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10k people attend Poland’s biggest show since 2020

Last weekend, German DJ Boris Brejcha played the biggest concert Poland has seen since the outbreak of Covid at the beginning of 2020.

Ten thousand fans gathered in Poland’s largest and best-preserved fortress, in Modlin, located northwest of Warsaw, last Friday (25 June) to enjoy Brejcha’s set.

According to the promoters, Follow the Step, the enormous structure (pictured) was created by specialists especially for the event and was months in the making.

“This was the first production of this type in this part of Europe and thanks to the huge amount of technology, lights and the latest generation sound system, provided an amazing experience,” according to a press release.

Entry was restricted to doubly vaccinated residents, as per government guidelines, all of whom were required to show proof of vaccination.

“Finally after one and a half years we could put our plans into action and get back to organising events on the big scale,” Follow the Step’s Tamara Przystasz tells IQ.

“Not only was it quite a challenge organising it in such a way that will comply with all the new rules and restrictions, but it was also the first event that we could organise for vaccinated people only. However, it was amazing to see 10,000 people celebrating the comeback of music events.”

Maciej Korczak, owner of FTS, added: “The Boris Brejcha show was a huge step forward not only for our company but also for the whole event and music industry in our country. We like to pave the way here as we believe that nothing is impossible.”

“It quite a challenge organising it in such a way that will comply with all the new rules and restrictions”

“The show was just a warm-up for us before Fest Festival this summer which will take place on the 11-14 of August in Chorzów. But after what we managed to do with Boris show we are now sure that we are able to organise Fest Festival this summer for 40,000 people safely.”

Earlier this month, Follow the Step was given permission to hold multi-genre event Fest Festival without any capacity limits, provided that attendees have had their Covid-19 vaccinations.

During a press conference, the Polish minister of health confirmed the information that people vaccinated against Covid-19 do not count towards the established limits applicable during mass events.

The event is scheduled to happen 11–14 August in Chorzów and organisers have so far confirmed acts such as Kygo, James Bay, Rag’n’Bone Man and Alan Walker on the bill.

Alongside Poland, mega concerts with 10,000 people or more have recently returned to China, the US and Israel, while France, Belgiumthe Netherlands, DenmarkAustria and the UK have set a date this summer for the resumption of large, non-socially distanced shows.

 


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Łódź venues announce senior management team

Slawomir Worach has been named as the new chairman of Makis, which operates both the 18,000-capacity Widzew Stadium and the 14,000-cap. Atlas Arena, in Łódź, Poland. He replaces 11-year veteran Krzysztof Maciaszczyk.

The management shake-up will also see well-known promoter Łukasz Minta take on the newly created role of executive manager at Makis, giving him responsibility for business relationships with new and current promoters.

Minta successfully ran his own company, Go Ahead, which was purchased by Live Nation in 2019. He had been working for Live Nation prior to the Makis appointment.

As one of Poland’s biggest venues, Atlas Arena is well established on the European tour circuit. Among the confirmed artists on the arena’s calendar are Enrique Iglesias, Simply Red, Hans Zimmer, James Blunt, Kiss and Céline Dion.

 


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Fest gets green light for full-capacity festival

Poland’s Fest Festival has been given permission to go ahead as planned, without any capacity limits, provided that attendees have had their Covid-19 vaccinations.

The event, which is scheduled to happen 11–14 August in Chorzów, has been told it can go ahead after the Polish government announced an easing of certain pandemic restrictions.

During a press conference last week, the Polish minister of health confirmed the information that people vaccinated against Covid-19 do not count towards the established limits applicable during mass events.

“We are leading conversations to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a European certificate can also enjoy this year’s edition”

Fest Festival launched in 2019 as a multi-genre event and enjoyed a successful debut when more than 30,000 people attended the gathering. The 2021 edition has been extended to four days and organisers have so far confirmed acts such as Kygo, James Bay, Rag’n’Bone Man and Alan Walker on the bill.

However, Follow the Step Agency has pledged to try to open the gates for others. “As per today, the festival can only be held for vaccinated people,” says Fest’s promoter.

“Considering the fact that it’s not a perfect solution, [we] are leading conversations […] to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a valid European certificate – available for free for [Covid] convalescents, people tested and vaccinated with the first dose – can also enjoy this year’s edition of Fest Festival.”

 


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Poland’s Open’er festival cancelled again

Open’er, Poland’s largest annual music festival, has been cancelled for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the organisers wrote: “This is a difficult moment for us. Another one in the midst of the pandemic. Over the last few months we have fought and done so much to make this year’s edition of the Open’er Festival possible. Although we are convinced that the return of the festival world is very close, we are losing this race against time.

“The process of recovering from the pandemic is progressing, vaccinations are ongoing, but unfortunately for obvious reasons, both local and international, the lack of a plan for the coming months and the restrictions in force – the beginning of July in Poland is not yet the time when we will be able to organize Open’er Festival in the scale and form you expect.”

Kendrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots and A$AP Rocky would have headlined this year’s event at Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport in Gdynia between 30 June and 3 July.

“Although we are convinced that the return of the festival world is very close, we are losing this race against time”

Twenty One Pilots, however, have already been announced for next year’s 20th-anniversary edition.

Michael Kiwanuka, Destroyer, Badbadnotgood and Seasick Steve have also been confirmed for Open’er 2022, set to take place between 29 June and 2 July.

In the meantime, Open’er is planning a new event that will take place in Gdynia and span several weeks. The organisers say they will reveal more details in the coming weeks.

The cancellation of Open’er follows that of multi-venue festival World Wide Warsaw and electronic festival Undercity, both of which are promoted by Follow the Step.

At the time of writing, Fest Festival, Pol ‘and’ Rock and Wisloujscie are still set to go ahead.

 


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Polish festivals go ‘full steam ahead’ for 2021

Polish festivals Fest Festival and Pol’and’Rock are determined to do whatever it takes to pull off their respective 2021 events – each of which is slated to feature a raft of international artists.

Follow The Step-promoted Fest Festival has revealed the first wave of artists for its August event, which is almost exclusively non-domestic acts such as Norwegian DJ Kygo, Australian act Fisher and French duo Ofenbach.

The event, which made its debut in 2019, is set to take place in Silesian Park, Chorzów, between 11–14 August, after the organisers added an extra day.

“During this year’s edition, we will develop solutions that will allow the festival to be organised in safe conditions. We plan, among other things, to significantly enlarge the festival area and reduce the number of tickets available for sale. We observe the situation and we will adapt our plans to the current sanitary restrictions on an ongoing basis,” says a representative from Fest Festival.

“We will adapt our plans to the current sanitary restrictions on an ongoing basis”

Tickets for Fest Festival start at PLN 229 for a one-day pass. All 2020 ticket holders will be automatically upgraded to a four-day pass for the 2021 event.

Elsewhere, Pol’and’Rock – also known as the ‘Woodstock of Poland’ – recently announced a number of international artists for the July 2021 event including US heavy metal band Static-X, British metalcore outfit While She Sleeps and Ukrainian act Jinjer.

The annual festival is slated for 29–31 July this year in Kostrzyn nad Odrą, western Poland, and is free to attend.

According to organisers, Pol’and’Rock typically attracts an audience of almost half a million people each year and is the biggest non-commercial festival in Europe.

“Just like last year, we are powering on, full steam ahead,” says Jurek Owsiak, promoter of Pol’and’Rock Festival. “We’re wiser, more experienced now, so we are doing our best to prepare for these three days when we can meet at the festival.

“We are faced with an enormous logistical challenge, but even the grandest undertaking can be successful despite the current global situation. We are working off different scenarios, which we tweak to suit the pandemics’ global developments and progress.

“We are working off different scenarios, which we tweak to suit the pandemics’ global developments”

“Vaccination and the fact that we all agree to follow restrictions, which are there to protect us and limit the spread of the virus, taught us to be disciplined and responsible for ourselves and others. A huge group of people will do whatever it takes to be a part of our festival, agreeing to follow all rules and regulations, which are meant to make it a safe space for everyone.”

In January, Poland confirmed it will issue its citizens with a vaccine certificate, or ‘passport’, when they have been immunised against Covid-19, which could eventually be used to facilitate Covid-safe events.

According to the Reuters Covid-19 tracker, Poland has administered at least 4,605,929 doses of Covid vaccines so far (assuming every person needs two doses), which is about 6.1% of the country’s population.

However, Covid-19 infections are increasing in Poland, with 18,380 new infections reported on average each day, which is 72% of the peak — the highest daily average reported on November 11.

While venues have been permitted to open at 50% capacity, live performances will now be suspended from 20 March until 9 April, according to Pearle.

 


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Major markets set out plans for Covid-19 passports

Australia and Iceland have joined a number of other markets across the globe in announcing plans for digital health passports which will show citizens’ Covid-19 vaccination and test status.

Iceland recently became the first European country to issue and recognise Covid-19 vaccination certificates to enable international travel for those inoculated against Covid-19.

Since early in the pandemic, the country has required a minimum five-day quarantine for international arrivals and now those with documentation showing they have received a full course of Covid-19 vaccines will be able to skip quarantine.

“You Check’s identity first [digital health passport] has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk”

In Australia, ahead of the nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, the government has announced that all vaccinations will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register, and certificates would then be available digitally via the Express Plus Medicare app or in hard copy through the vaccination provider or Services Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC National Radio it is “highly likely” that such documentation will be needed for international travel into the country.

Meanwhile, UK music venues are set to trial a health passport pioneered by London-based start-up You Check to accelerate the nation’s return to live.

The trials – which have been set-up in conjunction with Music Venue Trust (MVT) – are scheduled to take place at London’s 100 Club (cap. 350) and Bristol’s Exchange (cap. 250) in March.

The digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result in one place and “facilitate communication between promoters and their full audiences, beyond the primary ticket buyer”.

[This] digital health passport will allow venue door staff and ingress operations to verify an attendee’s name, age, ticket and test result

“You Check’s identity first solution has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk,” says MVT CEO, Mark Davyd.

“It has a fast and thorough authentication process which enables health information to be stored against portable digital identity and MVT is pleased to be working with You Check to explore how this technology might form part of a comprehensive process which enables us to reopen every venue safely and revive live.”

Other nations that have revealed plans to launch a digital coronavirus passport include Sweden (by the summer) and Denmark (in three to four months), while Poland has already started issuing the digital pass to its citizens.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain’s foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez has said “vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably”; Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has called upon the European Commission to introduce a standardized coronavirus vaccination certificate to facilitate travel within the European Union bloc, and Portugal’s interior minister Eduardo Cabrita has said that a vaccine certification would be easier to manage than the current Covid-19 requirements.

 


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Sweden to issue vaccine passports, reconsider rules

The Swedish government has revealed plans to launch a digital coronavirus vaccine passport by this summer, following similar announcements from Denmark and Poland.

During a press conference on Thursday (4 February), Sweden’s minister for energy and digital development, Anders Ygeman, said: “When Sweden and countries around us start to open up our societies again, vaccination certificates are likely to be required for travel and possibly for taking part in other activities.

“[The digital infrastructure] will make the vaccination certificate more secure, simple and international,” he says.

The Swedish government is aiming is to have the digital vaccine passport in place by 1 June and has pledged to offer the Covid-19 vaccination to all adults before Midsummer (the final weekend of June), depending on the availability of vaccines.

Sweden’s live music association, Svensk Live, says the passport “would be a piece of the puzzle in the work of being able to reopen concerts and festivals this summer”.

Svensk Live, says the passport “would be a piece of the puzzle in being able to reopen concerts and festivals this summer”

Festival organisers in Sweden’s neighbouring country, Denmark, are similarly optimistic about the viability of the forthcoming season after the Danish government announced plans to roll out a vaccine passport in three to four months. However, unlike Sweden, the Danish government has said vaccine passports will initially only apply to travel.

Elsewhere, Sweden’s minister of culture, Amanda Lind, has revealed that the government is preparing proposals for more “accurate and appropriate” restrictions for public gatherings and public events.

Lind says that restrictions and capacity limit should be able to vary depending on whether the gathering or event is organised indoors or outdoors, as well as the size of the venue or area.

The proposals will be submitted in February and implemented as soon as the infection situation allows.

Last year, Sweden imposed one of the lowest capacity limits in Europe for cultural events, reducing the threshold from 300 seated and socially distanced patrons to just eight.

Non-essential activities, including concerts, are currently banned until 7 February under Sweden’s extended restrictions.

 


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Vaccine passports gain traction across Europe

Poland has become the latest European concert market to confirm it will issue its citizens with a vaccine certificate, or ‘passport’, when they have been immunised against Covid-19, as the idea gains traction across the continent.

While the issuing of vaccine passports is largely aimed at restarting cross-border travel, there are hopes the live music industry could also benefit, with promoters and venues able to Covid-safe their shows by requiring proof of vaccine status for all those attending.

In Poland, after being successfully vaccinated (which, in the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is after the second jab) people will be issued with an electronic QR code downloadable from their personal account on the government website or public health system, according to Polish deputy health minister Anna Goławska.

Yesterday (13 January)’s announcement comes a day after confirmation of a similar, government-funded trial in the UK, where vaccinations began in the second week of December.

However, while the British government says at this stage there are “no plans” to roll out vaccine passports on a wider basis beyond the trial, Denmark has confirmed it will issue official documentation showing vaccine status, in a move that has received the backing of live music association Dansk Live.

The Danish ministry of health will launch its own Covid-19 vaccine passport in the coming weeks, DR reports, with the electronic documentation updated over time as new knowledge about the vaccinations – for how long they are effective, for example – emerges.

“I think many festivals would use these”

“I think many festivals would use these,” says Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher tells DR, “because it can help to ensure that outbreaks don’t occur due to staging an event.”

In Switzerland, meanwhile, Stefan Breitenmoser, head of the Swiss Music Promoters’ Association (SMPA), has said his members would similarly support a vaccine passport there, cautiously welcoming an idea which is fast gaining ground, according to France TV, though has yet to receive official approval.

“Vaccination could, one day, be one of the measures which would allow people to attend live events,” he says, adding that more information is still required on “the protection offered by vaccinations against the virus”.

In addition to the concert sector, vaccine passports are popular with airlines, with aviation having been similarly hard-hit by the economic shutdown around the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, the Greek government wrote to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to urge the adoption of vaccine passports at an EU level, though experts believe the idea to have little chance of success, with vaccine-sceptical countries such as France already having ruled out such a move.

In November, Ticketmaster rebuffed reports it could deny access to non-vaccinated attendees when events restart, saying the decision remains with the promoter.

 


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Salt Wave presents Salt Wave Sessions

Poland’s Salt Wave festival has released the first Salt Wave Sessions, a series of short concerts recorded live during summer 2020.

Like nearly all other European festivals, Salt Wave, promoted by Poznań-based Good Taste Production, was forced to call off its 2020 edition as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The second edition of Salt Wave would have taken place this August in the resort town of Jastarnia, on the Hel Peninsula on Poland’s Baltic coast.

“Unable to organise the second edition of Salt Wave Festival, and terribly itching to spend time on the Hel coast, we decided to capture few mini-concerts on the water, which we would broadcast when the summer had passed,” explains Good Taste’s Sara Maria Kordek on the genesis of Salt Wave Sessions. “Now, we proudly hand over to you effects of our summer work in this very strange year.”

The first Salt Wave Sessions videos, which can be viewed on Salt Wave’s YouTube channel, feature Polish electro-pop trio Kamp!.

Salt Wave will return on 20 and 21 August 2021.

 


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Poland joins Keychange’s gender equality movement

As Polish women take to the streets to protest a near-total ban on abortion, Poland’s music industry is leading the charge for gender equality after becoming an official country partner to the Keychange movement for gender equality.

The Creative Europe-funded campaign encourages festivals, conferences, music organisations and institutions to sign a pledge to include at least 50% women and under-represented genders in their programming, staffing and beyond by 2022.

Today, Keychange has announced three new Polish signatories: Ethno Port (festival); Chimes (agency); and record label, music publisher, management and agency Kayax.

Spring Break, an annual showcase festival in Poznań, has also been announced as the lead partner for Keychange in Poland and organisers have committed to gender equality on its lineup.

To celebrate the launch of Keychange in Poland, Chimes (Keychange capacity building lead) and Spring Break will collaborate on a focus week and panel discussion to explore the barriers for women and gender minorities in Poland, and the role of music in activism in the country.

Magdalena Jensen, responsible for planning training for Keychange participants this year, says: “We have witnessed the dangerous politicisation of gender in Poland this year with the president inciting hate speech as part of his re-election campaign.

“Sadly, that makes the Keychange movement even more relevant and important in Poland – it’s so important to take a stance for human rights, build bridges and strong support networks and it’s encouraging to see Keychange leading the way in our music industry.”

“With the dangerous politicisation of gender in Poland this year, Keychange is even more important in Poland”

Izabela Rekowska, Spring Break, says: “Our partnership with Keychange sets a tangible goal to achieve gender balance in our line-up. I truly advocate that more festivals should sign the Pledge and join the movement.”

The panel discussion, Artist on the barricades: Can music be a tool for social change?, will take place tomorrow (29 October) at Klubokawiarnia Tymczasowa (dawniej Meskalina) in Poznań with new ambassadors Avtomat and Karolina Czarnecka, as well as Iwona Skwarek (Rebeka) and Keychange participant Magda Chołyst (Artist in Bloom). The event will start at 6 pm and will be broadcast on Spring Break’s Youtube channel.

Speaking about her new role as ambassador, interdisciplinary artist Karolina Czarnecka says: “I grew up in Poland, a catholic and patriarchal society. It’s in my blood. It’s my heritage. Fortunately, I don’t know how, but there has always been freedom in my mind.

“Freedom is my truth. This is my everyday aim also in art. Everybody deserves it, without exception. Our words and actions have power, I believe we have influence on the world around us, even if it’s only our backyard.”

While, Avtomat, an openly queer composer, producer, DJ and vocalist, says: “I’m thrilled to be an ambassador for Keychange for the same reason I’ve been fighting against injustice in Poland – so that everyone can participate in the scene with equal chances.”

Since launching in 2017, Keychange has enlisted over 40 countries and over 350 organisations to the movement. The most recent slate of signatories includes UK booking agency ATC Live.

 


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