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Paléo aims high for 25th birthday

Switzerland's biggest open-air music event - the Paléo Festival Nyon - is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the publication of a lavishly illustrated book entitled "Reaching for the Stars".

The volume is presented as an A-Z guide to past festivals, rather than a chronological account.

Chapter one is devoted to those who have performed there, from Alpha Blondy to ZZ Top and including Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.

There are also photographs of celebrated wash-outs, like in 1997 when it rained all week, and aerial shots of tens of thousands of spectators watching concerts under a hot July sun.

The book looks back on the festival's modest beginnings in 1976. "A group of friends organised three days of folk concerts to provide work and entertainment for local young people," said Paléo spokesman Vincent Sager.

"It took place in the old village hall and was greeted with so much enthusiasm by the nearly 2,000 spectators that it was decided to organise an open-air event the following year."

From then on, added Sager, it just grew and grew and became one of the top five open-air festivals of its kind in Europe, attracting over 200,000 spectators for a week of rock, folk and classical music.

The organisers say its success is due not only to the high quality performers and diverse programme, but also to the festival location.

Until 1990 it took place in Nyon, next to Lake Geneva, but since then its home has been the nearby tiny village of Asse. Within easy reach of the city of Geneva, it now has six stages on meadowland as well as a camp-site big enough for a temporary population of about 10,000.

Like the title of its anniversary book, the festival will be reaching for the stars as it turns 25, with a programme which includes Oasis, Buena Vista Social Club, Patrick Bruel and more than 80 other artists.

Not all the programme is being announced in advance. On July 25 an there will be an evening of entertainment featuring 25 surprise guests - all of whom have performed at previous festivals.

by Richard Dawson

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