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An atypical tourist attraction (interview)

Sławomir Murawski, the Director of Manufaktura

In Łódź, there is a saying that, everything that is good for Łódź is good for Manufaktura, and everything that is good for Manufaktura is good for Łódź. The success of Manufaktura has proved that it is worth revitalizing the historic buildings," says Sławomir Murawski, the Director of Manufaktura.

In the ranking of the most attractive tourist destinations in Łódź, Manufaktura is on the first place. On one of the tourist news services 1080 people spoke about it - 93% are excellent and very good opinions, 2% are bad opinions. A discussion on Manufaktura only in the context of a trade space seems to be insufficient and does not exhaust the potential of this space.

Sławomir Murawski: One can not say that Manufaktura is a standard shopping centre. It is the fruit of a vision. During the times of the People’s Republic of Poland, Poltex Cotton Industry Plant operated on the premises of the factory. After its closure, 30 hectares of land and 22 buildings remained. The idea for the development of this complex was put forward by the last Director of Poltex, Mieczysław Michalski. This project required a concept, professional preparation, resources and visionaries to implement it. The search lasted several years. The people at Apsys believed in it. They knew how to transform their dreams into reality and into a reality that is connected with profits. 

What was the reality?

SM: The creators of Manufaktura had a plan how it should work. The aim was to create the most dynamic public place in Poland with a regional reach. It was a great challenge at the time. Why? - because in the second half of the 1990 Łódź was a completely different city than it is today. There was a lot of unemployment. Stephen Pragnell, then president of Apsys in Poland, met with opinions that it was too big facility. Such voices were heard even the day before the opening. In addition, it was the first time that a factory of this size was revitalised. Previously, there were revitalizations of individual buildings for the purpose of running their own business. Manufaktura was the first revitalization of such a scale for modern commercial and entertainment functions. 

The city also benefited from this revitalization.

SM: In Łódź there is a saying that everything that is good for Łódź is good for Manufaktura, and everything that is good for Manufaktura is good for Łódź. The success of Manufaktura has proved that it is worth revitalizing the historic buildings. This is more expensive than building from scratch, but it gains authenticity. Today, thanks to a revitalisation programme, Łódź is regaining its former glory.

Hence the high position of Manufaktura in the ranking?

The factory has been functioning in the consciousness of the inhabitants of Łódź for over a hundred years. Manufaktura is important to them. Every Łódź inhabitant knows someone who worked here. During the best years, the company / plant had several thousand employees. Everyone is connected with this place. Sentimental visits happen when grandparents show the workplace to their grandchildren. It proves the emotional connection with this place and we try to maintain it. We made a promise to the inhabitants of Łódź that the history of this place would not be forgotten. Therefore, there is The Factory Museum in the area, maintained by Manufaktura. The most valuable exhibits are looms, which Izrael Poznanski brought 130 years ago. All of them are still functioning and are a great tourist attraction. This translates into visitation. More than 20 million people come here every year. Only shopping centres located at railway stations achieve such a result.

Is an Opera a part of that promise?

SM: The opera "The Man from Manufaktura" is a remarkable thing. The originator of its creation was the Director of the Grand Theatre in Łódź. We could not miss this opportunity to show the world both Manufaktura and Łódź. Together with the Grand Theatre, we have announced a competition to write an opera. The jury was chaired by Krzysztof Penderecki. The main prize was awarded to Rafał Janiak, a renowned composer and conductor of the young generation. It was a huge artistic undertaking. Preparations for "the Man from Manufaktura" took three years. 200 artists performed on stage. The rehearsals lasted several months. The opera was performed by Małgorzata Walewska, mezzo-soprano, Michał Sławecki, countertenor, Stanisław Kierner, baritone and Wojciech Pszoniak, a dramatic actor who made his debut at the opera and many years earlier when he was in the plant / factory and had been taking part in the production of the film "Promised Land". The open-air premiere of "The Man from Manufaktura" took place on the 18th of May 2019. Through this stunning performance, we wanted to appreciate all the people who worked in the plant / factory on the premises of Manufaktura. Our ambition was to invite as many weavers as possible, all of them who worked there. The former Poltex employees were found and invited to the event thanks to the search action organized by the Manufaktura, in which all the media in Łódź, as well as the nationwide media, joined in. All 500 seats in the first rows, specially prepared for them, have been filled and no one has refused to attend the event. It was a great day for Łódź and for the former employees of the plant / factory. The inhabitants of Łódź appreciate it and are proud of this place. That's how we have thousands of ambassadors. That is why Manufaktura is the biggest attraction in the Łódź region. 

The full interview is available in Almanac of Shopping Centres 2019/2020.

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