Spyciemierz in the vanguard
To remain viable, intangible cultural heritage needs to be continuously recreated and passed on from generation to generation. This is not easy. There is always a risk that some elements or even the whole intangible cultural heritage may die out or disappear. We would not like to allow this to happen, which is why, in the case of the flower carpets, the community of bearers, together with experts, have taken action to safeguard their tradition. In this field, we can boast of considerable achievements.
In the years 2019-2020 the Municipal and Communal Public Library in Uniejów led the project “Corpus Christi procession with the tradition of floral carpets in Spycimierz – safeguarding and strengthening of tradition “. It was co-financed from the programme of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage “Folk and traditional culture” and from the budget of the Uniejów Commune.
The main objective was to prepare and develop recommendations for the safeguarding plan of the phenomenon “Corpus Christi procession with the tradition of floral carpets in Spycimierz”, which, by the decision of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, in 2018 was included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is worth mentioning that such systematic and multi-stage works aimed at establishing the assumptions and structure of the plan for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in line with the UNESCO 2003 Convention have not been carried out in Poland so far. According to the assumptions found in the Convention, in this type of activity, it is the bearers who develop the plan for the safeguarding of their heritage, while the experts they invite to cooperate have only advisory and assisting functions.
As part of the task, field ethnographic and socio-spatial research, searches of film archives, as well as film and photographic documentation of the phenomenon were carried out with the participation of the bearers. These activities, which served to draw up expert opinions and formulate preliminary recommendations, were the basis for the bearers to begin work on a heritage safeguarding programme. The author of the concept of the project and the coordinator of the research was Katarzyna Smyk, Ph.D., Professor of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University.
The research was conducted in 2019-2020 by two research teams. The first, led by Prof. Katarzyna Smyk, dealt with ethnographic research, and the second, concerning tourism and regional development, was led by Prof. Bogdan Włodarczyk of the University of Łódź. The work was carried out with the use of tools developed within the framework of the project and constructed especially for this research. In parallel, a search was conducted in national and regional film archives and cultural institutions to find materials deposited there.
The result is recorded interviews with bearers and notes from observations of people participating in the celebration of God, surveys with residents, surveys with tourists, measurements of vehicle traffic, inventory of retail outlets, and interviews with stand owners, as well as an inventory of flower carpets. Both teams took a large number of photographs. The entire documentation was used to prepare and compile a report containing recommendations for the safeguarding plan, which was later deposited in the archives of the applicant – the Municipal Public Library in Uniejów.
Workshops, public consultations, and seminars
Creative cooperation between experts and bearers is the hallmark of the project “Corpus Christi procession with the tradition of floral carpets in Spycimierz – preserving and strengthening tradition”. In the course of the project, it was planned to organise and conduct several workshops and social consultations. In the social dimension, the workshops were aimed at integrating the local community around the heritage, involving as many members of the community as possible in the planning and implementation of safeguarding measures, and strengthening the feeling of the high value of their tradition. In terms of content, the aim was to prepare the inhabitants of Spycimierz for the effective implementation, evaluation, and updating of the plan for safeguarding this tradition. To achieve the planned goals, workshops were held on the following topics:
- “The concept of intangible cultural heritage and safeguarding according to the UNESCO 2003 Convention”
- “Current documentation of the intangible cultural heritage phenomenon, archiving and making it accessible, according to the UNESCO 2003 Convention”
- “Identification of threats to the Spycimierz tradition in the spirit of the UNESCO 2003 Convention”
- “Examples of good practices of safeguarding of flower carpets in other countries as inspiration for the bearers”
- “Assumptions to the safeguarding plan and its preliminary concept”
- “On the essence, principles of organisation and course of social consultations”
- “Evaluation of the assumptions of the conservation plan and community (through public consultation) development of safeguarding recommendations for 2019-2024”.
The workshops were very popular thanks to the involvement of the experts conducting them. For each meeting, they prepared slide shows, handouts, worksheets, etc.
An important element of the project was the organisation of the third and fourth Spycimierz Seminar. This is a continuation of the international meetings on intangible cultural heritage in Poland and the world that began in 2018. The event is always attended by representatives of the bearers of the tradition. During the 4th Seminar, organised in October 2020 at the Castle of the Archbishops of Gniezno in Uniejów, the publication “Corpus Christi procession with the tradition of flower carpets in Spycimierz. Report from research and recommendations to the safeguarding plan”, which is a summary of actions and obtained effects.
The Spycimierz inhabitants have good memories of a study trip to the National Museum of Agriculture and Agro-Food Industry in Szreniawa. The employees of the museum showed their guests a large part of the collections and acquainted the depositors with good practices in the current documentation, inventory, research, and presentation of intangible heritage.
All the previous activities were assigned to the most important goal – preparation by experts of recommendations for the conservation plan of the Corpus Christi Procession with the tradition of flower carpets in Spycimierz. The recommendations are preceded by expert opinions of the authors, who conducted research in Spycimierz in 2018-2020 and participated in workshops organised by the bearers community. These are the chapter titles and authors of the publication “Corpus Christi procession with the tradition of floral carpets in Spycimierz. Report from research and recommendations to the safeguarding plan”:
- From field research to recommendations – Spycimierz practice of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage – Katarzyna Smyk, Bogdan Włodarczyk, Arkadiusz Jełowicki
- The Corpus Christi of Spycimierz – tradition and present-day – Jolanta Dragan
- Flower carpets as a value of the place and event – Beata Krakowiak, Jolanta Latosińska
- Spatial and social aspects of Corpus Christi celebrations in Spycimierz in 2018-2020 – Marzena Makowska-Iskierka, Ewa Szafrańska, Bogdan Włodarczyk
- The space of sacrum and profanum during the Corpus Christi celebrations in Spycimierz – Jolanta Wojciechowska, Bogdan Włodarczyk
- Documentation, archiving and dissemination of cultural heritage in the context of flower carpets in Spycimierz – Arkadiusz Jełowicki
- The role of social consultations in Spycimierz during the work on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage – Anna W. Brzezińska, Magdalena Kwiecińska
- Good practices in safeguarding the tradition of spreading flower carpets in the world – Magdalena Ziółkowska
- Threats to the Corpus Christi tradition in Spycimierz as the intangible cultural heritage and ways to counteract them – Katarzyna Smyk
- Recommendations for the bearers to the safeguarding plan of the Corpus Christi procession with flower carpets tradition in Spycimierz for 2020-2024 – Katarzyna Smyk
- Summary of recommendations to the safeguarding plan of Corpus Christi procession with flower carpets tradition in Spycimierz for 2020-2024 – comp. Katarzyna Smyk.
The last chapter consists of recommendations, which are structured and presented in one table. It contains tips on how to work with them, to whom they are addressed, and to which partners it is worth turning with a request for help or a proposal for cooperation. The whole project was discussed with inhabitants during public consultations and workshops.
The publication inaugurated the ‘Spycimierz Series’, i.e. a series of publications devoted to discovering the tradition of arranging flower carpets by researchers of various disciplines. They are to serve the inhabitants and the self-government of the Uniejów Commune, as well as all those who are close to the problems of safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage.
The activities for safeguarding the tradition in Spycimierz are continued in a further project entitled “The Corpus Christi Procession with the tradition of flower carpets in Spycimierz in the context of the cultural and natural landscape”. Here we are also in the vanguard. The pioneering character of the project lies in the fact that the bearers together with the experts will form and implement the safeguarding measures of their intangible heritage in the context of the cultural and natural landscape of the closest surroundings of the Spycimierz parish. In cultural, historical, and natural terms the landscape covers the area of Uniejów municipality and even extends beyond its administrative borders.