Gdynia: not particularly a word that rolls off of the tongue with ease, yet this is the name of a beautiful beach town at the top of Poland and home to a festival of increasing popularity called Open’er Festival.
This summer, I was drawn to Poland with the promise of good music, cheap vodka and a copious supply of sausage meat. I had never considered Poland to be a holiday hot-spot and, to be perfectly honest, probably would have never ventured there without the allure of quality bands like Blur, Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys beckoning me to the town’s music festival. Prior to arrival at Gdansk airport (The Polish like their place names to be confusing for my English tongue), my mind painted an image of Poland that had been pieced together with Hollywood’s typical portrayal of most of Eastern Europe: uniform tower blocks, an overcast sky and perhaps a goat wandering down a deserted road. However, after a cab journey into Gdynia, I was not met by a baron town decorated with a pallet of different shades of grey; on the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised by a newly-developed sea-town with modern buildings, a wide selection of bars and restaurants; and vast white sands which rolled into the Baltic Sea.
Open’er festival – Polish for ‘Open Air’ festival – is staged on the airfields of Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport. The festival is a 45 minute cab journey from Gdansk Airport – provided your cab driver knows where he is going, unlike mine – and should, if legitimate, cost around 150 zloty, which translates into approximately 30 pounds sterling.
Upon arriving at Open’er, it is clear to see how the festival spills beyond the barriers of the airfields into the surrounding town, Gdynia. The festival was perfectly integrated into the this pretty beach town with a regular shuttle bus service and, most importantly, the local shops and bars accepted the ‘Pay As You Go’ top-up cash-cards available for purchase at the festival site. This top-up card, in my opinion, was a fantastic addition to the festival experience. Instead of carrying around a wallet full of cash, you are able to pay for a small cash-card of the exact amount of money and top it up with additional funds at festival cash-points (no paperwork, pin numbers or signatures necessary). The fact that some shops and bars in Gdynia also accepted these cash-cards proved extremely useful when dispensing the money left stored on my cash-card after the festival had come to an end. This cash-card was one of many indicators of the festival’s immaculate organisation.
On the whole, the promoters did a fantastic job in effectively organising the entire event and, although only boasting a maximum attendance of 50,000 people approx. in comparison to the Reading/Leeds festival’s 80-90,000 capacity or the 180,000 pilgrims which gather at Glastonbury, Open’er festival’s organisation put its English counterparts to shame. Although I resented it at first, the idea to allocate specific areas of the arena for the consumption of food and drink away from the music stages was extremely wise. Preventing festival-goers from taking beers to the stage not only ensured what must have been a speedy clean-up job, but also meant that those flying cups of suspiciously warm ‘cider’ had finally become extinct. Not once, during the entire festival, did the words: ‘Wait, was that what I think it was?’ pop into my head. Neither did I take any embarrassing tumbles after slipping on someone’s leftover noodles; Open’er was an impressively clean and orderly event.
How can I possibly preach cleanliness at a festival without mentioning that which all festival-goers fear the most: the campsite toilets. I’ll keep it brief. They were emptied regularly (three times a day in fact) and were never an issue.
Food and Drink
Whenever one ventures abroad it is always necessary to keep an open-mind when it comes to another country’s interpretation of what a breakfast should consist of. Unfortunately, the word ‘breakfast’ clearly does not transcribe easily from English to Polish. Instead of a plate full of bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and fried tomatoes, the Polish believe that a frankfurter, slices of cucumber, an entire plum tomato and a slice of unbuttered bread constitutes your first meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still devoured every morsel, yet each bite was one of complete confusion.
It is important, however, to express that this was the only instance where my tongue was disturbed by a culinary culture clash. The rest of my time in Poland was filled with a plethora of delicious meaty flavours including the tongue-seducing kielbasa sausage. Beyond the walls of the festival, the beach town provided a great number of high-quality alfresco restaurants which served fish straight from the sea. Without exaggerating, a large percentage of the food I tried during my time in Poland was of the highest order.
A festival would not be complete without an abundance of alcohol and the Tricity area (the inter-linking towns of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot) did not disappoint. Open’er festival was sponsored by Heineken so there was no surprise as to what beer was on offer around the arena. The rows and rows of Heineken tents with the odd Desperados bar sporadically dotted around the food and drinks areas were a safe bet to please many a thorough-bred Anglo-Saxon on tour, yet I would have enjoyed the option to try some local beer whilst in the festival arena. I say this because my ventures to the beach bars of Gdynia and Sopot revealed quite a vast selection of enjoyable local Polish brews available – one bar even boasted a mammoth 180 different types of lager and stout. Yes, there were many beers which I found to possess the same chemical composition of Windex mixed with tree sap; however this area of Poland revealed itself to be far from baron of good beer.
Not much could be said about spirits during the festival, they were not sold in the arena – another frustrating, yet well-planned decision made by the promoters. This becomes a completely different story once you enter the surrounding towns. Vodka is plentiful, easy to drink and cheaper than water. The latter can even be attributed to many named brands, such as Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan’s rum, as the majority of bars priced a rather sizable ‘double’ with mixer for under £3. Also, I’d like to add that it was apparent the Polish have no concept of what a double measure is and simply aim to see how much spirit they can fit in your glass – not that I was complaining.
During this article I have frequently made references to the cost of things. This is pure due to my utter amazement at how inexpensive almost every aspect of this holiday was. The festival, for 4 days of incredible headline acts and supporting artists with 6 days of camping inclusive, cost the modest sum of £120 approx. It is important to point out that this price was reduced to roughly £90 if tickets were purchase before January 15th as part of Open’er’s ‘Earlybird offer’. Although the cost of travel and spending money needs to be included, I can guarantee that the total cost of attending this festival is dwarfed by the likes of any British music festival. It is the perfect combination of an inexpensive holiday and music festival – a music festival which year on year brings in performances from big name bands and artists.
This summer, Gdynia will again host this well-organised music event which breathes great energy into the surrounding Tricity area. World-renowned acts such as Pearl Jam, The Black Keys, MGMT and Phoenix have already been announced as part of the 2014 line-up with plenty more talent still to be revealed. If you were looking for an answer as to whether you should attend this year, I’ll merely conclude saying that I have already ordered my tickets and I hope to see you there.
Some may disagree, but I feel that the best writing takes place on the edge of a moment. One word breathes life into the next; pushing the piece along, through each mental blip until the words grow into an organic mess of an idea. This idea may be poorly structured, lacking concision or even incoherent, but at least this idea now exists.
Go with the flow
Whenever I write, whether academic or creative, it helps to avoid the temptation of stopping and criticising my work until I have something substantial written. Many times I have stared at a blank screen after writing a word or two and rejected what was in front of me for not being immediately perfect. Deleting content before allowing it to take shape will leave the writer with nothing to show for hours of frustration. This is not at all productive. What is often referred to as ‘writer’s block’ is a case of the writer trying to produce their final product too quickly. Trying to find the perfect combination of words before they hit the paper will overload the mind, make the writer over-think and become lost in the intangible things darting around their head. In order to combat this, you should pursue each idea that comes to you (regardless of how ridiculous or irrelevant it seems), let it materialise into something that can branch into the words, sentences or paragraphs you need. In order to create, the writer must be open to allowing his or her mind to explore an idea and see where it takes them. Then it is important to get these ideas down on paper without judgement or hesitation. Not only will this add to the momentum of your writing, it will help clear your mind and allow you to map out your ideas in a coherent order. Do not over-complicate the creative process. Editing should be carried out on the page, not in the mind. As you continue to create content, your mind should be an uncensored space.
Planning or Procrastination?
In my honest opinion, the planning process can easily transition into procrastination. I am not dispelling the importance of planning your work; I am merely drawing light upon the potential hindrance that over-planning can be for the momentum of writing. The planning stage of any written piece provides the writer with the opportunity to create a skeletal structure to hang the meat of their words from. The writer now knows what the basis of the idea is, they know the structure and direction of the story or argument; the writer is now in a position of complete control over their work. Having their work simplified into brief notes leaves the writer content with their efforts thus far. This feeling of contentment is what makes planning potentially unconstructive. As soon as you begin to feel comfortable with your plan, move on. It is far too easy to dwell in the planning process due to the illusion of control it gives you over your work.
Take the leap
The act of turning notes into sentences and then into paragraphs is a truly daunting step. The writer could become lost in sentences that stretch for miles and completely lose sight of the idea captured in the plan. A way of overcoming this leap from safety is to stop thinking that all your planning needs to occur before you get stuck into your work. Planning can and should occur throughout the writing of a text, not merely act as a preliminary stage.
Expanding upon your notes can be extremely difficult task to gain momentum with, especially if you attempt to tackle each point/idea in a linear fashion. If you are writing an argument, you should not feel compelled to focus on the development of your introduction first. Similarly with a story, the writer should not feel that he or she cannot start expanding upon the ending before the story’s beginning. Choose a part of you plan which you feel most prepared and comfortable writing and get the ball rolling from there. Sometimes it can even be helpful to procrastinate and write something completely unrelated just to get your mind in the mood for creating.
Do not write how you read
It is important to understand that the reading of and the writing of a written piece are two completely separate processes. Reading is generally a rigid and linear process, whereas writing is not. It is more a process of conception, murder and reincarnation. The creative process is writing and editing, writing and revisiting; and writing and deleting. To progress with a piece of text, the writer needs to travel in loop-de-loops, going forward, around and back again. Even if the writer finishes their text only to revisit the start and try again, the direction is always onward, always towards the finished product. As soon as the writer becomes comfortable at a particular stage of the writing process they should push onward, leave it behind and change to something fresh. The change is necessary to keep the onward momentous thrust ever-present within the work. If your mind runs out of ways to refresh your writing, it is time to take a break and return to it after doing something other than writing.
Maintaining movement, change and momentum is essentially the best way to overcome writer’s block. Build up momentum in your writing through regular change and then follow this momentum wherever it leads you. Change is movement and movement is progression. If you keep movement flowing throughout the creative process you allow ideas to grow and you will have more content to choose from when editing your final draft. It is better to produce content that is of poor quality than produce nothing at all.