Your Festival has a brilliant atmosphere. I have walked through the crowd and across the site and people seem very respectful of each other. What is the secret to this?
I think I have already shared with you many of our secrets. The most important one is probably the love for rock’n’roll. We do not treat our festival as a business but rather as a chance to do things we like. Organizing Woodstock is a great pleasure for us, and we share this positive energy with the audience. Being a father of two, I know what it means to be a parent. When I stand on the stage and see all these people, I feel a bit like their father. I want them to have fun and be happy but I do not hesitate to give them a talking-to if they do something wrong. At the first editions, I had to remind them a couple of times that they should go through this festival experience sober. We do sell beer but we do not put up with excessive drinking. We also very clearly warn against drugs. The Polish anti-drug law is very harsh and even possession of small amount of drugs is punishable. When someone in the audience behaves in a dangerous way, I am not afraid to stop the concert. For a couple of days, we are forming a true civic society, a real community. The festival is like a whole town built from scratch in the middle of nowhere. It has all the elements a town should have: streets, junctions, post office, banks and even courts and a prison. We really all feel we are all co-authors of Woodstock.
It’s a one-off kind friendly place where all subcultures can coexist peacefully.
The festival's motto is "Love, Friendship, and Music" and it is organized by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity foundation as a way of thanking its volunteers. You also set up this amazing Charity. Can you explain a little bit about the charity?
Coming back to the Foundation, in the 20 years of its work it has purchased medical equipment worth of 150 million U.S. dollars. It also runs nation-wide medical programs, including one aimed at teaching children from elementary schools the basics of first aid. The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity sets an example for other NGOs how they deal with money. Our finances are transparent and fair. We are introducing the best practices created by charity foundations worldwide. In our work, we are vigorous and creative, and we have rock’n’roll in our hearts. All this helped us create a foundation liked and respected by all Poles, regardless of their age, religion or political views. This year, Woodstock Festival Poland was opened by two special guests: President of Poland Bronis?aw Komorowski and President of Germany Joahim Gauck. The Polish-German reconciliation is a beautiful and historically important process.
Finally, one important piece of information; As the president of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity I do not receive any salary. My source of income is my private TV production and DVD/DC release company. Please visit the official website of the foundation (www.en.wosp.org.pl) and my personal video-blog (www.owsiaknet.pl).
The Charity foundation has I believe raised in excess of $170 million USD to help Polish Children with cardio-surgery, neonatology, pediatric oncology, kidney diseases, congenital defects, newborns and children under 5 years of age. That is in itself a feat that deserves immense recognition but your want to help the young of Poland is something I think many could learn from.
Thanks for those kind words. This money was used to do good. It helped introduce a tangible improvement in the standard of children healthcare, and greatly lower the mortality rate among newborns. The Great Orchestra’s sister project is now being developed in Ukraine. A group of young Ukrainians came to our office 4 years ago to acquire know-how in order to improve the charity situation of our eastern neighbor. The Ukrainian Orchestra seems to be really successful as well, and this year, in August, Ukrainians also created their own Woodstock Festival. The Ukrainian Grand Finale was held on August 28th all over the western part of the country.
Did you always have a plan in your head as to how to involve the Police and Red Cross in training volunteers and have them help Police and look after your festival? How did that idea come about as it’s an inspiring exercise for any young person to do and gives them the opportunity to work at the festival?
As mentioned before, the idea for the Peace Patrol volunteer community was taken from the U.S. Our volunteers are deeply involved in their work and ready to make personal sacrifices to make it a success every year. Before becoming a member of the Peace Patrol, each candidate has to complete special first aid training based on the program created by the American Heart Association from Pittsburg. Apart from first aid, we also teach Patrollers-to-be how to work in a group, how to deal with crowds and how to behave at a mass event. The Patrollers are not only trained to help us at the festival but also they are taught that it is important to remain active all year through and to be involved with the local community and to help emergency services. For example, the Foundation has provided many police stations with automated external defibrillators. Our Woodstock field hospital would not be able to work without the help of some 200 doctors and paramedics, most of whom have been working for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation for years now.
What are your future plans for Polish Woodstock?
We would love to attract some relevant big-name stars. We would like them not only to come and play but also to become involved in the very idea behind Woodstock Festival Poland. Their presence at our event would help us increase our positive influence over young people. Another plan for the future is to keep developing our “Academy of the Finest Arts”. It is a special place at Woodstock, where the audience has the chance to meet some great guests. The Academy has hosted meetings with many interesting people such as the first non-communist president of Poland and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Lech Wa??sa, the president of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, a co-organizer of the American Woodstock Festival of ’69 Michael Lang and the incumbent presidents of Poland and Germany, Bronis?aw Komorowski and Joachim Gauck. A huge tent, filled to the brim with people, and interesting discussions about the world as it is today. We definitely want to develop the Academy and invite more international guests.
Do you have any other plans to do anything else?
I sometimes catch myself being very impulsive about things happening in my life. Quite often, my spontaneous reactions breed new ideas and help me trigger some positive changes. Right now, I am already thinking what this interview might cause. I like new, surprising situations and challenges. We meet somebody, we hear something, somebody suggests something… At first, it seems a lot in our lives is sheer coincidence, but then it turns out it was supposed to be like that, it was written in the stars.
To international agents and managers who would like their acts to play at your event how should they go about contacting you or your team?
You can contact us simply by sending an e-mail. No message will be left unread. Please keep in mind that the next Woodstock Festival Poland will be held on August 1st-3rd 2013 (Thu-Sat). Our site is only 80 miles from Berlin. For more information, please contact our booker Bartek Stolarek: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What acts would you love to see perform at your festival?
I think it is easier to talk about the preferences of our audience. They would love to see Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, Offspring, Slipknot, Motörhead, Slayer, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine and Megadeth. Of course this is a dream ticket and at the moment we really only can dream about it but who knows what the future brings.