Pol’And’Rock Festival 25 Defies Polish Government

Pol'and'Rock Festival
Lucyna Lewandowska
– Pol’and’Rock Festival
Until 2017, the event was simply known as the Polish Woodstock

Pol’and’Rock Festival is gearing up for its 25 anniversary this coming weekend, Aug. 1-3 in spite of constant undermining by the Polish government.
The European continent is divided at the moment in terms of politics, mainly between proponents of the political and economic construct that is the EU and its opponents.
Conservative governments, or governments considered on the right side of the political spectrum, have been gaining traction in many EU countries over the past years, and Poland is no exception.
Jurek Owsiak
Marcin Michon
– Jurek Owsiak
Promoter of Pol’and’Rock Festival and founder of the charity that runs the event

According to Jurek Owsiak, promoter of Pol’and’Rock Festival, the current conservative Polish government has been constantly trying to undermine the non-profit event, which attracts some 500,000 people over three days each year, according to the promoter’s own estimates. It’s hard to come up with an exact number, since Pol’and’Rock is a non-ticketed event. 
“Each year we are stunned by the fact that the state attempts to make the organisation of the festival as challenging as possible,” Owsiak told Pollstar.
Owsiak is the founder of the charity that runs the festival, called Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy. It launched with the aim of raising money to buy medical equipment for kids’ hospitals, which is where Pol’and’Rock donates its profits to even today, 25 years later.
All concerts and activities, like workshops, performances, plays, stand-up shows, sporting events, talks and discussion panels, are free, as is access to the main campsite. “We rely on the festival sponsors to finance the event. What is more, our festival stewards are all volunteers,” Owsiak said. 
Pol'and'Rock Festival
Anna Migda
– Pol’and’Rock Festival
“Our motto is: love, friendship, music,” said promoter Jurek Owsiak

He explained that the festival represented an “island of freedom, tolerance, a place where people can form a community based on mutual respect and their shared love for music,” which makes it difficult to see how the government could take issue with it.
It clearly does, however. According to Owsiak, the state-run train operator not only tried to remove additional festival trains from the schedule, but also wanted to remove the festival’s main station, Kostrzyn nad Odrą, from all train schedules.
Said Owsiak: “It seems that in Poland, which is currently more divided than it has ever been, the need for positivity and community is overwhelming. However, the government does not approve of the fact that it’s delivered rock’ n’roll style.”
Enormous public outcry was the only reason the train operator budged in the end. But troubles didn’t end there: “We are also faced with heightened security and health & safety requirements and restrictions, even though police and medical response teams have praised the festival organizationin the past,” said Owsiak, who founded the festival’s charity and is considered and influential and respected public figures in the country, who never shies away from commenting on current affairs. 
Only three days ahead of Pol’and’Rock Festival 2019 opening its gates, all of the festival’s five stages are up and running. “We did our stage lighting tests last night. Fingers crossed, we are ready to go, and the festival campsites are slowly filling up with people,” said Owsiak.
Pol'and'Rock Festival
Stanislaw Wadas
– Pol’and’Rock Festival
An estimated 500,000 people visit the event each year

He also confirmed that many of the bands billed to play at the festival, including Prophets of Rage, Parkway Drive, Gogol Bordello among many others, were en route. 
Pol’and’Rock Festival is one of the biggest non-commercial events in the region. The festival was inspired by the atmosphere of Woodstock’69, and, according to Owsiak, “we keep up the ideals of hippie generations – there is a real community of people, open, tolerant and cheerful.”
The festival was called Przystanek Woodstock, which translates as “Woodstock Station,” throughout most of the world, however, it was simply known as the Polish Woodstock – at least until 2017, when it was banned from using the name Woodstock by the rights-holders of the name. 
Two years on, and it has become clear why.
“People of all ages, creeds, races and opinions are welcome here, and they come to experience the music and learn and discover the work of different NGOs and charities,” Owsiak went on. “Bands are often surprised by the turn-out and by how enthusiastic and vibrant their reactions are. It seems that it is a place where people remind themselves that they can be happy and kind towards each other. Our motto is: love, friendship, music and we aim to promote tolerance and open-mindedness.”