Music and light shows bring new energy to derelict Hungarian power plant

By Krisztina Than

VARPALOTA, Hungary (Reuters) – A derelict power plant in Hungary came back to life on Thursday, powered by music and light shows as thousands of festival-goers marvelled at its three huge cooling towers dominating the starry late summer sky.


The INOTA coal-fired thermal plant, built in the 1950s during the Communist era and once one of the country’s largest industrial sites, was shut down in 2001.

The four-day INOTA festival that launched on Thursday has gathered dozens of artists, including Berlin-based pianist, composer and producer Nils Frahm, whose sonic alchemy of experimental textures and atmospheric electronica capture the site’s ambiance.

Hilda Carlsson, 33, said she and her friends travelled from Sweden largely to see Frahm at the INOTA festival. They want to take a guided tour of the vast 225,000-square-metre (56-acre)site lit up by mappings and light installations over four days.

“It is so fascinating with these kind of structures, and I think even more in a way (for) our generation, which isn’t like the industrial workers (used to be as) now there are robots for everything,” Carlsson said.

“It is also a sense of history that you can touch on.”

The turbine hall, cooling towers and enormous heating room with its winding stairs and pipes have inspired visual artists from Hungary and abroad.

Among the leading musical acts are British electronic music producer Daniel Avery, the electronic duo Overmono also from the United Kingdom and the British-German post-punk band Lebanon Hanover.

The INOTA plant featured in the epic 2017 American dystopian movie “Blade Runner 2049”, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, which was partly filmed in Hungary.

But the plant has stood idle since 2001. Hungarian visual artist Daniel Besnyo, who conceptualized the festival, hopes that will change now, with the musical and visual acts bringing new life to the place.

“In the long term, a very important aim of the festival is that this power plant … could be re-used culturally, reinterpreted, and even host some kind of continuous cultural presence,” Besnyo told Reuters.

Hungarian student Akos Marencsak, 21, said using the site as a powerhouse of music and arts was a great idea.

“The ambience, the feeling, what’s inside these walls,” he said, when asked what made the place special for him.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Frances Kerry)