In the heart of Nyon lies the legendary music festival that has captivated generations for its 46 editions. We had the chance to sit down with one of Paléo Festival’s originators, an individual who wears many hats within our community. President of the Nyon Tennis Club, a dedicated (though now recently retired) Sports TV journalist for 35 years as well as football and tennis commentator. He also set his sights on becoming part of Nyon’s Municipality (executive body), running for a seat earlier in 2023 in the by-elections. Despite not achieving that particular goal, his unwavering spirit and passion for fostering unity and joy through music as well as sport have been integral to his enduring success.
Vice President from 1977 until 1982, one of the originals from Paléo who is still involved to this day, giving guided tours to newcomers and continuing its legacy. He talks about how he got involved in Paléo, his cherished moments from over the years, what he does now and his thoughts for its future.
You were there from the early days of the Paléo Festival, how did you become involved?
To be really honest, the first ever concert organised by Daniel Rossellat (President of Paléo Festival) was in ’73. I was a close friend to Daniel but I was playing soccer in Nyon so I was not involved. But at the age of 20, after they had organised the first one in the Salle Communal, I met Daniel who said, I think we have to go out into the open air – and so we went to Colovray down next to the swimming pool. He said I need people with a lot of energy, a solid committee – are you OK to be with me?
Wow i thought, it’s a great idea – I’m ready to be your right arm because Jacques (Monnier) who makes the programme was in France. So, I was the Vice President. I got involved and put all my energy in this first open air festival. There were 5 of us and we expected 18 hundred people and we had nearly 18 thousand!
Back then you had to organise it last minute, by the telephone boxes, asking if you have a car to rent me and so on – just incredible. We were very lucky, I think we were good but we also had three days of sunshine. If you had one day of rain people would just look at the weather and they would not come. It’s not the case today. Today the tickets are sold out in 41 minutes!
So just a huge success and we were very proud of that and we decided to keep going. After 5 years of being Vice President, I was in charge of the artists speaking English and Press Relations. A massive job but volunteering and I was still at university studying and playing football. It was great, it was a passion pushed by the energy and the friendship.
It’s the 46th edition this year. What keeps you coming back after all these years?
Because it’s part of me. I have only missed two because of the Olympics. I like meeting people and there are so many that I only meet once a year here! I am also of a certain help to the organisation. But to be honest, I don’t stay until 3 o clock in the morning, I choose my nights. We have a tradition on the last Sunday with Daniel, the old guard. We make a fondue at 3am and then after the fondue its 4:30 in the morning ,the sun is rising and you look at the grounds – it’s incredible. You don’t have the feeling that 3 hours ago there was a festival. It’s clean – they have already started the breakdown.
I’m sure there are many but what has been one of your highlights?
(Long pause) I have a story that I like to tell. In ‘78 we had the group Clannad coming from Ireland. At this time I was in charge of welcoming artists from England and Ireland. I had to go and welcome them and the singer was called Moya Brennan. She was one of the best harpists in the United Kingdom. I went to the airport she was there with a big harp and I was in my father’s car. Of course the harp couldn’t get in the car and so she was desperate. Stay here, I told her, we are going to try to find something. I will bring your musicians to Nyon and come back with a new vehicle and we will make it! After that, I went to their soundcheck and because I was giving her more attention, she said oh he’s nice and we had a love affair! I spent the whole summer touring England at her concerts. It was a big moment and her voice, the way she played the harp, it’s incredible. So this is one of those special memories.
Why do you think different generations of people can enjoy Paléo together, safely and freely? Unusual for a music festival.
It’s a miracle. At the beginning, the audience was made by teenagers and older people. My father was against Paléo, all the politics guys in Nyon were against Paléo and it was a hard fight to be accepted as well. Accepted as a music festival. It had the bad image, young people with long hair, smoking, hippy. But then things changed…. Ahhh Paléo is fantastic! It brings a lot of animation to Nyon, it’s good for the economy of the area and then people started to go to Paléo in Colovray and they were amazed by the atmosphere.
It was peaceful, it was nice, safe and then people were having babies and they came with their babies on their shoulders. We created the nursery, my kids went and then wanted to come back year after year. The story is that now our kids are over 30, they have kids and come with them. You know the 3rd generation. People of my age are just 5 percent of the crowd. But the average age is 30 and 50 percent of the crowd is less than 40 years old.
What was kind of genius of Daniel Rossellat was he said we have to involve Nyon – the community, the clubs, the volunteers. We gave the clubs (handball, ski, tennis…) beverage stands, so they came with their volunteers and they get money back for their clubs. And this was very good, what they make depends on what they sell. They get at least 10, 15k and it’s important for them. During the covid years it was definitely a lack in their revenue.
From 17,500 festival goers to 250,000 this year! Where do you see Paléo in ten years time?
I don’t want to say it will stay like it is but it also cannot increase. You don’t have the area, the acres. The danger is, you have so many music festivals now, it’s a question of the music industry. Will Paléo be able to have good artists on the main stage? It’s so expensive now. If you don’t give, let’s say 1 million to a big star they will just go to the next festival and I think you need to have good artists.
The ambiance, the spirit, this area and everything is great but people look to see who is coming. So I don’t see any change for the next 5 years but if it’s like football, you need the big important people, the Messis and Mbappes. The big artists. Will Paléo be able to pay as much as the others?
At a certain period of time we had artists who wanted to play at Paléo – but now it doesn’t matter as much to them because they will play at the next festival instead.
And now you do guided tours.
It’s a service for the sponsors because they like to have our guests come backstage where the public cannot go, with explanations, stories and figures. But we still can’t go on stage and take selfies with the big stars!
More snippets from our conversation.
I am a fan of Manchester United. Locally… when I was a kid I was a fan of FC Lausanne-Sport but then I grew up and was a big fan of FC Servette but in my job of commentator, I couldn’t be bias. I like international football and the Women’s World Cup, which has just begun. I still have an eye on this and tennis of course. I lived through Roger Federer’s career – I gave his first interview when he was 16 and I commented in major tournaments . But now I am retired, he is retired and a new life begins for me.
Thank you to Pierre-Alain Dupuis who leaves us with a deeper appreciation for Paléo’s rich history and its enduring spirit.
Paléo 1983 – 1988. Copyright – RTS