On 11 June 1991, the first edition of Malta International Theatre Festival began. This year, we were supposed to celebrate our 30th birthday on Wolności Square and in many other venues: theatres, parks, and cinemas.
Unfortunately, the pandemic thwarted our plans and made us adapt this year’s festival to the completely new and unpredictable situation that is beyond our control. Committed to ensuring the safety of our audience and artists, we have cancelled the festival in June. We are not going to build the Festival Centre, which for the past seven years has bustled with life on Wolności Square. Moreover, we will not show the international programme, which would put our spectators at risk in enclosed rooms and halls.
Like everyone, we are looking for ways to survive. During the lockdown, numerous cultural institutions have been functioning online and artists are expressing their creativity in many different forms: book readings on Facebook, pre-recorded shows, debates and meetings with artists. In some way or another, everyone has moved into the virtual world. But no matter how hard we try, the Internet will not save culture, because a vast part of it is based on live contact between audiences and artists, on being together, on responding together, on sharing comments and taking part in discussions. In other words, culture needs us to go out.
And so, we are reformulating our programme to maintain the live character of Malta and to respond to the need for participating in culture, whilst observing the national restrictions. This year, Malta is stretching out in time. It will walk, it will travel, it will appear in different parts of Poznań, open to all, regardless of age, experience and likes. We want to use to our advantage the things that irritate us, things that control the modern world: chaos, changeability, and uncertainty. We want to use them to the advantage of culture.
With our mobile stage, we will arrive at the neighbourhoods of Rataje and Winiary, at Stare Miasto and the Cybina River. There, we will present plays by Krystyna Janda, Maciej Podstawny, Lech Raczak, Piotr Tetlak and Cezary Tomaszewski. The space in front of each stage will admit 150 spectators who must observe social distancing. You can also watch the performances from windows and balconies or listen to them on Radio Afera. Furthermore, choreographer Krystyna ‘Lama’ Szydłowska and director Aleksandra Bożek will run a series of theatre/dance/music events for the residents of Śródka, Chwaliszewo, Jeżyce and Łazarz. In this case too, spectators can watch from their windows. In this form, the programme goes back to a time when Malta happened all over the city: not just in theatres, but also (and perhaps more importantly) in squares, streets and parks, in popular and crowded places, and the forgotten ones too.
Theatre is not Malta’s only focus. For some years now, the festival has featured live music, community art, discussions and a programme for children. Some of the social distancing restrictions have now been lifted, and you are most welcome to attend a series of events in Wilczak, close to Cytadela and Szeląg beach. The green settings will provide a venue for musicians Bartłomiej Wąsik, Ralph Kamiński, and Adam Nowak, as well as film shows and our famous silent disco. The site will also host the young music scene and projects by theatre artists from the Wielkopolska region. In fact, we are cocreating the Wilczak programme with local artists and animators selected in an open call.
Just for a moment and on a smaller scale (observing the countrywide restrictions), we want to recreate the Festival ambience of Wolności Square, to meet outdoors, to talk and relax. Wilczak will be place for everyone: the older, the younger and the youngest who can take part in fun activities that stimulate their imagination and satisfy their need for exploring.
This year’s Generator Malta community art programme is an opportunity to take a closer look at the social contexts of water, with a particular focus on the bodies of water in Poznań. Some of the projects are based on research, and we will share their findings stage by stage online. A number of events in different parts of the city will include exhibitions, excursions and concerts in the surroundings of rivers and ponds. We will walk around the neighbourhoods of Dębiec and Główna, following their residents’ water-related sentimental maps. A film programme about water in the context of the climate disaster will be presented at the Wilczak stage. Finally, four groups of artists and activists from local secondary schools will run a series of education and art activities. The Generator Malta projects will be presented by, among others, Pamela Bożek, Gustavo Carvaas, Dawid Dąbrowski, Evgeniia Klemba, Pascal Marquilly, Daria Mielcarzewicz, Mateusz Kowalczyk and Małgorzata Myślińska, as well as Cukry, Kolektyw Bojka, Kolektyw Przepływ and Poznańska Orkiestra Improwizowana.
During our anniversary Forum on Wolności Square, we intended to reflect on where the world (and Malta Festival) was going. We wanted to use the past as a point of departure to think about the future: the future of the city, of democracy, of culture, of humans. Our world has suddenly stopped without warning, and in the context of the pandemic the question ‘What next?’ is more pertinent than ever before. Ultimately, the Forum will be held at the Malta Foundation at 44 Ratajczaka Street, and streamed on Malta community media. The speakers are, among others, Przemysław Czapliński, Cezary Michalski, Edwin Bendyk, Anna Wolff-Powęska, Natalia Hatalska, Aleksandra Derra, Marcin Popkiewicz, Łukasz Lamża, Jarosław Kuisz, Bishop Marcin Hintz and Adam Bodnar. The discussions will be moderated by Michał Nogaś and Karolina Lewicka.
For the past 15 years, one of our most important partner programmes has been Old Brewery New Dance at Malta, organised by Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk. This year, Joanna Leśnierowska, Julie Phelps, Peter Pleyer, Marta Keil and Rivca Rubin are presenting Grand(Re)Union, a project created with the support of institutions from New York and San Francisco. Grand(Re)Union features an international and intergenerational performance/conference, a digital magazine and meetings to promote knowledge in the field of dance and movement. In addition, the festival will be accompanied by an exhibition celebrating the name day of St. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Poznań. The exhibition will be organised by Asocjacja 2006.
We have postponed some of the festival projects until autumn. We hope that by then we will be able to present two music projects. The first, Projekt Krynicki, is a premiere performance of compositions to poems by Ryszard Krynicki, commissioned by Malta from Paweł Mykietyn, Paweł Szymański and Aleksander Nowak. The concert will feature Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Bassem Akiki. The second event is an anniversary concert, a musical journey across three decades of Malta. It will be performed by Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki. In autumn, we are also planning to launch the Malta Multimedia Archive, a multimedia library containing excerpts from shows, reviews, meetings, reminiscences, films, news mentions and audio materials, as well as a special section dedicated to our audience.
We will announce the dates and provide synopses of the particular events in stages, depending on the health and safety restrictions.
As well as celebrating our 30th anniversary, we want to be with our audience and artists in this time of crisis, when it is important to act together. Meanwhile, let us look forward to better times, to being together in situations we enjoy. Let the show go on.