Wonderland.

JULIAN PRINCE

We chat with the founder of the event to find out what’s in store during a post-pandemic climate.

Julian prince
Julian prince

Nothing feeds the soul quite like the prospect of a party, and with SXM Festival due to commence in just one week, summer celebrations feel closer than ever before. While we were left reeling over the phase one lineup announcement, the lucky guests have been preparing for an onslaught of house and techno talents, unique venues and mesmerising decor. Who they have to thank for all of this, you may wonder? Enter, Julian Prince.

Founder of the SXM Festival, Julian has dedicated his work to entertainment, while paying notable respect towards the island of Saint Martin — encouraging his event guests to support locals and other travellers through initiatives such as beach clean-ups, playground builds and basketball court maintenance. Not only that, but the SXM Festival itself is conscious by nature, saving energy with LED and solar lights, and eliminating all plastic waste from the festival site.

Talking of his passion behind his company, his people and his supporters, we chat with Julian Prince about the history of SXM Festival, and how it as evolved since it’s starting point in March 2016. To read the full interview, scroll below…

SXM

Photography by Off Brand Project

SXM
Photography by Off Brand Project
sxm festival
sxm festival
Photography by Off Brand Project

Firstly, how long has the festival been going now? And what inspired you to start it?
Our first edition was in March 2016. But I made a resolution on New Year’s Eve 2004 – the first time I landed in SXM – to build an underground electronic music festival and wider culture on the island. I had been DJing since 1997 and throwing parties long before that. I’m in love with the music and community – and I was / am always looking for opportunities to create amazing experiences. So on my first visit to Saint Martin, we found a life-size adult playground, with the existing infrastructure and friendly temperament to make it an ideal location for a project like SXM Festival. I also fell in love with the people, the culture, food, and the natural beauty of the place. It took some time and I was sidelined by other projects along the way – but 12 years later – in 2016, we launched our very first SXM Festival. 
 
What kind of music and artists can we expect to see playing?
We are predominantly an underground house and techno festival. The sound is becoming increasingly popular in The Caribbean but, when we started, that wasn’t so much the case. We like to think we have helped the scene here grow and introduce the music and culture to a new group of devoted fans. Over the years, pretty much every major artist has made the pilgrimage to The Island, including Black Coffee, Nina Kraviz, Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Blond:ish, Jamie Jones, Cassy, and Marco Carola. But we also take pride in supporting emerging acts and promoting local talent –  supporting the Caribbean DJs who push the SXM sound all year round and keep the vibe alive. As the festival has grown, we have been able to experiment more – like the recent collaboration with a local Steel Pan Band, The Ebony Steel Orchestra, who interpreted various techno classics. We look forward to doing more of these exciting and community-based music projects in future years.
 
What would you say the main demographic of the people who attend is?
We have a very passionate, positive, and discerning family of fans. Previous attendees come from 35 countries around the world but our main audience is from North America and Europe. The financial commitment of getting to the island for a week trip means our age range skews a little higher. But this is supplemented by younger local fans who take advantage of the Caribbean Resident’s Discount we offer. An average SXMer loves to party but also appreciates the beauty and culture that the island has to offer. Lots of DJs and industry figures also come for a mini holiday and to reconnect with friends, which often means fans can hang out with their favourite artists and suitably chilled, Caribbean fashion. Many attendees return year-on-year and we welcome anyone adventurous enough to join us. 
 
What makes the Caribbean island of Saint Martin so special?
The natural beauty – green rolling hills, tropical rainforest and azure seas. The food – French influence on the island makes for an amazing gastronomic scene, coupled with some of the best local street food in the world. It’s a very safe island, multicultural – with a collective open mind. The relatively small size and the ease of navigation, by way of one main road, make it ideal for visitors’ enjoyment. There are countless beach clubs, venues, bars, insane villas and 35 stunning white sand beaches bordering the turquoise sea. Anguilla and St-Barth’s, known as two of the most luxurious islands on the planet are a short boat ride away. Accessibility is also key – the airport is the second busiest in the Caribbean and there are direct flights from multiple locations, especially North America and Europe. And if you wish, you can walk out of the airport and straight into a party at one of the SXM Festival venues! 
 
Other than music, what other attractions or activities do you have available for attendees to enjoy?
Aside from the scenery, food, and friendly atmosphere, as a major tourist destination, the island has a plethora of fun stuff to do. These include sailing, ziplining, mountain biking, trekking, yoga, and a myriad of watersports – or just chilling on the beach, sleeping off last night’s party before taking a refreshing dip in some of the most inviting waters anywhere on the planet. Just check you aren’t on Maho Beach where low-flying jets – coming into land on one of the world’s shortest runways – famously pass over the heads of thrill-seeking beach visitors at an altitude as low as 100 feet! 
 
What is the main thing you want your guests to have experienced by the time they leave?
It sounds cheesy but I guess we want the guests to experience joy. After everything the world has been through during the pandemic, now more than ever people need to have fun and reconnect with other human beings. There’s no better feeling than being filled with positive energy and being inspired.
 
It must have been difficult during the beginning of the pandemic when festivals were canceled. How were you able to overcome such a challenge?
Our 2020 edition happened just as some of the global travel restrictions began to kick in. It was a strange situation because, if you remember that time – there was still a lot of discussion / uncertainty about how serious the virus was and how far-reaching the restrictions would become. Then we had to cancel our 2021 event for obvious reasons – but it gave us some time to plan properly and tough things out. We feel very lucky to return in 2022 with what will hopefully be an “almost-back-to-normal” festival. Knowing how much hard work and love goes into producing an event like ours, I feel genuinely heartbroken for all the great events that fell by the wayside during the pandemic and amazing people who lost their livelihoods.
 
And finally, what would you say makes SXM festival different from others?
The island of Saint Martin is really the true star of our festival It’s our home and a truly unique and wonderful place. We can’t wait to host you all here!

Julian prince

(LEFT) Photography by Donovane Tremor

Photography by Donovane Tremor
Julian prince
JULIAN PRINCE

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