The party goes on
Without glassblowing and his love of football, there would be no such thing as the poolbar festival in Vorarlberg. At least, that is what the founder and organiser Herwig Bauer claims
The old swimming pool in Feldkirch buzzes like the transformer of a railway. There is a swarm of young people carrying loudspeakers from one hall to the next, lugging crates of beer and soft drinks about. This is the face of creative chaos when a mega event such as the annual poolbar festival is just three, four weeks away. The only problem is that the first concert is next Friday… Today is Tuesday and there is still no sign of Herwig Bauer. “That’s normal”, says a young man in spectacles which weren’t as hip in the 1960ies as they are today. “Herwig is never on time.”
Herwig Bauer invented the poolbar festival. He is at his best when things get hectic
When Herwig turns up at the swimming pool, 25 minutes late, with a great smile on his face, you immediately forget any notion of the poolbar festival starting late this year. Herwig Bauer, born in 1973, is well relaxed. The co-founder and manager of the poolbar festival grins: “Looks like it’s not quite ready, doesn’t it?” You could say that… He laughs. It doesn’t bother him. He proved his talent for organisation at an early age, organising a football tournament for 60 teams in his youth. Plus, Herwig Bauer has been organising the pool festival, a recent recipient of the Austrian Art Award, for 22 years. It was his idea, for instance, to bring Marilyn Manson to Vorarlberg – and he realised that idea. A man with such vision isn’t easily undone by a touch of chaos.
“I got the idea to concentrate the creative potential that was lying idle in Vorarlberg during a glass-blowing course”, he explains. That was back in 1993. One year later – in the gatehouse of the Landeskonservatorium back then – the poolbar festival was born. “I asked artists both well-known and unknown to offer courses on the subjects of painting, film, graphic design, photography and drama to interested Vorarlberg inhabitants.” The “Feldkircher KreAktiv-Wochen” were well received, and ended with a surprise: “Once the courses were over, the participants stayed on to party.” The “Feldkircher KreAktiv-Wochen” was reborn the following year as the poolbar festival in the old swimming pool in Feldkirch. Without much bureaucratic to-do, Bauer and his friends applied a great deal of idealism to create an event which now shapes the annual summer of culture in Vorarlberg. The fact that he and his people took the structural shortcomings in hand in the form of an architecture competition they launched is symptomatic for the way in which the festival is managed: there’s no such thing as can’t! “That’s our problem, really”, acknowledges Herwig Bauer. “We kick-start so many projects that there’s never any money in it.”
poolbar Festival, James Hersey
Herwig Bauer actually has another job in Vienna – being a father, he cannot live from the festival alone. Has he ever thought of going back to Vienna, where he studied and worked for 16 years? “Not really. That’s the nice thing about it, that there are no universities in Vorarlberg”, says Herwig Bauer. “Everybody has to leave to study and to find their way in the world, but most people come back at some point, bringing with them their experiences.”