setting, your friends, a lot of alcohol in your blood and it makes a magical moment and that’s what we want to create. And a festival on a ship, because you don’t have to think about anything, I believe we can offer more.
You’ve spoken a lot about magical moments, if you had to sum up The Ark in one sentence, what would it be?
Ermmm, The Ark in one sentence… I’m thinking I have so many things I can say. We thought our baseline should be a ‘cruistival’, which is something new. It’s a festival on the water, it’s a… I don’t know, in one sentence… A magic experience in the middle of the sea.
How do you choose which acts that you want to see on The Ark?
Well it’s a one-on-one with the artist manager and our marketing manager. We wanted to be different, we wanted to make sure it was credible, a bit more underground than mainstream, but mainstream enough to sell 4000 tickets. It’s not cheap, 600 euros is a lot of money for a lot of people. We had to find a balance. We managed to make sure we have really good names, credible names, big names but also some more commercial names that aren’t, let’s say, EDM names.
So, I know that you are stopping in Ibiza, what was involved in the decision to have time off The Ark during the festival?
We wanted to make sure that people who either have or haven’t visited Ibiza before, have a moment to cool down, to relax a bit. We wanted to experience something on the island, we chose to go to both Destino and Ushuaia. At Destino we have our own DJs. It’s just to chill and relax and enjoy the sun, enjoy the environment, it’s not a 24-hour party boat. It’s more than that.
What do you think is the best part of your job?
Being creative. We create environments where guests have the best time of their lives. I like to party myself as well, I mean I feel it’s very important that my guests, if I organise something, have the best time of their life.
How many people do you have on your team?
Our team is 11 people. Actually, we are even more because when we visited the ship last month in Barcelona I think we were 18. We have a lot of experts and freelancers. But the real core team is only 11. We are around 20 people, with only 7 full time, 11 people in the core team and over 20 team members all together.
You said that you started preparing in September last year, so have you just built this festival in the last 8/9 months?
Yes, we had to work very hard. We immediately started on the line-up, making sure we had a balance. That time of year, end of August, it’s still high season in Europe, a lot of DJs get offers in Asia and America so it was not easy to come in-between the big festivals and the already known places where DJs go or would like to go.
What was your main difficulty with creating The Ark?
Our main difficulty was we didn’t have any image to share, we didn’t have any photos to share, any content, we had to create everything from the bottom line. So, we visited the ship, we made some new visuals and animations ourselves using a drone, with photos, with models. I mean, next year it will be way easier to tell the story that we wanted to tell.
And finally, what area of the ship are you most excited to see in action?
I’m looking forward to seeing how our main stage, The Oasis, will look. But mainly I’m looking forward to the sunrise party on the second day before we arrive in Ibiza. That’s a moment where I hope a lot of people will be on the front of the ship, not in their beds, watching the sun rise. It’s one of those potential magic moments.
The Ark sets sail on 21st August until 3rd September 2017, with packages starting from €549. Tickets & more info here.