This summer, the biggest open-air free festival in Europe hosted a unique edition of the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Stadiums’ tournament, organized by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association. At the Pol’and’Rock Festival (also known as Polish Woodstock), the players symbolically represented countries from all over the world. In the final play-off, Poland played against Iran, while the fair play award went to Croatia. A match was also played between the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association’s team together with artists involved in the ‘Music Against Racism’ campaign on one side and the team of the Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) on the other. The Commissioner, Dr Adam Bodnar officially inaugurated the whole tournament and even personally refereed during the opening game.
The festival was held in Kostrzyn on the Polish-German border from 2nd to 4th August 2018 and it drew between 500 and 700 hundred thousand people, as estimated by the organizers.
– ‘The World Cup in Russia didn’t go down without racist incidents. Also in Antwerp, Polish fans insulted and assaulted Senegali fans. After the match Poland-Senegal (which the former lost), numerous racist insults were published on the Internet,’ said Piotr Ciolkowski, who co-leads the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Stadiums’ campaign by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association. – ‘Through the anti-racist tournament at Pol’and’Rock Festival, we wanted to remind everyone about the importance of respect and diversity in sports’.
The activity received support from Dariusz Dziekanowski, a legend of Celtic Glasgow and Legia Warsaw and a former star of the Polish national team. The tournament partners included the Fare network, the local authorities of Kostrzyn, and the Polish fan club of FC St. Pauli, the Silesian Pirates.
The Polish Woodstock Festival is not just about sporting activities, after all it is also a music event. – ‘We’ve held meetings with bands who support our campaign Music Against Racism. For example, NEVER AGAIN invited members of the amazing group called Na Gorze (Upstairs), which includes musicians who are disabled, to share their story with the audience. They had overcome all the obstacles and became fully-fledged artists,’ said Joanna Naranowicz, an activist of NEVER AGAIN and herself vocalist of the Qulturka band. The musicians of Na Gorze were joined during the festival by the Polish-Danish star singer-songwriter Czeslaw Mozil, known for his support for diversity and equality. Together, they had recorded a song with an anti-hate, pro-peace message.
The other educational activities organized by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ team during the festival included DIY art workshops promoting diversity and respect as well as discussions on topics such as refugee rights.
In 2018, the festival line-up included, among others, the Israeli-based Balkan Beat Box – a creative mix of Middle Eastern and klezmer traditions, electronic music and punk rock – as well as heavy-metal stars Judas Priest and Soulfly, the US rockers Goo Goo Dolls and a plethora of other acts of various styles, from death metal to jazz and folk.
The festival audience paid homage to the people of Warsaw who fought for freedom in 1944, during the anti-Nazi Warsaw Uprising (that broke out on 1st August). A minute of silence was held to honor their sacrifice.
The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association was founded in 1996 by Marcin Kornak, a Polish poet and activist (who passed away in 2014). In spite of his disability, he laid the foundations of the Polish anti-racism and anti-discrimination movement. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.