How Open’er’s innovations shaped the classic festival format

One European festival down, and set to endeavour another, Hannah Mahony is set to explore Open'er - the Polish festival offering art, fashion, theatrics - oh, and music, of course.

The second leg of my innovative European festivals guide (can this be my job now, please?) is next week's Open’er Festival in Poland. A festival of firsts, it’ll be my first time in Poland, and my first time heading to a festival alone (see festival friend-making guide). But hey, who needs friends when you've got the likes of Banks, Jack White, MGMT and Pearl Jam to watch the sun set with... right? Right. 

Open'er Festival - Theatre

Held at Gdynia-Kosakowo Airfield within Gdynia - a sea side city on the coast of Poland, it’s been around since 2002, from which it’s grown from a one day-er, into a full three day dream.

Sure it's in Europe, by what how does it differ from your UK Reading and Wireless’? Well there’s art, there’s fashion, the music of course – and if that fails to entertain you, you can lift that power brow and head over to the theatre, dahling.

Yet, the line up would be hard to woo you away – with Jack White, Haim, Metronomy, Lykke Li, Banks, Jagwar Ma, The Horrors, Darkside and recent house favourites, Gorgon City.

I guess I shouldn’t forget to mention Foals, Rudimental, Pearl Jam (!), MGMT, Daughter or Warpaint either – and the crème de la crème of every (indie) band ever – Phoenix.

Much like Glastonbury (and I'm bitter about my lack of attendance - I'd much rather be at a Tottenham vinyl party, thanks) - Open’er dedicates quite a bit of room to NGOs. Much unlike Glastonbury, the festival doesn’t boast too much about the space  it hands over to causes such as Amnesty International, Polish Humanitarian Action, Greenpeace and Foundation for Active Rehabilitation (plus more).

Opener Festival

So what makes it so innovative, you ask? Well for a start, they were the first festival to introduce wristbands, and like most innovative festivals - produced an app allowing users to check news, line-ups, maps and check in socially at each stage. 

They also introduced (probably to the nuissance of quite a few people) a pre-paid contactless Mastercard payment system. 

Cards were issued by Bank Zachodni in Poland to handle the volume of transactions over the weekend. Zachodni adapted their existing software to the new card to facilitate, manage and reconcile offline contactless cards.

It seems a winning partnership for both - transactions for the festival were reduced to but a few seconds, and Zachodni's branding everywhere to be seen.

Yet, Could it be a stopper for international festival goers needing to pre-register and link up international cards?

Having spent Sonar festival in an Airport Hangar, and about to spend a weekend in a Polish airfield  got me thinking more and more about acoustics and crowd control. At an indoor festivals such as Sonar (by night), you've the luxury of acoustic stability, (relative) echo control and a normal atmospheric pressure. Try staying within your allocated decibel (or 'Leq') allowance during a flash storm, or bout of unannounced mist. Not to mention that as temperature rises, so does the speed at which sound travels (nobody wants a sound pollution fine). Add sponsors into the mix and you've the trouble of advertising concealing speakers through thick mesh, which when rained on - becomes another layer to control. Should innovative festivals be taking their custom indoors?

On their website - Open'er boasts their growth over the past 13 years in a rather peculier way - "from three hectares in 2002 to 75 ha in 2013". Although last year they did count a huge 85,000 festival goers.

But is Open'er's apparent success due to their innovation? Or more Poland's music deprivation? With the monstruous sponsor of Heinekin (guess what's served ALL weekend?), one would think it relatively impossible to take on the festival with big brand and banker backing...


Open'er is held from the second to the fifth of July (that's next week folks) - tickets are still available for purchase.


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