The owners of the musical scenes in Poland and abroad need the support of officials who understand the specifics of their work: for clubs are as culturally important as ambitious movies or theatres.
There is an increasing number of alternative music events in Warsaw: ambitious jazz performances, good black metal concerts and interesting electronic music events . Those who enjoy the less mainstream in popular sounds have in recent years been able to attend a truly wide selection of outdoor summer concerts, for example, at the Bar Studio on Plac Defilad, but also ones held in post-industrial venues, such as the Pogłos club.
Club with a mission
The tale behind this scene and that of its owners is in a way the encapsulation of the story of the Warsaw music industry. Pogłos was created on Burakowska street, in the place of the iconic CDQ club, which had closed a few years before. CDQ was one of these places which hosted interesting artists in 1990s’ Warsaw. The building housing the club was taken over by those who had previously organised parties at Ada Puławska, Chmury and Hydrozagadka.
The owners of Pogłos work in a social cooperative, meaning they have a statutory obligation to “bring benefits to society,” and that as a collective they combine the rules of running a company with the functioning of an NGO. Their cooperative is their income source. This is a common formula for places which offer diverse cultural programmes in Polish cities. Although possibly not common knowledge, music clubs, just like studio cinemas and alternative theatre, are irreplaceable in Warsaw. They provide valuable and varied entertainment. Of interest in this context is an example from the west – the iconic Berlin Berghain club has already official recognition as a cultural commodity; something confirmed in a recent German court ruling. And in such a direction should modern democracies go – that is, by treating cultural institutions as national treasures.
City music representative
The Pogłos club hosted the October edition of Creative Mixer, a meeting organized cyclically by Warsaw City Hall and the British Council, and which serves as a forum for exchanging opinions and experiences. The event is an attempt to develop a strategy for the creative industry. – An undertaking where the participants reflect diverse social circles from city officials to alternative creators – Robert Pajączkowski from the British Council explains. And what could potentially result from this? During the last Mixer in Pogłos, city officials broached, for example, an interesting idea for a new post –that of music industry representative – as well as also analysing the effectiveness of Warsaw municipal authorities promoting local artists abroad.
The event, as is the tradition, was attended by those who understand the specifics of Warsaw well, with a representative of the British creative industry also taking the floor. This was Alan Miller, president of the Night Time Industry Association, the head of the British organization that represents the industry in talks with politicians and local authorities. The organisation helped, for example, to create the London Music Board, which aims to restore London’s status as the most important music city in the world. – Alan has proven in Pogłos that the support of the music sector by the city brings many benefits. It has an impact on reducing crime, stimulates the increase in the number of tourists and boosts economic profits – says Ewa Ayton, the director of the British Council’s culture and arts department in Poland.
Miller presented London’s experience, from which Warsaw, with its own character, can draw on any relevant elements. Miller assured those gathered that club goers in Great Britain go out with the best of intentions, being convinced that music can soothe not only the savage beast, but also social tensions. – A club serves as a platform for understanding, openness, tolerance and diversity – Pajączkowski says. And these values are closely connected to the functioning of the civil society currently emerging in Poland.
– The music industry in Poland does not yet speak with one voice – Ayton admits. – But at Mixer there was a music agency representative, club owners, and I could see that they are slowly mobilising themselves collectively for joint actions – says Ayton.
This joint action takes place at the interchange of various disciplines: music, design, fashion, architecture etc. The important challenge now is to create a lasting dialogue between the associated music industry (and the culture industry in general) and those city officials who are listening to the industry’s ideas. Places such as Pogłos or Hydrozagadka need support, contact with decision-makers, people sensitive to the specifics of their industry, and thus, a wisely executed city policy.
2030 Culture Plan
All this becomes increasingly important in such moments in the city history as local council elections. Those elected in them will be crucial for creating a development strategy for the city over the upcoming decade, perhaps even one taking music scene development into consideration. They should understand the significance of well-conducted, fact-based dialogue. Therefore, when looking at election manifesto proposals, it is worth looking for information on strategies for cultural development.
What topics will be discussed in subsequent Creative Mixer meetings, those organized after the election? The next edition is to take place in the first quarter of 2019 and will be devoted to creating a friendly space for residents in neglected areas. Artistic activities with the participation of the local community may contribute to this. In spring, invited artists, experts and city officials will look at this aspect with regard to the right-bank of Warsaw. Topics for the remaining meetings are still the subject of discussion.
You can find polish version of this article here.
This material was created in cooperation with the British Council.