French music festival bans all alcohol on-site

Instead, guests are offered organic fruit juice, tea, cordial, chai made with vegetable milk, or bissap hibiscus infusion

An eco-friendly music festival taking place this weekend in the west of France has banned alcohol, as organisers maintain it improves the atmosphere of the event, and makes it more family-friendly.

The ‘L’Arbre qui marche’ festival, which takes place in the grounds of a château in Saint-Martin-du-Bois in Maine-et-Loire this weekend until Sunday August 20, neither sells alcohol in its bar nor allows guests to bring it in with them.

Instead, guests are offered organic fruit juice, tea, cordial, chai made with vegetable milk, or bissap, a type of hibiscus infusion.

Now in its seventh year, the festival has always been no-alcohol, and has grown in popularity in recent years, as visitors come round to the idea that enjoying a festival while sober - as well as making sure the performers are sober, too - helps improve the security of the site, and makes it more family-friendly.

“Getting rid of alcohol allows us to create a more serene and convivial atmosphere,” explains Corentin Tropée, the president of L’Arbre qui marche, speaking to Le Monde newspaper. “It also brings more families with children, and it’s also a simple matter of security: our security staff tend to get bored over the weekend.”

Critics say that taking alcohol away from festivals more generally would lead to a sharp drop in revenue, but L’arbre qui marche estimates that it loses no more than 10% of what it would otherwise see, due to being alcohol-free.

As well as banning alcohol, L’Arbre qui marche also seeks to be as eco-friendly as possible, including solar panels on its vegetarian food trucks and offering workshops on wild plants.

The weekend programme also includes didgeridoo classes, head massages, group meditation, laughter yoga, mandala creation, fresco painting, stone engraving, totem pole carving, and jungle dance.

All electronic instruments are also banned.

“Traditional musicians from around the world come here with calm repertoires and acts such as traditional singing, which fits the image of the festival on-site very well,” explains Christalen Fieu, festival coordinator, also speaking to Le Monde.

Although banning alcohol is rare at such events, L’arbre qui marche is not the only non-alcohol festival in France; in Airvault in Deux-Sèvres, the 17-year-old ‘Rêve de l’Aborigène’ festival, which seeks to celebrate the music of Australian indigenous people, has banned alcohol in solidarity to the indigenous community itself, the latter of which has arguably been ravaged by alcoholism in recent decades.

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