culture in Poznań

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Harmonious diversity

Every year, large flocks of migrating species can be spotted in Poznań. Magicians, fairies, vampires, elves, superheroes and even zombies descend in droves onto the city's Trade Fair grounds. What drives them to make the journey?

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Pyrkon 2018, photo: organisers' materials

The aim, of course, is Pyrkon, one of the largest fantasy festivals in Poland and one of the largest in Europe. Here's how Krystyna Czubówna describes the crowds of thousands of Pyrkon participants in a promotional Facebook video, in her impeccable voice: "What makes this gathering of over 40,000 all the more unusual and astonishing is the multitude of subgenres representing a variety of tastes and lifestyles, some of which are diametrically opposed". The same number of much less diverse football fans during a game at the ul. Bułgarska stadium would be a high security risk and require every police officer in Poznań to keep people safe. Pyrkon poses no such threat and requires no police involvement. Order is kept by volunteers, whose job is mainly to provide information to participants. And yet, despite the sheer diversity of the fantasy genre and the fact that its buffs come from myriad trends and universes, they have always shared the same festival space peacefully. The organisers make sure that everyone at Pyrkon feels appreciated. The festival offers it all: books, comics, films, meetings with authors, board games, electronic games, lectures and zones for re-enacting popular novel and movie scenes. You can visit an elfin village, pop into the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars or try your hand at Quidditch, a game based on the "Harry Potter" series of books.

One of Pyrkon's biggest attractions is Masquerade - a cosplay competition in which contenders dress up as the fantasy heroes of their choice. They not only meticulously create their outfits, but also put on a mini-show to feature their character and bring it to life for ten minutes or more. In this way, the jury evaluates not only the costume, which takes on average several months to prepare, but also the acting performance and how well the essence of the character is displayed. This year's jury will include last year's Masquerade winner, Magda "Kurumi" Orzechowska, whose Alexstraszy cosplay from World of Warcraft was simply unmatched.

Pyrkon is also about meetings with authors. The presence of Aneta Jadowska, Andrzej Pilipiuk, Michał Gołkowski, Marcin Przybyłek, Rafał Kosik, and Robert M. Wagner is already confirmed. A special guest in the movie/TV series segment is going to be Christopher Judge, known for his role as Teal'c in the series "Stargate".

Although the event is growing older, with its 19th edition now coming up, the organisers are keeping things fresh and adding new items to their regular program every year. This time, in addition to being fantastic all around, the event will also be... theatrical. Two municipal theatres have been invited to put on performances. The subject matter, of course, is fantasy. Artists from Teatr Muzyczny will appear in the Earth Hall with a concert of music from the "Addams Family"musical. Before that, on day one of the festival, Teatr Ósmego Dnia (Theatre of the Eighth Day) will stage "Ark", a play about refugees and wanderers traveling the world on an enormous winged ship, which symbolises a home, real or imagined in dreams.

With almost two decades of history, Pyrkon has come to a point where it spans multiple generations. The attendants of the early conventions are now bringing their children. While, admittedly, under 25s are in the vast majority, family cosplays are not uncommon. A Children's Segment, dedicated specially to the youngest Pyrkon-buffs, will allow them to learn about fantasy of all types.

If you feel like seeing something more serious, step into the Science Segment. Professor Maciej Franz of Adam Mickiewicz University will give an intriguingly titled lecture on "Human Torpedoes, Frogmen... - where the devil failed, they attacked - Italian special forces in the Second World War". Or visit the role-playing zone to hear what psychologists Anna Wojtaszczyk and Ada Nowakowska have to say about larps and other RPGs. You will find out, among other things, why games cannot replace therapy, but how they can be employed in the therapeutic process.

For several years now, the festival has supported the Pyrkon Blood Relatives campaign of donating blood to those who need it most. If you are a first time visitor, you may want to read the festival rules and learn that, for instance, cosplays cannot be photographed without express consent. The rule is to ask first, and if you do, there is usually no problem. The general rule is to be respectful of others and their passions - Pyrkon vibrates with positive energy but has no place for negativity.

It is no exaggeration to say that those who set foot in the International Fair grounds on 26 April will delve into a whole new dimension for three days. The only drawback of this fantastic trip is that unavoidably, it will end by forcing you to return to reality. Well, at least until the next Pyrkon.

Mateusz Malinowski

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Pyrkon Fantasy Festival, 26-28 April, Poznań International Fair grounds, 3-day pass: PLN 99 if purchased before 31 March, PLN 119 if purchased on or after 1 April

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019