5 August 2021
Izabela Błaszczyk, Director of KBF, talks about constructive solutions to difficult times.
Grzegorz Słącz: FMF, Wianki, Kraków Picnic – what made you decide to bring these terrific brands together?
Izabela Błaszczyk: Back in spring, when we were preparing this year’s Misteria Paschalia Festival – shown online with great success – we realised that we’ve reached a point when we no longer want forthcoming festivals to be held purely on the screen. Although, I should add that we will continue streaming events, mainly on PLAY KRAKÓW, because it hugely expands our reach.
Of course we are all missing meetings in person and contact with other people and artists, so we decided to bring together several festivals in August and host them in the open air. Summer weather, the extensive vaccination programme and the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions have all contributed to our decision. We hope fans of our (and other!) festivals join us for events held as part of Kraków Culture Summer on August weekends at Jordana Park. We have prepared a fantastic programme!
Why did you choose Jordana Park as the venue?
Over the last 18 months, we have been “weaning off” our audiences from thinking that events must be held at the Main Market Square. I’d like to maintain this – we prefer leaving the city centre for its residents to help them live normal lives. The Main Square should only really be used as an event venue a few times a year; the rest of the time it should serve its usual function as a place for walking and meeting friends, instead of closing half the space every few weeks to produce complex events.
According to recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Cities network, the city centre should not be a site for mass events due to noise and crowding; additionally, frequent use of heavy machinery causes damage to old buildings and monuments. As a member of the Social Committee for the Restoration of Monuments in Kraków I am always thinking about events in terms of looking after our heritage.
So we needed a suitable outdoor venue; not the expanse of Błonia Meadows but a space for a more intimate, boutique arrangement. A natural green amphitheatre. We chose the Jordana Park for its excellent production opportunities and proximity to the city centre. It’s a great space for concerts, small stages and performances, meetings, educational events and a food zone – all following the current health and safety recommendations. A few years ago we held a pilot concert in the park, and it turned out really well, even if I say so myself. It’s great to have experience to rely on. As a manager I should also mention that this year is financially difficult for culture, so it makes sense to hold several events at the same location to use resources efficiently while maintaining the highest quality. We’ll be providing entertainment in safe conditions, but the entertainment needs funds.
Kraków Culture Summer also means working with other organisers – is this now standard for KBF?
We have been showing for a long time now that KBF is delighted to share its production and promotional potential with a range of partners. We want to help other organisers and other festivals function effectively in the city. We coordinate the new municipal cultural policies as part of the Kraków Culture programme, and our plans confirm that we can and do enter into and maintain successful, long-term partnerships. Benefits go both ways – we provide production and organisational assistance, while our partners present their events to festival audiences. We learn from one another and show that partnerships are a great opportunity for development in today’s cultural reality.
Of course we continue organising our own events such as the FMF, Misteria Paschalia and Sacrum Profanum, but I see KBF’s role in Kraków Culture as building a platform for collaboration.
What role will the Potocki Palace play in the city’s cultural puzzle?
We gained a new space for culture this year, and KBF has the honour to manage it and part of the palace space. I would like to extend an invitation to organisers of all events and initiatives aiming to carve their space on Kraków’s cultural map. We can support smaller organisations hosting their own events on the first floor of the Potocki Palace. KBF operates the UNESCO City of Literature programme from the palace, but the venue is also open to others. We currently share the palace with Bunkier Sztuki and the MOCAK Bookstore BUNKIER, and the venue will soon present an exhibition exploring the life and work of Wisława Szymborska, prepared with the Wisława Szymborska Foundation. Our first events confirm that we can succeed, and Cracovians are delighted to attend events at Potocki Palace.
The last 18 months or so have been very difficult for the world of culture. What’s the most important lesson we should learn from the pandemic?
First of all, the pandemic taught us that we shouldn’t put things off. For example, the idea for PLAY KRAKÓW had been germinating in our heads for a long time. When the pandemic hit, I realised the time has come, and I switched into turbo mode. Events with audience participation had to be cancelled overnight; at the same time, since not everyone at KBF was able to continue working during the lockdown, I was able to involve more people in the PLAY KRAKÓW project. It’s hard to believe now that this technologically-advanced platform was ready as early as June and its official launch, featuring a large number of materials – which we needed to obtain rights and permissions for – was held in early September last year.
We have also just launched our own digital ticket office (‘kbf: bilety’), which we have been working on for the last two years. The pandemic made us work faster! We are currently selling tickets for the FMF and passes for free literary events (we need to control the number of visitors at our venues), and soon we will be offering tickets for almost 200 events.
The pandemic has strengthened my belief that we should always look for positive aspects in change. There’s no point in regretting things, complaining or focusing on the negatives – we should look for constructive aspects of any situation which we can use to bring about positive change. So much happened at KBF last year which in other circumstances would have taken years to achieve, such as preparing and launching the Kraków Culture project, publishing the new quarterly magazine and the fascinating content and new services for our audiences. We are able to work in a hybrid format without losing efficiency and we are reaching for state-of-the-art technologies. If we look at things this way, the pandemic has brought a lot of our work forward!
What should we be wishing event organisers?
I really hope that everything we have planned for next year can go ahead without problems. That we can stop wearing masks to events and not need to check everyone’s vaccination status. I hope to return to in-person working – after all some of our best ideas happen during quick chats in the corridor at the office. I hope to reach people all over Poland with our PLAY KRAKÓW platform. And if they want to visit Kraków, we will always welcome them with open arms!
Izabela Błaszczyk – cultural manager; she has been the director of KBF since 2011. She is responsible for organising, producing and marketing many of Kraków’s cultural events and for bringing institutions together into networks of partnership with Polish and international cultural and tourism circles.
The text published in the 2/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.
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