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As part of Livemusic's coverage of festival season 2012, our intrepid reporter Ryan goes in search of the hottest happenings on the circuit this time around...
 
It may not feel like it at the moment, but summer is nearly upon us, and with it comes our favourite time of the year - festival season. Even though the weather in this country makes spending an entire weekend outdoors a bit of a muddy lottery, thankfully our European neighbours are equally good at throwing summer bashments with a significantly decreased chance of the elements muscling in on proceedings.
 
At Livemusic we aim to cover the great and good of this summer's European music festivals each and every year, so it only seems right to start with one of the most original, eclectic collections of artists on the festival circuit - to kick things off please welcome Dour Festival to the discussion.
 
If you haven't heard of Dour festival then where on earth have you been hiding? With it being only a short train journey from London, getting to Belgium on the Eurostar couldn't be easier (or much cheaper).
 
The good people that run Belgium's largest and most eclectic music festival have been going about their business for almost a quarter of a century now and have managed to craft something wonderfully unique in the process.
 
Some of the superstars playing at this year's incarnation include; Bon Iver, Spector, The Flaming Lips, Barrington Levy, Nero, The Pharcyde and the legendary Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli). As if that wasn't enough to warrant a ticket purchase alone! These acts represent the tip of the iceberg, there are simply too many incredible acts to list without causing your brains to overload. Just click this link to see for yourselves, IT IS EPIC.
 
We recently had the privilege to the catch up with Dour's creative director Alex Stephens to find out what makes Europe's most diverse music festival tick.
 
Since it's inception back in 1989 how has Dour evolved?
 
In the beginning, Dour was a very small festival, one stage, one day. now it's incredibly huge! We have 7 stages, the festival lasts 4 days... and the camping area is also really impressive. We now have 161,000 festival-goers over the 4 days.
 
What major changes have you overseen since you became involved with the festival?
 
Nowadays, I would say there are maybe too many events. In the few past years, a lot of new festivals, parties and concerts have emerged. There are also many big specialised events so it's pretty hard to still be a special and unique event. I think we succeed in distancing ourselves from our competitors, it forces us to work hard and offer new things every year.
 
Dour has one of the more diverse lineups on the festival circuit, what are the musical origins of the festival?
 
At the start Dour was focused on rock music, then we added hip hop and hardcore/metal acts very early on, since then we've included electro and finally reggae. Our aim now is to provide a large choice of many musical genres whilst offering the best value and the best atmosphere for our customers.
 
Let's us about the location of the festival, how long has it been home to Dour for? What makes it so special?
 
Carlo Di Antonio was living in the village of Dour and wanted to save the coal heap, which was in danger in 1989. So he had the idea to create an event and founded Dour Festival, which took place right in front of the coal heap! Over the years, that place in the countryside became mythical.
 
What sets Dour Festival apart from all the others out there?
 
Each summer, Dour Festival sets itself the challenge of trying to gather together fans from opposing corners of the musical spectrum the world over. Keeping faith in the unifying power of music and festivals. The festival team always tries to prove that it is possible to get people with dramatically opposed tastes together in the name of a good time. The atmosphere at Dour is unique, if you don't believe me come and see for yourself!
 
How do you decide which artists you are going to book?
 
There is no secret recipe, it's a different decision for each artist. But they all have one thing in common; we want the artists to be accomplished live performers, because a festival-sized audience made up of true music lovers can be very hard to please!
 
Who are you particularly exciting about seeing perform this year?
 
All the artists! I mean, I choose each of them, I want to see if they will be appreciated by the audience or not, from the biggest star to the smallest young band. Each year, my goal is to see all of them, even if it's for only 5 minutes. We are really proud to have Squarepusher and Flaming Lips playing, because we have been chasing them for years now!
 
What is your favourite all-time Dour memory?
 
In 2009, Selah Sue was just a young unknown artist, armed with only with her guitar and her voice. She managed to make 10,000 people sit and listen. It was magical, I still get shivers thinking about it! Now that she's more famous, the challenge will be to do the same this year, but with 40,000 people!
 
If you could describe Dour in four words what would they be?
 
Freedom, diversity, community, party!
 
What's the strangest experience you've had at a festival?
 
In the early 2000's at Dour, I met a guy dressed like the Duracell bunny,  it was 1 o'clock in the afternoon and he was alone. I ran into him again at around midnight, he was still marching around with his drum but there were like 500 people following behind him!
 
Favourite festival food?
 
Belgian of course! And fries, with a LOT of mayo!
 
Any tips for getting a decent night''s sleep in a tent?
 
Drink a lot.
 
Finally, is there any top-secret insider knowledge you'd care to share with us regarding this year's festival?
 
We'll have two secret bars in the middle of the festival this year. Find them if you can!
 
You can buy tickets for Dour 2012 here.
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