The Caucasus’ largest electronic music festival has been forced to cancel its 2018 event after being refused a licence by local officials.

Georgian rave GEM Fest announced the closure less than a month before the festival’s planned opening night on 9 August.

Organisers first revealed that the festival had run into trouble in March, when the government refused GEM Fest’s request to rent a plot of land in the Black Sea resort of Anaklia. A second request was later met with “the silent treatment”, with officials simply refusing to respond, they said.      

“Is it fair to treat a project which put Anaklia on the world festival map like this?,” the event organisers said in a statement on Facebook. “Let history and society judge. We’ve got what we’ve got: the land where the festival took place will not be hosting us this summer.”

GEM Fest’s turbulent relationship with the authorities began to plummet back in August 2017, when the government launched a anti-corruption probe into the festival’s use of state funding.

No charges were ever brought against the event, but the government announced that it would not provide financial support for the festival’s 2018 incarnation.

It instead gave more than 4 million Georgian Lari ($1.7 million) to Anaklia Echo Waves Festival, launched in 2018 by the founders of Serbia’s EXIT festival.

More than 150 artists have been slated to appear at the event between 23 — 26 August, including Juan Atkins, Solomun, DJ Tennis, Butch, and Moscoman.

Others have linked the problems to the Georgian government’s hardline anti-drugs policy. A 22-year-old woman died and a further 20 people were hospitalised during GEM Fest 2017 after reportedly taking illegal substances such as GHB.  

Meanwhile, GEM Fest has promised to bring the festival back in 2019, using funding from a “global blockchain project.” Four events have reportedly been planned so far, taking place in Georgia and abroad in January, May, August and October.

“This kind of cooperation is about to take GEM Fest to a new level and make it the first crypto festival ever,” organisers wrote. “We promise you that 2019 will be explosive and we will start right away in the new year. We keep fighting and the project GEM Fest will stay alive. And not just alive, it will be reborn.”

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