SHORT HISTORY OF THE ŻAK CLUB (STUDENTS' OF THE COAST)
In the middle fifties students in Gdańsk (Gdańsk Polytechnic) and in Sopot (at the time High School of Economy, today's University of Gdańsk) organised numerous plays and cabaret performances in the students' canteen at Gdańsk Polytechnic. There, at the beginning of 1955 a group of satirists prepared the first programme, which is called now the zero programme of BIM BOM, and then the next one - 'Ahaaa' (in 'Miniatura' Theatre). After that, the following theatres popped up like mushrooms: the Theatre of Hands 'Co to' (starring in the film 'Goodbye, see you tomorrow'- this film shows a bit of ŻAK - not the building, but people and their ideas), 'To-tu' Cabaret, Circus of Afanasjeff Family 'Tralabomba', and slightly later 'Teatr Galeria' by Jerzy Krechowicz.
This theatre-cabaret movement was an incentive for cinema fanatics, who in December 1955 created Dyskusyjny Klub Filmowy Studentów i Młodej Inteligencji [Discussion Film Club for Students and Young Intellectuals]. The first projection was 'Miracle in Milan' (director Vittorio de Sica) with an introductory lecture of Bobek Kobiela and a discussion led by Zbyszek Cybulski after the film. In search of cheap screening rooms the club set in the seat of City PZPR Committee, which is in the current 'old Żak'.
In 1957 the participants of the above undertakings forced the authorities to hand the building over to the students. The Party handed the building, from the 19th century, over the Polish Students' Association, which was a formal patron of the Żak Club created in 1957. Until 1978 the activities of the club took place on Wały Jagiellońskie Street. Apart from the mentioned theatre and cabaret groups and the DKF, which after Zbyszek Cybulski's death took his name, there were also artists, amateur film-makers and musicians (among others Czesław Niemen) performing in the club.
At the time Żak was like a colourful island in a grey sea: people crowded in for all performances, no matter if they were good or not. This is when the legend of Żak was created. The famous jazz cellar 'U Kuzynów' was a real hotbed of musical talents.
During renovation between 1978 and 1988 Żak activities took place in a small office, cinema and cafe on Długa Street (above 'Leningrad' Cinema, today 'Neptun'). The majority of films were political and prohibited movies (the first show of 'The Tin Drum'; among 'prohibited' films there was also 'Birdy' directed by Alan Parker - this screening, during which one thousand people entered the hall for 300, has been our nightmare until today), jazz, rock, blues and cabaret.
Lack of space was a reason for suspending theatre performances and exhibitions. Concerts and cabaret performances took place in other students' clubs, in 'Olivia' and 'Stocznia' halls, and even in 'Opera Leśna'.
'A scandal in a movie' managed to attract the crowds anyway, and the first big concert - 'Sztywny Pal Azji' band- confirmed the appropriateness of the previous name of the event: the building had been 'renovated' for 10 years because its too heavy ceilings could collapse. During the concert dancing fans of 'Sztywny Pal Azji' caused the ceilings shiver so much that part of workers escaped from the building. Because of this incident at the end of the 80ties and in the 90ties rock concerts were still organised in different places. The building was dominated by jazz and jass ('Miłość' developed in ŻAK), blues ('DŻEM' performed on regular basis and people came even from Olsztyn to see their concerts), poetic and student songs, shanties, the theatre had been revived ('Tako' student theatre got a reward in Edinburgh), the cinema and Zbyszek Cybulski Discussion Club were active.
In 1991 city authorities decided to give notice to ZSP and take over the Żak building. As ZSP could not make agreement with NZS with regards to a new club formula, the club was disbanded. A few alert councillors prepared a project of a new club. 1st April 1991 Żak Club, city institution of culture was created. For the first time Żak was the only host of the building (unfortunately, as appeared later).
For years Żak had been supported by reasonable national grants - thanks to them BIM BOM (among others) was able to perform. Now the club had to manage on its own and to maintain the most expensive building (as well-informed ones say) in the city. Without help from the city the club was not able to manage. Consequently, City Council took over the building (1995) and made its seat there.
Between 1996-1999 ŻAK was 'living out of a suitcase' running DKF and a studio cinema and organising jazz and blues concerts in a pub in cellars. The activity of the gallery was suspended, big concerts were organised in the coolest place in Gdańsk, ruined St. John's Church, theatre and cabaret performances in a hall in the Academy of Fine Arts and in Tri-city theatres and a hall for dancing workshops was offered by a kind headmaster of one of primary schools in Gdańsk. In Autumn 1997 ŻAK had its 40th birthday - Stanisław Witkacy Theatre in Zakopane performed for us (and for Gdańsk citizens) six times. During these years students' theatre ('Derevo', 'Off-daleko od centrum' festivals, 'Postindustria', 'Teatry wiejskie') as well as Jazz Jantar Festival revived. ŻAK cinema is of course very popular.
On the 31st March 1999 we played for the last time: 'Amarcord' and 'Do widzenia, do jutra' on Wały Jagiellońskie, on 15th April we moved for two and a half year to Straganiarska Street, near St. John's Church, which became our home: cinema and concert hall, a theatre. Regular visitors took their own blankets when they came to see performances. The stars of Jazz Jantar Festival looked at 'concert halls' with astonishment: Bill Evans in Audytorium Novum of Gdańsk Polytechnic and Gary Thomas in St. Brygida Church. DKF showed films in 'Kameralne' Cinema, 'Bajka' and a charming screening room in Russian Culture Centre.
At the end of July 2001 we left Straganiarska Street to move to a new Żak on the spur of the moment (only one-third of the building had been renovated).
On the 10th November 2001 a first event took place: City of Gdańsk Awards for young artists and Anna Maria Jopek concert.
On the 11th November 2001 a new ŻAK cinema projected a film: 'Do widzenia, do jutra' and a ŻAK Zajezdnia Club worked at full steam. During open days (11-13.11.01) crowds of Gdańsk citizens came to see concerts (among others Tomasz Stańko), films (with Zbyszek Cybulski), theatre plays and exhibitions (works of the winners of City of Gdańsk Awards for young artists).
What is ŻAK Club today?
Basic Żak Club activities today:
ŻAK Studio Cinema and Zbyszek Cybulski Discussion Film Club
ŻAK Cinema run by Zbyszek Cybulski Discussion Film Club (active from 1955) is one of the best studio cinemas in Poland with an ambitious repertoire presenting contemporary art cinema and the history of the cinema. Films are arranged in groups for monographic reviews devoted either to authors (directors: Fellini, Kurosawa, Tarkowski, Bergman; actors, cameramen, etc.), specific film genre or movement ('nowa fala'), or subject (city in movies, X generation, proletarian cinema, etc.) or national cinematography (German, Swedish, French, Belarusian). Sometimes some event or film is an incentive for organising a review. Zbyszek Cybulski Discussion Film Club is running educational activity presenting films from the cannon of classic films. After three-year break Secondary School Film Academy- 'Przystanek PRL' and 'Ages of Literature' have been revived. People owning season term tickets are DKF members.
ŻAK Music Stage
ŻAK Theatre Stage
ŻAK Alternative Theatre Stage (Polish:AST) teaches all about the theatre - from practical classes, through drama and review workshops, to lectures about the history of theatre (also an alternative one). Among the school's lecturers there are people who have cooperated with alternative theatre for many years and also outstanding guests from all over the world. AST classes are workshops and sessions prepared specifically for ŻAK. The lecturers change, classes take place on different dates - each student may create their own timetable.
Within the framework of a cycle of exhibitions ŻAK Gallery presented young, Gdańsk artists - graduates and students of last years of the Academy of Fine Arts, the most interesting academy's studios and individual exhibitions of artists who had co-operated with ŻAK Gallery before. The aim of the gallery is also a constructive confrontation between Gdańsk artists and other environments in Poland and abroad.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE BUILDING
ŻAK's new seat is located on the border of Wrzeszcz and Oliwa, by main communication routes, near tram stops (lines No. 6, 12, 15) and Zaspa Railway Station. The building is fully accessible for disabled people. It was designed according to the user's instructions concerning a layout and size of the rooms, communication between them, electrical installation adapted for students' activity, soundproofing, colours, ventilation (modern and really effective). Administrative part (5 rooms, store, social room, toilets and a hall) takes ~170 m2, which is not much more than 10% of the whole space.
Date of publication: 06.06.2008 14:11
The last modification: 25.09.2008 15:00