Magic Mirror at Sziget Festival: “Unfortunately, Magic Mirror and the message it conveys are even more relevant today than before”

Photo provided by Sziget Festival

From 10th to 15th August, Sziget Festival will return to north Budapest, Hungary. Nowadays the festival is a gigantic cultural machine aiming to transmit values to punters. Since its beginnings, Sziget has taken a strong stance on several topics concerning society and spanning across human rights, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities rights, sustainability, and racism.

The Magic Mirror was born in 2001, with the idea to create a much-needed space for the LGBTQIA+ community in a country that still maintains very old-school views about this collective. Just this year, Hungary’s government has passed a new law that will allow its citizens to report same-sex families with children to local authorities. More than two decades after its founding, The Magic Mirror continues to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community by promoting love and inclusivity and offering festival goers immersive film screenings, panels, insightful workshops, stand-up comedy, concerts, contemporary dance performances and parties. The Magic Mirror’s rich programme aims to shine a light on the community’s challenges, the latest theoretical developments, cultural trends and entertainment innovations in solidarity with women’s and marginalised communities’ social struggles through its queer-feminist perspective.

KALTBLUT caught up with József Kardos, Program Director, to chat about the Magic Mirror and why it’s still so important.

KALTBLUT: The Magic Mirror was founded in 2001 to create a space for the LGBTQIA+ community in Hungary. Unfortunately, the political climate in the country has only gotten worse since with the president spouting anti-LGBTQIA+ propaganda. How has the work for the organisation changed in the last couple of years?

József: Sziget always stood up for Human Rights and LGBTQIA+ rights. In 2001, when we started Magic Mirror we thought that it could help in the education of our audience and make them understand the special problems of this community. Ever since then we strongly believe that it is worth making these efforts and unfortunately our basic goals haven’t lost any of their importance within the last more than twenty years.

Within normal circumstances it wouldn’t be necessary to create program venues like this, but in this part of Europe, where incitement and hatred against social minorities is often used in public discourse without consequences, where laws are passed that diminish the rights of minorities, we believe it is our duty to speak out and to act against these tendencies.

Back in 2001, the mayor of the neighbouring district wanted to ban the whole festival because we wanted a venue called Rainbow Tent. He was telling that the gay people want to transform the normal young people to gays with their propaganda. His wish failed because of the wide opposition of gay organisations, diplomatic bodies and intellectuels.

After 23 years, we still hear the same unacceptable ideology from those in power including the propaganda media as well. Unfortunately, Magic Mirror and the message it conveys are even more relevant today than before.

Unfortunately, Magic Mirror and the message it conveys are even more relevant today than before.

Photo provided by Sziget Festival

KALTBLUT: What kind of reactions are you getting from festival goers?

József: Magic Mirror is one of the most popular venues at Sziget welcoming visitors with a very diverse and colourful program selection starting from workshops and film screenings through comedy and roundtable talks till concerts and the evening main show which is always one of the biggest hits of the venue followed by amazing parties that last till the morning.

This is the place where everyone can be completely free, and nobody looks strangely if someone is different. Our visitors cherish the opportunity to get to know the members of the community better and ask any kind of questions without consequences.

KALTBLUT: What are you aiming to do with your presence at one of the largest music festivals in Europe?

József: Magic Mirror is not organised by a local/international LGBTQIA+ NGO or company, it’s organised by us, Sziget Festival. The people behind it have only one goal: create a gorgeous, colourful, up-to-date program providing visitors the time of their lives regardless the exact time when they visit Magic Mirror during operation hours.

The organisers upon establishing the venue simply wanted to create the atmosphere where everyone can be free, so that visitors and members of the LGBTQIA+ community could jointly experience a sense of freedom free from prejudice and perhaps carry this experience into their everyday lives, spread the importance of toleration and the acceptance of each other and maybe one day we all could wake up in a more livable world.

Photo provided by Sziget Festival

KALTBLUT: Can you tell us in detail what the Love Revolution Special at the festival is?

József: Sziget Festival is a cultural event with no intention to take part in any political actions, but we would like to provide a larger platform for the global issues surrounding us with the help of internationally acclaimed speakers and performers to learn more about different topics and articulate our common thoughts.

Back in 2019, we started a new program on our Main Stage and invited well-known and inspiring guests to reflect on the topics of our Love Revolution campaign (for Green Planet, Peace, Human Rights and against Racism) in front of the approximately 50.000 visitors of the given day – and many more through social media streaming – between two highlight concerts. As part of this project, we have had the honor to welcome Dr. Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace and environmentalist, Emi Mahmoud, poet, activist and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and, through a video message Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and Founder of The Climate Reality Project among others.

Photo provided by Sziget Festival

From the field of performing arts we have had guests on stage like Les Twins, Drew Dollaz, Kamcátka Catalan street theatre company or The Arrow acrobatic duo (which performance has also marked the date of the first ‘official’ gay kiss on the Main Stage – audience went wild).

This year Love Revolution Special returns with really interesting speakers and performers to be announced soon, so we would suggest visitors not to miss these special 15 minutes per day. Sneak peek: Joshua Beamish, worldwide famous Canadian dancer and choreographer creates a special show against Homophobia only for Sziget.

Tickets and the full line-up for this year, which includes artists such as Jamie XX, Billie Eilish, Florence and the Machine and Lorde, to name a few, can be checked out here. Follow @szigetofficial on Instagram to keep up with the festival.