Loose Lips

Nathalia Petkova (Experiment Intrinsic Festival)


Nathalia Petkova (Experiment Intrinsic Festival)

Could you give me a recap of how Experiment Intrinsic started and how it has evolved into a festival?

Intrinsic was born in search of a new experience and longing for a self-expression. Being involved in the dance music scene for a while I felt something was missing, so I decided to slow down and get my focus out of DJing. I went to what one can call a personal retreat.

The project started with a friend of mine who contacted me in that period of time saying she found an amazing venue in London and she would like to use the space for private events. The moment I entered the place I realised it was not suitable for dance music, and I thought this might be a chance to start something new. I’ve always been passionate about experimental music and was a very natural process to start a project in that direction.

Our first event took place in December 2014. We hosted Praslea and Cezar, presenting Afumati complemented with visuals by Cote. We did not know what to expect and how everyone would respond to the project. It was a completely new experience for the audience, the artists, and us.

In the beginning the idea was to invite DJs who usually play dance music by giving them an opportunity to play different fields of sound they listen to. Soon after, everything evolved, and we started involving live acts from the ambient and experimental field. Now we are looking into going even deeper, because our intention isn’t just the music or the visuals; it’s about creating a structure where all participators from artists, to audience and team feel elevated and awakened. It’s the main reason I decided to dedicate my time into something so delicate and brave.

Having run events in London for 2 years, the concept started taking a shape and after initial contact was made in France last year, the idea of a 3-day festival had become an exciting and possible opportunity to expand our vision further.

How did you find the venue for the retreat in France?

A person proposed me to host Intrinsic in France. After we met, he realised that it was going to be a very big task and that he wouldn’t be able to be involved as much as it would be necessary. When we visited the site, I felt that the park of Josephine Baker would be a highly suitable place to deliver Intrinsic, so I took the chance to organise a 3-day event by myself and I am really happy about it. I knew that it was going to be a big challenge, bearing in mind that I don’t speak French and I did not know any local people that I could rely on. It was quite a difficult nine months of constant work, but it was also a great learning process. I don’t even know how I made it. It’s a struggle, it’s very time consuming, and quite stressful as I’m also in a full-time job, but I think I have the strength and ability to organise such gatherings and that’s why I’m here.

How have you managed to organise a festival in a different country than where you’re based?

I came to visit the place three times, and while those fleeting visits helped build a better picture in my head of how things would work out, it was still very challenging to organise everything. There were many last-minute surprises and difficulties with coordination, communication and task delegation with the owners of the venue – but this is understandable given the circumstances. The language barrier was my greatest weakness and made it so difficult to communicate adequately in order to have smooth preparations. Dedication and determination was my greatest strength.

Luckily, I had a lovely team of friends and volunteers behind me to help with every aspect of the festival itself – from setting up the site and putting up tents, to cleaning, bar staff, and so on. I also found one person based in Paris who came as a volunteer at the bar, but ended up helping me in the two months running up to the festival. We were on the phone every day, arranging stuff here, liaising with local businesses and various people we needed to speak with. I believe if not for his great efforts I would not have been able to pull it off without collapsing. It was as if somebody knew I needed such help and had sent him to me.

In addition, all of the artists and audience alongside the team and volunteers made this adventure possible, for it was with their support, understanding and contributions that we brought everything together. I believe that the Universe helped us all.

Everybody I talked to at the festival was amazed by your dedication and your passion and how you acknowledged that organising an event on this scale was very difficult. What drives you to make it happen, what is your motivation behind Experiment Intrinsic?

Music is something that I experience on a very deep level. Sound affects our health, well-being and productivity.

As a dance music DJ, as well as an audience member, I felt that many promoters weren’t passionate enough about organising their events - many didn’t pay attention to details or didn’t have interest to develop their vision to go further and deliver something profound and memorable. On the other hand, the self-destructive attitude on the dance floor became somehow unhealthy and very unpleasant for me. Eventually I felt I was disconnected with this environment and that’s why I decided to step back. Of course, techno still drives me and when I go out, I can enjoy myself, but it’s always difficult for me to realise how the whole scene works and what the expectations of the audience is. The industry itself is like a circus full of people with masks and dark shadows. It is hard to stay true to yourself and values, expressing your emotions through sound and driving the wheel at the same time.

After I left the whole rave and drug culture, I didn’t know where to go really, music still being part of who I am, so I enjoyed the silence. About six months after, I felt I was on a new journey. I was more connected to myself, I was able to find music that was fulfilling me again, I was introduced to healing arts and workshops, I was taking better care of myself and I was feeling that I wanted to share this new journey with like-minded people. I wanted to do something different that I felt was missing in the club scene and soon I realised I wasn’t alone.

Seeing our visitors appreciating and respecting our values and seeing how satisfied and supportive the artists are in being able to be completely free - that’s the drive. Being able to deliver memorable experiences to a community of people who do synchronise and respect the term ‘self-expression’ - that’s the motivation.

The festival also included workshops on yoga, meditation, relaxation and mantra; there was even a cacao ceremony. How have you got into these healing arts and why are they an important part of your events?

If you can master yourself, you can master everything. It’s a never-ending journey and a life-time process.

We are able to express our emotions through sound or any form of art, but intrinsic as a platform allows me to express my journey. It is a very personal platform and I am sure all participators have recognised it.

If you are looking for the truth about your existence you can find answers through meditation, yoga, healing arts, ceremonies, well-being workshops. Self-Love.

I’ve wanted to dive into it for a long time, but I didn’t know where to start from. It’s a very deep diving if you want to do it properly. Of course, you can take any class of yoga, anywhere, but that wasn’t my idea of getting into it. A dear friend of mine introduced me to Kundalini at the right time and I felt that what I was looking for found me. I really appreciated the practice because it’s a combination of meditation, gong bath, movement and mantra. It works in a certain way for your body, mind and soul and it allows you to open up and connect easily. In the mean time, I have attended a few Cacao ceremonies and I found them very beneficial and grounding. That’s why they took place at the festival. I thought that by involving well-being activities, the festival will take a complete form and it will allow people to better sense the spirit of the project.

Unfortunately, I was too busy to attend the Voice and Mantra workshops, or the yoga classes, during these 3 days, but I’d like to evolve my personal growth and expand the project in this direction further. All parts of the final experience have to unfold step by step, including the well-being workshops, and I am really happy to see that most of our community participated and discovered different ways to be connected.

What does the future hold for Experiment Intrinsic? 

We aim to collaborate with other festivals, bringing an intrinsic audiovisual floor to other spaces around Europe, as well as one-night workshop events in London. We have plans to launch a record label too, which will add another dimension to our music-sharing. We are thinking of doing the 3-day Experiment Intrinsic event in 2019 with the concept of advanced pre-sale tickets. The project is self-funded and we are facing challenging times to keep on delivering those events, but I am sure the path will unfold again. I’m also trying to find viable ways of bringing back the full format of the event in London, and hopefully with the help of some arts funding we can make it happen. I want to keep the experience special and take proper time for it. But even if we had the budget to do it more regularly, I would prefer to keep doing the events only few times a year. Nothing is fixed yet and there are many ideas, so we shall see where we will be taken. 

Much love and gratitude.