The Art of Life
The Slot Art Festival is one of the largest alternative culture festivals in Poland organized in early July for over 30 years now – it is a small prototype of a perfect town. There are living districts and town bath, cafes and restaurants, concert halls and clubs, there is a univeristy and a kindergarden and even a theatre and three little cinemas.
This colorful festival village has blossomed for over 15 years in an exceptional location – within the walls of the Baroque, Cistercian monastery-palace complex in Lubiąż in Lower Silesia. Shady trees, cool, ivy covered walls, hidden corners and the arches of the cathedral give a timeless dimension to the modern art forms presented.
The Slot Art Festival is five days of high quality fun as well as a gateway to new possibilities, friendships and contacts. Five days filled with dozens of workshops, concerts, parties, films, and seminars. It’s also something much more – five days away from the daily rat race, battles and rush. The festival will leave you with not only memories, but also with dreams and fresh energy for action.
How long is the Slot Art Festival?
The festival lasts for five days and four days. We open the gates at 9 July (Tuesday) in the morning. The programme begins in the evening – at 20:00 we officialy open Slot Art Festival with the main stage concerts. After that it’s non-stop fun for four days – until Saturday 13 July. The last events end on Sunday morning and in the afternoon we close the camping sites.
How does a single day look like at the Slot Art Festival?
The festival programme begins in the afternoon of 9 July. For the full 4 festival days (10–13 July) you can take part in the multitude of events: three turns of workshops and lectures take place everyday, as well as meetings with special guests of the festival (at 11:00, 13:00, 15:00). Everyday you can join up to three different workshops or lectures. You can choose your favourite and take part in it for four days (options for the thorough) or try something new everyday (option for the curious).
Afternoons and evenings are full of musical events:
From 20:00 until midnight there are concerts on the mane stage which presents the biggest stars of the festival;
At 17:30 the small (contest) stage begins, where upcoming bands present themselves;
Club music lovers have two dancefloors waiting for them (after 22:00), enthusiasts of committed music will enjoy the HC/Punk stage (from 21:00). After midnight you can go to the cathedral to get lost in the atmosphere of experimental stage, listen to the acoustic sounds of the unplugged stage or swing until the morning in the reggae tent.
Slot Art Festival is also plentiful in cinematic experiences: at 18:00 we present important documentaries, at 0:30 you can see ambitious feature films.
Is that all?
At the festival you can meet various NGOs, there are 9 cafes, Estern Tent telling oriental stories, skimboard for those who need to chill in the hot summer days, exhibitions, kindergarden for the youngest participants of the festival
How not to get lost in the festival programme?
Every participant gets a free guidebook at the registeration booth, where all of the festival events are described. It’s worth having a good look in it and marking the things that interest you. The guidebook will be also downloadable at our website.
Where did the idea for the festival come from? What is the history behind it?
The festival’s history goes back to the 80’s and the counter culture of that turbulent time. A few Polish people invited the Punk/New Wave band, No Longer Music, from Amsterdam to come here. They were to play at a rock festival in Jarocin, Poland, but because the concert was really more of an evangelistic rock opera based on the passion of Christ, the band was not allowed to play at the festival so they performed unofficially off the festival grounds. Of course, the “forbidden band” was the one everyone wanted to hear so a large crowd gathered.
After that the people who today organize SLOT organized a few tours for NLM in Poland. These concerts were unique, magical, spiritual meetings. People stayed after the concerts to talk and pray. Then instead of organizing more concerts we organized a “gathering.” This was in 1993 in the north of the country and we had about 60 people. It was a total punk atmosphere. The main area was the stage which was under a huge tarp hung between two army barrels. Two bands made up of the same people played there. One of the bands was called, of course, “Tarp Band”!
This event quickly became a legend and soon thereafter we needed to find a bigger venue. We found an old military fort in Gizycko. The festival then started to snowball in every way. Without any real promotion each year the number of participants, bands, then workshops, performances, films etc. doubled… along with the time needed to organize it all!
In 2001 the Slot Art festival was moved to Lubiąż? Why there?
There were several reasons. With all the growth we needed a larger venue big enough for a few thousand people and not just a few hundred. Slot started to be well known outside of the country so we looked for a place more accessible for foreigners. A friend of ours lived in Lubiąż and suggested we look into this castle. During the first visit we were amazed and a bit overwhelmed. The place was unique and magical but totally unprepared for such an event. Everything needed to be installed: stages, electricity, toilets, showers, fencing, etc. but we like challenges and fairly quickly we made our decision. The openness, trust and support that we received from the property managers, the Lubiąż Foundation, and local and state authorities was and is very important to us. Without their favor and practical help we couldn’t organize SLOT in Lubiaz.
Is SAF (Slot Art Festival) a Christian event? Is there anything there for the non-religious to find?
Is there anything there for the non-religious to find? You could as easily ask the same of a U2 concert, Tolkien’s stories or Bach’s fugues.
Christianity is the inspiration for many of us to be creative and to be involved in our surroundings. This is where our world view and ideas for human development comes from. That source is very foundational for SAF.
SAF could be interesting for every person regardless of their world view, religiousness or the lack there of. The results of a meeting of people with different convictions and ideas for life is valuable in and of itself.
You promote something that you call “alternative culture”. What is that?
We’re intrigued by fresh, new, seeking ideas in culture which are often missing in popular media forms. We value independent, authentic artists who create because of an inner need to express themselves and not because of the dictates of specialists who want more profit and sales.
For many that means realizing one’s ideas based on the philosophy of DIY (Do It Yourself). We look for artists/performers who treat the public and their message seriously, and who are not so self-absorbed in themselves or their art. We also look for a public who is not interested in a one-sided view of things or in just consuming, but who are interactive, willing to dialog, cooperate, and experience something together with others.
What is the biggest success of SLOT as a concept?
The festival itself and how it’s developed over the years. We’ve been able to create something new, original and valuable from nothing. We try to be serious in what we do yet remain open to changes and new ideas. We’re glad that we’re able to run the festival better each year but it’s still all done by a growing group of friends who are passionate about it. Our goal has never been just “entertainment” but to challenge and inspire. There are many festival organizers in Poland, Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic who tell us that SLOT was a large inspiration for them. When we see growth, positive change in peoples lives, new initiatives and valuable projects then we have a sense of success.
Summer is a time filled with events directed at young people. How is Slot different than the others?
Firstly it is a “people’s” festival and gathering and only after that comes the music, parties and workshops. That’s why besides the music stages we organize cafes and clubs in little spots all around the castle where people can talk, discuss, experience something together, and learn
from each other over a good cup of tea or coffee.
We try to continue the tradition of free festivals without drifting in the direction of holding just a big party. That’s why we emphasize reflection on important issues such as development, Christian spirituality, social responsibility and ecology.
It’s a party held by a group of people for themselves because Slot is put on by people who are passionate about it plus more than 1000 volunteers. There’s not a clear border between organizers and participants. SLOT is constructed so as to allow involvement and influence on its form by those who want to join in. If someone has a good idea for something interesting and valuable to do for others there is a place for it at SLOT.
SLOT is also a festival of involvement. We organize a Social Initiatives Fair where we present interesting organizations and projects. We’re involved in the Fair Trade movement which is an interesting way to support the poor in the southern hemisphere.
It’s an international event as well. There are not only bands from other nations but also volunteers and participants.
What regulations are there at the festival?
We have only a few simple festival regulations. They fit in a slogan: “four days without chemicals and violence.” Alcohol and drugs are not allowed in or used on the festival grounds. Drunk people are not allowed to enter. Some people are shocked at these regulations, but, time has shown us that they help create the positive atmosphere at the festival.
Are all those who lead workshops, play concerts and work at the festival volunteers? How does the festival work organizationally?
SAF only happens thanks to our volunteers. More than 1000 people are involved in leading workshops, giving lectures, working technically or administratively. Most performers play at Slot for travel costs and some don’t even want that. A couple dozen people are involved all year round in preparing the festival also on a volunteer basis. There are, of course, a few positions that require a large amount of work and time and a few people who do those things receive a salary. These are positions like production coordinator, administration, promotion and program directors. The interesting thing is that most of these people started out as volunteers.
Building such an event with people who are working together on a volunteer basis is a huge challenge but also a bigger privilege.
SLOT isn’t just a few day long event, although that is the most spectacular work that your society is doing. What happens during the year?
SLOT is more of a movement than an organization. Local creative centers are located all around Poland where groups of people co-operate with SLOT. Usually these people are connected to SLOT and realize their ideas on a local level with SLOT days, film discussion groups, concerts and parties.
The name SLOT stands for “Society of Local Creative Centers” in Polish and it reflects our vision of creativity based on relationships and common values within an autonomous network of collectives, initiatives and organizations actively involved in their world.
We try and carry the SLOT idea to the local arena by, for instance, supporting SLOT days. These are local mini-festivals similar to SAF, also put together by volunteers. The programs contain different elements i.e. concerts, parties, workshops, performances, films and lectures. Some of these events bring together a few hundred people others only 20-30. Each of these events has their own flavor. In the last few years we have seen between 60 and 80 of these events happening.
A good example of a local initiative is the SLOT group in Krakow. Many of them are travelers so they organized an event called “Slot and the East”. The main draw wasn’t a concert, but slide shows and stories of travels. The first event, held in a small pub in Krakow’s old town, was hugely successful with hundreds of people showing up and many more who couldn’t fit inside. The event has already been repeated and has become known in the city. It started simply when a few people who have a genuine passion for something got together and decided to organize an event for others who have the same passion.
Excerpts from an interview published on portal polska.pl