- Aleksandra Pawlik
In 2017, the 7th edition of Boski Fest- a festival organized by a group of friends in Poland - was celebrated. But among all the festivals around Europe, what makes this small celebration so special? The festival does not only show the history and development of young people and their utopian ideology, later spread into a bigger group, but also how important ecology and sustainability is for them and all of us.
So who are they?
Their ideology evolved over the years, engaging with new people with similar opinions and ideas. Everything started with three school-friends who decided to throw a birthday party together in 2010. It was at this party that the name of the festival was born: Boski, which means “Divine” and which is also the nickname of one of the three birthday boys. But nobody expected this idea to grow as big as it is nowadays. Since the beginning, this group of friends was very creative and open-minded. To understand why these people felt the strong need to organize an event and share their ideas with a bigger audience, first we need to get know their environment. They all grew up in Bydgoszcz, a city in central Poland, far away from the sea and even farther away from the mountains. A typical big, industrial city without many opportunities for young people to have fun or to do something special. But they all love the city, so they started to gather people with the same need to create something new in their home town.
The first three editions of the festival were basically birthday parties with friends and other friends of their friends, and they found the perfect spot: a small island in the river of the city, to which you could get to with a small boat. In the beginning, this group of friends were just creating a way to spend time and a place for hosting an alternative party. However, every year more people started getting involved, along with new ideas. They were so creative that they organized a party at a student flat where one of the rooms was filled with sand beach. The recording of this house party became the official fan video of a Polish band known as SOFA.
Since 2013, the group of organizers and the festival idea has rapidly grown. By that time, it was not a party with friends anymore, but a new movement presented to the bigger audience, a movement with the goal of showing how we can positively change our environment. The organizers started to pay more attention to subjects close to their hearts, such as ecology, travelling, stemming from a certain scheme of living, and sharing the idea that it is possible to do whatever you love in your life, and be successful at it.
The Boski team decided to organize 3 panels, or main roots, of the festival. The first root is music, as you can imagine. The music is often proposed by participants, and later chosen by their collective according to their own taste, and into which they are finding positive vibrations, and a similar ideology of freedom. The second root of the festival is a workshop panel full of passion. The task of this panel is not only to put smiles on people’s faces, but also to leave a trace and a thought on their minds. This is the kind of influence that can rest in their lives, waking up new ideas, inspirations, and thoughts. For this reason, there were workshops like natural building to show how you can help the natural environment by changing very simple things in your life. There were also workshops focused on waking up creativity, and other activities like capoeira, yoga, crocheting, making your own t-shirts or making your own kokadama (a Japanese art of making natural flowerpots, instead of using plastic ones). There is a part of the workshops dedicated to the work of discovering ourselves by waking up awareness of our own selves and the people around us. These included laughing workshops, where people are taught how to break their own barriers and just laugh, with a final discussion about what was the hardest part of it and why. Kids and the elderly are also very important members of our community, so there were several activities with the purpose of integrating all generations. One of these activities was a trip through the forest, prepared for parents and kids. Throughout the trip they explored the different living beings in the forest and how to take care of nature, as well as legends and stories connected to those plants.
The last root, but not less important, is a discussion panel. This is where the shared ideology of equality and freedom of the festival comes into play. These meetings were created as a place to give everyone the chance to share their ideas, and discuss about different topics. During one of the editions, the participants of the festival had the chance to meet with two disabled travelers: Michał Woroch and Maciej Kamiński, who created a blog known as Wheelchair trip, in which they talk about their trips across all the world. Thenceforth, they have visited South America, Europe, and some parts of Asia. One of their challenges was a 3-day trip riding horses through Mongolia. Apart from them, there has always been place in the discussion panels for non-typical travelers, ecologists, or people close to the city hall that encourage the cooperation between the city and the locals.
The organizers have explained several times that, for all of these three roots, they are trying to get involved both professionals, and friends, colleagues, parents, and grandparents. To put it bluntly, people with passion and energy willing to share, and all of this in a DiY and ecological spirit. Each year they build the entire infrastructure themselves, with the help of volunteers, using recycled materials. They have also resigned from using disposable plastic cups, and, instead, they have designed reusable festival cups and edible plates created from oat brans. That simple intervention decreased the trash in more than a half.
Another important aspect, as I mentioned before, is integration between generations. That is why the organizers are promoting special free entrance or cheaper tickets if you take a member of your family from other generations (younger siblings, grandparents, etc.) with you. Each year they are inviting elderly people from different associations like a chorus of seniors or the seniors dance association, and encourage them to perform and dance with the youngsters, and vice versa.
Throughout the whole festival organizers pay attention to how participants react in each activity to learn how to manage and organize people and volunteers, and how to improve planning the event in terms of logistics, security, sanitation, and legality.
How is it funded?
Since 2013, Boski collective decided to participate in a city contest known as “Realization of artistic projects and undertakings of promotional importance for the city Bydgoszcz”. It is through this contest that they got a grant from the city for 3 years. A different role of the funding, and probably the most meaningful, is collecting money via a crowdfunding platform. Thanks to this opportunity, they are promoting a win-win situation. Through this platform people can donate as much as they want to, and each payment gives you an entrance to the festival. The slogan of this idea is “You give as much as you feel like”; that is, you decide how important the festival is to you. Of course, people that decide to donate more can also choose their extra rewards, like vouchers of restaurants in the city, entrance to the climbing wall, or a visit to the doctor’s specialist office. All of these places became partners thanks to negotiations and conversations of the Boski team with the companies’ managers. Moreover, in order to inform people about how and where they can participate in the crowdfunding, a short movie campaign was created to explain the idea of the festival as well. In 2017 the biggest crowdfunding platform (Polak Potrafi) in Poland awarded prizes for the best projects funded via their platform. The prize of the category “Crowd culture” (Kultura Tłumu) was granted to Boski Fest.
This year, the Boski collective did not stop spreading their ideas. A new challenge for them supposed creating a work camp for foreign volunteers, the result being the reception of 12 foreign volunteers from Taiwan, China, Korea, France, Turkey, Spain, Belarus, and USA. Throughout the two weeks previous to the festival, both volunteers and the collective built the infrastructures, and prepared the area all together. It was a great experience to get to know other cultures and learn to live side by side. As such, the symbol of this cooperation became the very moment in which they were moving a destroyed wooden house in order to use it as a beach stage.
In the future, they want to keep developing themselves and the festival with new ideas. The new goal that they have already presented is to create an atmosphere and opportunity to engage more people, and explain to all the participants of the festival that they are not only mere visitors, but that they are also creating and changing it. That will be the idea for the fourth root of Boski Fest: society. In other words, to make participants feel more important during the festival, and give them more opportunities to be heard, as well as give them responsibility in their actions, but always in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. We will see how the festival develops in the future.