A Marriage of Business and Entertainment

Krakow is the first city in Poland to host a Culture and Leisure Industry Cluster. The aim of this enterprise is to connect firms and companies operating in a variety of cultural and recreational businesses and institutions to facilitate the completion of their projects. Last week, the Małopolska marszałek (executive head or marshal) signed access documents to become a strategic partner for the cluster.

The Inret Cluster, which is a group of cooperating partners, is to promote the development of both the culture sector, from music to fashion design to antique conservation, as well as the leisure sector, which includes divisions from tourism and recreation to catering. Apart from facilitating contacts between the partners, its main goal is to stimulate and support them.

Recently, several public institutions and firms signed a letter of intent, such as the Ethnographic Museum, the Małopolska Institute of Culture and several culture-based private companies.

The Małopolska marshal’s office is to be a key partner that will support the cluster in the area of inter-regional cooperation.

“The Inret initiative matches exactly our strategic goal that is the promotion of the Małopolska region in Poland and abroad, [and] that is why we decided to join the cluster as a strategic partner,” says Leszek Zegzda, the vice-marshal of Małopolska. “As such we will have better access to a coordinated information system concerning different culture and leisure offers and we will be able to promote them better, such as by creating complex cultural offers for particular places in Małopolska or for desired time periods,” says the vice-marshal.

Unlike regular networks of cooperation, a cluster connects resources with needs. Apart from cooperation there is also dynamic competition between partners, resulting in creativity and a growth in the number of innovative solutions introduced to a particular
market.

“Let’s say somebody would like to play a music concert. He would need several people to accomplish the goal. In a cluster he will find sound operators, a personal manager and an owner of a suitable club, but it is he who has to play the music,” explains Paweł Szlachta, the founder and mastermind of the Inret Culture and Leisure Industry Cluster. “The cluster will not complete a project for a person, but will help by providing suitable tools. That’s where the name is from: ‘Inret’ means ‘in the network’,” says Szlachta.

According to their charter the cluster is to be comprised of three parts: Ekon, an annual conference combined with workshops and tutorials; Hubee, the business incubator to commercialize projects, and Bizee, an Internet platform that will serve as an online melting pot.

“In today’s world it is culture that becomes the most important commercial asset, and leisure time turns into an object of trade for the so-called cultural experiences,” says Szlachta. “Let’s not forget that creative industries generate a considerable part of many Western countries’ GDP and a lot of attractive outlets, which is a global tendency,” he stresses.

And indeed, in the year 2000 creative industries made up 4.5 percent of the Polish GDP, while in 2004 they created jobs for 230,800 people, or 1.7 percent of all jobs in Poland.

“Our country has a niche for building so-called culture or leisure products, so I am very glad that there arose a tool such as Inret which will allow us to transfer the theory of leisure into practical solutions,” says Jacek Kowalski, the director of the leisure industries research centre in WSB NLU Business College, Nowy Sącz.

However, the problem is that in Poland, culture is viewed as a budget burden and thinking about it is focused on preserving the existing status quo. Many people, especially artists, may cringe at combining the words “industry” and “culture”.

“In the Polish language the word for industry, przemysł, is originally derived from the adjective przemyślny, meaning ‘cunning’, ‘ingenious’,” explains Szlachta. “The phrase ‘culture industries’ does not deal with evaluation, but with managing that area. Culture has always been an object of trade, but currently we need to adjust it to modern requirements and break the sacred cow syndrome, meaning fossilized entities that are immune to change. The goal of our cluster is to act cunningly for the benefit of the development of the Polish culture sector, not only in Krakow,” concludes Szlachta.

The Culture and Leisure Industry Cluster is operating nationally, and has been consistently gaining new partners, also outside of Krakow. The cluster’s board has planned the Ekon conference for this November, hosting speakers from both Poland and abroad. Currently on schedule are the first projects concerning the commercialisation and expansion of different cultural objects.

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