Roskilde Festival, the biggest open air music event and rock festival in Northern Europe, is held south of Roskilde in Denmark and is one of the four biggest annual rock music festivals in Europe (the other three being the Sziget Festival, the Glastonbury Festival and Rock Werchter). It was created in 1971 by two high school students, Mogens Sandfær and Jesper Switzer Møller, and promoter Carl Fischer. In 1972, the festival was taken over by the Roskilde Foundation, which has since run the festival as a non-profit organisation for development and support of music, culture, and humanism.
It is Denmark's first real music-oriented festival, originally for hippies but today it covers more of the mainstream youth from Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. Roskilde Festival 2007 had more than 180 performing bands and gathered around 80,000 people paying for the concerts, with more than 21,000 volunteers, 5,000 media people and 3,000 artists — which means almost 110,000 people participated in the festival. 2008 saw more of the same!
Traditionally the campsite opens the last Sunday of June, which gives the festival guests plenty of time to settle down and "warm up". The festival officially starts the following Thursday at the Animal Showgrounds (in recent years simply known as the "Festival Site") and lasts for 4 days.
Until the mid-1990s the festival attracted mostly Scandinavians, but in recent years it has become more and more international (with an especially large influx of Germans, Australians and British).
The bands presented at Roskilde Festival are traditionally a balanced mix of large well known artists in the absolute live elite, cutting-edge artists from all contemporary genres, popular crowd-pleasing acts plus local Scandinavian headliners and up-and-coming names. The special Roskilde feeling is in particular ensured by stages located inside large tents, catering to an enthusiastic music-loving audience. As opposed to most other European festivals all bands play "real" concerts lasting for at least an hour.
The stages were until 2003 named after their colour, but as the names had not matched the actual colour of the tents for a period, it was decided to rename all stages except the Orange Stage, the central and main stage. The Orange Stage is open in front of a huge field, whereas the other tents cover the whole audience, the largest of which is the Arena stage (formerly known as Green Stage), the largest tent in Europe with an official capacity of 17,000 people.
The music covers such styles as Rock, Hip Hop, Metal, Urban, Electronica and 3rd World Contemporary music. It has become a tradition to let an up-and-coming Danish band open the Orange Stage on the first day of the festival. There are often surprising performances by classical acts, film-music, opera etc.
Apart from music there is always some theatre and 'lone acts' wandering around the festival site. Terrain and tents are always decorated in various ways.