Krakow Festivals Under Threat

How do you save 1.8 million złoty a year? According to Krakow’s city council, the answer is simple – just turn off the lights for an hour every day.

Street lamps in parts of the city centre will be turned on at 4.45pm daily, instead of 4.15pm, and turned off again at 6.45am, instead of 7.15am. Times will be adjusted to take account of sunrise and sunset.

The money-saving plan indicates just how fine are the cuts that the city is being forced to make in order to meet this year’s budget. Reduced street lighting may be a case of ‘every little counts,’ but there are also question marks over much bigger issues. As reported previously in the Krakow Post, schools are earmarked for closure, and long-awaited road improvement projects have been shelved.

And there are also questions over the immediate future of some of the biggest events on Krakow’s cultural calendar. Already, the city has been forced to hold a much toned-down New Year’s Eve party, with no live bands appearing to mark the start of 2012.

Other festivals under threat include Burn Selector, and Coke Live – cultural brands that have helped Krakow build its reputation as a major destination for tourists. The budget for the Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe (KBF) (Krakow Festival Office) has been cut from around 26 million zł to just 19 million. The office, which implements cultural events in Krakow, has roundly criticised the cuts.

But the biggest blow could come if the city looses Sacrum et Profanum, Misteria Paschalia and the Opera Rara cycle, run by Filip Berkowicz. His expertise and contacts have brought the likes of Johnny Greenwood, Kraftwerk, Steve Reich, and the Baroque orchestra Europa Galante to Krakow.

Izabela Helbin, director of the KBF, said the decision could damage the city’s reputation, adding: “Councillors apparently do not understand that they will lose an important part of the promotion of Krakow in Poland and abroad.”

Mikołaj Ziółkowski, head of the organisers of Burn Selector and Coke Live, said both festivals would definitely take place in 2012, but that they may not be held in Krakow. Katowice is expected to be the main contender as host city if Krakow cannot find the cash.

Mr Ziółkowski said: “Both Burn Selector Festival and Coke Live Music Festival will be held in 2012 for sure. But perhaps not in Krakow.

“I don’t really have the time to enter into disputes that are not substantive, nor do I want to – my role is not to be part of the political game which is evident here,” he added.

Tomasz Gutkowski, director of Photomonth, wrote to PO councillors telling them that further budget cuts would “negatively affect the social development of the city.”

Krakow’s major festivals have, since 2008, been promoted under a single banner – Six Senses. Now even this loose partnership may have to change.

OFF Plus Camera Festival producer, Krzysztof Ślusarz, said: “The Six Senses plan really has been the only initiative to bind us together.” Ślusarz added that he was now looking for private sponsors.

Plans to hold volleyball and handball championships in the city, and cash for arts and cultural institutions such as youth centres, are also in question. The future of the Film Music Festival, the Joseph Conrad Literature and the Divine Comedy Theatre Festival are unknown.

Krakow’s budget for 2012 is, in fact, larger than it has ever been – at just over 3.5 billion zł. But rising costs and the ongoing slide in the strength of the złoty mean the actual value of the money in terms of purchasing power is not as high as it has been in the past. And councillors have warned that the city could still find itself around 142 million zł in debt by the end of the year.

Jacek Majchrowski, Mayor of Krakow, has already admitted that 2012 will be a lean year. But, he said, the city had been frugal. In particular, he cited the fact that Krakow, unlike most major Polish cities, had not created any new civil service posts since 2007. He said the budget cuts were not to provide ‘tea and biscuits’ for staff, but to get the city through the next 12 months.

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