She runs a cafe bookstore and independent Big Book Café literary centre together with Paulina Wilk in Mokotów. She is a co-founder of the Big Book Festival which this year’s edition “Expedition” starts on the 22nd June. Moreover, she runs the “Kultura nie boli” (Culture does not hurt) foundation and the Wilk&Król publishing house. Besides she directs theatre plays, writes books and articles. She is a vegetarian, wants to feed her guests well thus she is the one responsible for a menu for Big Book Café. She is a good friend with her dog – Misza.
How do you find time for so many activities?
– One results from the other. They complement each other somehow. Besides being on the move is in my nature. I am a visionary, I love making up things, I am brave and I like challenges. I don’t set limits. I take a risk and responsibility for what will happen with my project.
With Paulina have you consciously chosen Mokotów as your base?
– Yes, we have. I am from here, I live in Mokotów and here is our foundation. The idea was to set up something more than just business. It was difficult to find a spacious place and convince the officials to rent it on non-commercial terms. But we’ve done it. Recently, almost every day we have here some events, book reading, meetings.
Neighbours come inside, bring us plants, books. The local meeting room turned out to be a success. I myself like such places in my area, places where I can sit around, people know what i like, which coffee I drink.
What were the beginnings of the Big Book Festival?
– In 2010 in Warsaw there was almost nothing going on as regards literature. And I had been thinking much about such festival before the foundation was brought to life. It is hard to imagine a European capital city without its literary event. Thanks to us, it changed.
Last year, for the first time, I noticed that it is easier to organize the Big Book Festival, that we can spread wings, make it even bigger, that we don’t have to prove that it is a worthy festival.
There is a competition nowadays – the Warsaw Book Fair has also their own events, Empik organizes its Apostrof festival. Is it getting more challenging?
– Partially it is because our budget is incomparable to these aforementioned festivals. Everyone observes and copies the most innovative ideas.
We consistently go our own way, we don’t race to invite the largest number of guests from abroad. We focus on the author model. We propose such ways of experiencing literature which have never been offered before. We have our devoted fans – people who perfectly understand what is not the “bigbook” style. I can sleep well.
How would you describe your style?
– We create a specific atmosphere, we focus on details. Every year we move the festival to a different location. This way we tame Warsaw somehow. The Big Book Festival is not an event, it’s a whole world, in which international authors are within reach, you can talk with them sitting on the grass, or experience literature in a different way.
Every year we organize more and more complex events and fewer meetings with writers. Apart from a play, which annually opens the festival, this year we have theme installations, a series of directed reading concerts, literary stand ups – events which somehow fit into our new space Warszawianka (sports complex). There will be also a nice outdoor location. We will sow a meadow.
Warszawianka has been a hot topic recently. Centrala has prepared a revitalization project which was presented at the Biennale Architettura in Venice.
– It is such a striking coincidence. For four years now, we have been cooperating with Centrala. Besides, I am a regular at Warszawianka training at the climbing wall, which will be the main background for our events.
Will it be a background for your play?
– Partially the play will be in motion because this place is special and has its own secrets hidden in the underground, which we will visit. But definitely, the main scenery will be the Climbing Arena.
It is your fourth play which inaugurates the festival. Is there any continuity?
– The first one was based on Pilch’s prose and touched upon the topic of traumas, limitations, obsessions. Then it was “Hamlet casting” on self-discovery and self-becoming. Almost thirty actors agreed to interpret the most famous monologue. It turned out to be a surprising story on life. Last year I made “Love” based on Jeanette Winterson’s and Jane Austen’s texts.
Is there something from your own experience in these plays?
– Sure, it is always a starting point. This year I want to say something about feminity. However, it is not solely about feminism. Not that it isn’t important but from the very beginning I knew that it would be a huge mistake if “My name is a Woman” was only a manifesto on how misfortunate we are.
Definitely more interesting was a quest to find out what kind of woman I am, how I feel, what type I will never become. Using the language of female writers, activists, and celebrities I encourage to observe our own fears, limitations and women power.
Interview: Agnieszka Kowalska
Photo: Aga Bilska
BIG BOOK FESTIVAL – 22-24 czerwca, www.bigbookfestival.pl