Coronavirus update: View cancelled events here

A Brief History of Exit Festival

We spoke to Exit Festival mainstay Milan Jovanovic about the rich history of the Serbian extravaganza.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 2nd Jun 2015

Photo: Exit Festival

Recently bigged up in Forbes magazine as one of Europe's best festivals, Serbian spectacle Exit has over the past 15 years grown to become one of the most significant events of the summer. Starting out at the tail end of Slobodan Milošević's regime, Exit began as student movement fighting for peace and democracy in both Serbia and the Balkans - and continues to be run by a non-profit organisation with a strong social mission.

With much more history to find out, we spoke to Exit Festival's Milan Jovanovic to unearth five pivotal moments in the award winning festival's history, starting at the very beginning of the Exit journey back in late 2000. 

Genesis: 100 days 

The prequel edition of the festival was actually a large student protest. Performances, plays, movie projections and more lasted for 100 days and nights, counting down to voting day, when the oppressive regime was overthrown. The slogan of the festival was: 'Exit out of ten years of madness' (watch footage from around that time above).

The Petrovaradin Fortress

In 2001, the festival moved from the shores of the Danube river to the medieval Petrovaradin Fortress (watch the promo video above). The fortress, built for military purposes centuries ago, now found new meaning in its use. Having aged gracefully, it continues to host the festival. It is certainly the key ingredient in the secret formula of the festival's unique vibe.

Are you ready for the future? 

In 2001, the first ever internationally renowned star, Roni Size, performed with Dynamite MC. This was a significant moment because it was the first international act of its kind after the fall of the oppressive regime. Smitten by a crowd filled with starving eyes and the emphatic atmosphere, Roni Size foresaw the bright future of the festival, while MC Dynamite summed it up perfectly and screamed it on stage: "Serbia! Are you ready for the future?!"

Rain Dance

Another sweetheart moment at EXIT happened in 2002, at Darren Emerson's performance (listen to his set above). A sea of festival visitors were so encapsulated in the moment, that they refused to move even though it was raining, hard. A sense of bewildering collective unity took over everyone, as they continued dancing and smiling in the summer rain. Many believe this is when and where the festival birthed its unique atmosphere.

Sea Dance

In 2014, the first ever festival holiday adventure was born. The Exit Adventure encompassed more than a week's worth of music performances in two festivals, and in two countries. It began with Exit Festival in Serbia, then moved on to the Sea Dance festival at the gorgeous Jaz beach, one of Europe's best kept secrets - the hidden pearl of the Adriatic sea. 

Exit returns to the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad on July 9th - 12th. Get your Exit Festival tickets here

Tickets are no longer available for this event

Festivals 2021