Georgia’s 4GB Festival cancelled amid ongoing political unrest and protests

4GB Festival in Georgia has cancelled its 2024 edition amid ongoing protests and political unrest in the country. 

The event announced its decision via social media yesterday, 16th May. "Based on the situation in the country, we consider it unjustified to hold a festival at this time," organisers wrote on Instagram. "Our full support to every person fighting for the European future of Georgia." This year was slated to be 4BG's eleventh edition. The festival would have taken place in Saguramo from 25th to 27th May. 

Earlier this week, 14th May, the Georgian parliament voted 84 to 30 in favour of a "foreign agents" bill that requires non-governmental organisations, or NGOs, to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if over 20% of its funding comes from overseas. The bill has been criticised for being inspired by Russian legislation that targets Kremlin opposition

Over the last month, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Tbilisi to demonstrate against the bill's passing. On Monday, 13th May, the Special Investigation Service opened a case over claims of riot police – who were armed with teargas and water cannons – assaulting demonstrators. Footage of two protestors being punched and kicked by police spread on social media that day.

Political tension has been bubbling in Georgia in recent years, relating to regressive government policies, LGBTQ+ rights, and the war in Ukraine. Local artists, clubs and other organisations have been vocal in raising awareness at home and abroad around these issues. "Time and again, our society has suffered through such brutal tactics and violent methods," Tbilisi club Bassiani wrote last week. "Our history attests that the struggle between the ruling political class and the people's pursuit of liberation has consistently resulted in the triumph of the people. This time will be no different, as our future is at stake, along with the collective choice of the total majority of society, which is steadfastly opposed to Russian imperialist ambitions and its depraved dominance in Georgia."

Left Bank, another Tbilisi venue, added: "Unfortunately, Georgia has long endured a hierarchical governance structure, with power concentrated in a singular entity. Evidence abounds in the legalisation of homophobia, the relentless aggression and violence perpetrated by police forces against peaceful demonstrators on a daily basis, and the adoption of legislation that effectively converts the entire country into a laundering facility for illicit capital evading sanctions. We stand with all those fighting for equality and human rights."

In DJ Mag’s 2023 interview with Left Bank co-founder Gacha Bakradze, he spoke about the importance of the local music scene speaking out on these subjects, and providing a safe space for the community to come together. "Nightclubs have always been voices of justice – places where you can feel like everyone is respected. There are many places here that create that same atmosphere, where people go not just to party, but to stand together."