Pacovsky Polednik promises colourful and highly original performances

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In the summer there really is no shortage of music festivals to visit throughout the Czech Republic but none is, arguably, as original and diverse as Pacovsky Polednik, held in August. Now in its 6th year, the festival takes its name from the town where it's held - Pacov - in the Czech-Moravian highlands, located on the 15th meridian - patnacty polednik - in Czech.

Recently, when I spoke to Jana Hruskova, the festival's founder, I asked her to explain the significance of the name.

"Only very few people are aware that Pacov lies right on the 15th meridian designating Central European time, and because we are in Central Europe we just thought it might be an interesting name that people would remember. There aren't that many other things in and around Pacov really that suitable for a name, so we decided on that."

The decision to found a festival like Pacovsky Polednik came from a basic desire to increase artistic awareness and cultural activity within her town and region: Jana Hruskova, a professional ceramist who lives in Pacov with her family and runs her own shop, began with smaller acts and one-off shows, before she hit upon the idea of a festival offering more opportunities to branch out: musical acts and theatre. Now, Polednik includes symposiums and workshops on music, sculpture, and even architecture - the last for the first time this year. Since 2000 the festival has attracted more and more visitors and is now a major event.

"Our intention was always to create a festival combining different genres and that hasn't changed, other than the fact that every year there are more workshops. The first year we had a sculptors' workshop that we've had every year ever since: a workshop that lasts 10 to 12 days, with 6 to 8 sculptors involved in work they later leave to Pacov to be displayed on the local chateau grounds. In this way something always survives, something more than just summer memories."

if you're wondering what material was predominant in past sculptures than usually it was wood. But, this year Jana says, will include scrap metal, something she's excited about.

Turning back to the festival and performing acts they will be varied indeed. The opening performance will be by Ondrej Smejkal, a specialist in the didgeridoo. But, other acts on other evenings will include improvised theatre, folk music, and even underground blues. Over four days visitors will be able to visit participating pubs, the local cinema, and the local Sokol hall where acts will take place. And, the whole time they'll be able to camp for free.

"Like the statues they can take up a bit of the park and set up their tent, and that's it!"

Of particular interest, should be a performance by actor Jaroslav Dusek and the Vizita theatre. Dusek is a versatile comic actor who has appeared in several memorable film roles in recent years. He and fellow actors will improvise - & improvise only - on stage. Jana told me what the act is called: improvisation on the theme of 'hinuly loudivocak' - a nonsensical expression that melds together at least three Czech words: hinuly - meaning something like deceased - divocak - meaning wild boar - and then part of the expression loudat se - to drag one's feet. You might put it together as dead boar dragging its feet but the possibilities are really endless, something that might just be talked about for years - if actors pull it off.

Then, there will be the band known as Jumping Drums - who've had an amazing influence on kids from a children's home. Jana Hruskova says that experience from last year was very moving and says she's looking forward to repeating it again.

"About 20 kids from a children's home in Humpolec and a guardian will spend a week in Pacov and we've put together a programme for their stay, where they learn how to play the drums with members of a band known as the Jumping Drums. When the event peaks, the kids themselves will take to the stage for a few minutes in the limelight - the audience is usually very appreciative."

"One year we had Zuzana Navarova teaching kids Roma songs; now they're learning the drums and, you know, we're talking about teenagers who, when they first arrived were like: 'Well, we're here now, so entertain us', indicating it wouldn't be easy. But, we won them over and a year later many are still at it: when we visited them at the home they performed for us, playing on plastic cans and metal drums. This year, again, kids will learn to play African drums. If it's anything like last year, the atmosphere will be electric."

But, perhaps one act that many must be looking forward to is MTO - Universal - made up of members of Prague's legendary avant garde theatre group Sklep and artists like the Czech Republic's Frantisek Skala, well-known for his work from found-objects, and the interior of Prague's famous Akropolis Café. Apparently MTO are hard to get. There again, there will be much to see.

"I really recommend seeing MTO Universal - that will be a five hour dance and theatre splash! You know, the group includes members of Sklep - Tomas Hanak, Ales Najbert, Lenka Vychodilova, Frantisek Skala and others. They have practically a cult status in the Czech Republic and aren't that easy to catch. They were at the Karlovy Vary film festival or the Respect music festival [in Prague] we're really glad they're coming here."

Finally, fans of the blues should come into their own on one of Pacovsky Poldenik's final evenings: a series of sets put together by Jakub Noha featuring his band and the legendary blues "steamroller" known as Jan Spaleny and ASPM.

Organising a festival like this is of course no easy task, and Jana Hruskova tells me she gets a lot of help from a dedicated team. For many, helping put together the Pacovsky Polednik has become a passion. She's thankful: without their help none of it would really be possible. The event involves planning almost all year, which at times can be stressful. But, the main organiser says she is satisfied if she can get acts she's seen and enjoyed before - and can broaden others peoples' horizons too.

"Last year we had around 3,000 visitors and I can tell you that around 25 percent were from Pacov and the Pacov area - the rest were [from Prague] or other parts of the country. Pacov is a small town, so we do want to get people to come here to also see the surroundings, to go on bike trips or visit the local pond, too! By now Pacovsky Polednik has earned a regular following that is familiar with our way of doing things and likes our programme."

Pacovsky Polednik begins on Thursday August 18th and lasts through to Sunday August 21st. Information about the festival and links to the town's webpage can all be found at www.polednik.cz.