Poland, But Not as We Know It: Polish Festivals around the World
Turns out you don’t necessarily have to be in Poland to go to a Polish festival. Events are held around the world, all organised by the Polish diaspora (also known as Polonia). For people thousands of miles away, Poland can seem a little bit far – if you can’t be there physically, one of these 8 major festivals abroad might satisfy your hunger for a bite of Poland.
Taste of Polonia – Chicago, Illinois
This annual event is organised in Chicago, the city whose metropolitan area is famously inhabited by approximately 1.5 million people of Polish descent. Since its first edition in 1979, Taste of Polonia has been held at the Copernicus Center in the Jefferson Park neighbourhood. The four-day festival traditionally starts on the Friday of Labour Day Weekend and runs through to the first Monday of September. It’s an occasion to listen, among other things, to live Polka music and concerts by artists from Poland – the 2015 edition featured performances by Polish bands such as De Mono and Marika Band). At the event you can gorge on classic Polish food like bigos (a cabbage and meat stew) and paczki (doughnuts), and sip beer and vodka from the Land on the Vistula. The diverse festival, which attracts tens of thousands, is well known too for its many other attractions such as Polish crafts, folk dances, and activities for kids.
Days of Poland – London, England
A London-based event that takes place in May at Potters Field Park opposite Tower Bridge. It’s a much younger festival than Taste of Polonia as its first edition was organised in 2014. Days of Poland is a family-friendly afternoon affair, the goal of which is to promote Polish culture and art in the UK and, of course, to provide people with a good time. The 2015 edition put an emphasis on folklore and featured performances by three Polish folk music and dance groups: Orlęta, Mazury, and Karolinka. Apart from enjoying these performances, festival attendees could, for instance, also grab a bite of Polish food such as gołąbki (cabbage rolls) or pierogi (dumplings) and participate in competitions, many of which were for children.
Polish Culture Festival in Beijing – Beijing, China
The 2015 edition of this annual festival, which will be the fourth, is still ahead of us. It will take place from 6th to 11th November across several locations in the Chinese capital, and present various Polish-Chinese artistic co-productions. One of them will be a concert of Polish chamber music by the China Philharmonic Quartet at the Beijing Concert Hall on the 7th. The day before, a sculpture by Warsaw artist Monika Zawadzki will be unveiled at the Beijing Sculpture Park. The festival will also feature, amongst others, a photographic exhibition by Amber Hu, entitled Kraków and theatrical workshops prepared by the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor Cricoteka. Last year’s edition of the Polish Culture Festival in Beijing was a very popular event that attracted thousands of visitors.
PolArt – Melbourne, Australia
This Australian festival that will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It takes place every three years in one of the country’s state capitals, namely either Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart or Perth. This year’s edition will be held in Melbourne across the new year period from 27th December to 3rd January. The festival focuses on Polish culture and heritage through the presentation of dance, theatrical plays, visual arts and literature readings. This year attendees will get the chance to listen to a concert by the Polish jazz singer Anna Maria Jopek at Hamer Hall, attend a dance show featuring numerous Polish regional folk dances, and sample traditional Polish food. PolArt 2015 will also feature a special children’s day on the 29th, full of attractions for the young ones.
Ronscevalles Polish Festival – Toronto, Canada
Taking place in the Ronscevalles neighbourhood of Toronto, this annual event had its first edition in 2005. This year, the festival is being held on the weekend of the 19th and 20th September. It will feature a large swathe of traditional song and dance performances by various groups such as Kujawiacy, Polonez and Biały Orzeł. The event will also include plenty of live Polka music and concerts by the Polish-Canadian pop-rock and blues group D/vision and a Polish disco band named Impuls. Alongside all the music, two interesting photography exhibitions are being organised. One will present works by the great deceased Polish artist Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (AKA Witkacy), the other will show photos from the archives of highly-respected Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Plus, as demanded by the festival gods, Polish food, beer and vodka will also be available at this two-day event.
PolenmARkT – Greifswald, Germany
PolenmARkT has been described by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, as the most significant cultural event held in the university town of Greifswald in Germany. The festival traces its origins back to 1997, when an evening of Polish culture was organised in Greifswald upon the initiative of a group of students. That event evolved into an annual festival of Polish culture, which this year will run from 19th to 28th November. Amongst its many attractions, PolenmARkT 2015 will feature: a night of short animated films created by students from the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts; author readings with such writers from Poland as Błażej Dzikowski and Piotr Paziński; concerts by Włochaty, an anarcho-punk band from Szczecin; and Michał Jacaszek, one of Poland's most original creators of electronic and avant-garde sacral music.
Polish American Family Festival & Country Fair – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This festival has been taking place in the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown in Pennsylvania, under different names, since the 1960s. Held each year at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, the event started out as a simple picnic for a group of friends and family. Today, it has evolved into a massive two-weekend festival attended by tens of thousands of visitors, featuring midway rides and craftsman displays. The festival chiefly revolves around Polish identity, as expressed through live music, folk dances, traditional food and historical re-enactments. The Polish American Family Festival & County Fair is traditionally held in September and spans Labour Day Weekend. The 2015 edition included, for instance, a concert by the Polish pop and rock band Pectus and performances by the Wrocław Academic Song and Dance Ensemble Jedliniok.
Corso Polonia – Rome, Italy
Initially designed to be a one-off event, this year saw the 13th edition of this annual festival. Corso Polonia is held mid-year in Rome with the goal of showcasing Polish culture in Italy. Each year the festival has a different theme. In 2014, for instance, the event focused on the democratic opposition in Poland during the 1980s communist period, and on the partially-free 1989 Polish elections. The 2015 edition, which ran from 8th to 22nd June, was entirely devoted to the city of Wrocław, the European Capital of Culture in 2016. Its impressive programme included: a seminar dedicated to the renowned late Polish poet and dramatist Tadeusz Różewicz, who had strong ties with the city; performances by the ZAR Theatre which is based there; and a jazz concert by violinist Adam Bałdych and pianist Paweł Kaczmarek, both linked to the Wrocław Jazztopad music festival.
Written by Marek Kępa, Sept 2015