Sopot Festival

The first Sopot festival was initiated and organised in Poland in 1961. The first three editions were held at the Gdansk Shipyard hall, after which the festival moved to the Forest Opera in Sopot. In 1977 Polish Television wanted to create “the best festival in the world”, competing with the Eurovision Song Contest in Western Europe. So in 1977 Sopot festival was replaced by Intervision Song Contest. From that time the festival included 3 contests: the Grand Prix contest (for the best song), the Grand Prix Du Disque (for the best interpretation of a song) and the Polish song contest, in which artists from other countries sang Polish songs (the main aim of this contest was to promote Polish music). The whole festival took 4 days, and each day, after the “contest part” there was a concert of a ‘Star of the evening’ – three times an artist from other country, and on fourth day a Polish artist. These performances weren’t always free from censorship: a performance by Boney M was edited for TV because they sang their hit ‘Rasputin’, which wasn’t allowed by the government because of their close ties to Russia at the time. Between 1981 and 1983 the Intervision Song Contest didn’t happen because of martial law in Poland. In 1984 the International Song Festival took over.

In 1988 the 25th anniversary of Sopot Festival took place, and it was organized under the name ‘Srebrny Jubileusz’ (‘Silver Jubilee’). The organization decided to invite two big international stars: Sabrina Salerno from Italy and Kim Wilde. A television broadcast of Kim’s performance became famous among collectors because of the appearance of fans midway through her set. They started giving her flowers, asking for autographs and dancing along.

After the 25th edition there was a big debt, which caused the 1989 edition onwards to be organized by private companies. The ‘Stars of the evening’ could no longer sing live but had to use playback. And so, when Kim returned to the Sopot festival for the second time in 1992, she had to use playback as well. It was also reported that she had a throat infection at the time.

TVP (the Polish national broadcaster) organized the Sopot festival again from 1994, but starting in 1999, the contests were no longer organized.  TVP chose to invite well-known artists instead, featuring the likes of Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, The Corrs, Lionel Richie, UB40, Ricky Martin and Simply Red to perform. In 2005, TVN brought the international competition back, taking over from TVP, and in 2006 invited Elton John and Katie Melua. In 2008, Kim Wilde appeared in Sopot for the third time, singing three songs live.

In 2010 and 2011 the festival didn’t take place because of renovation of the Forest Opera. Since 2012, the festival has changed names and broadcasters regularly. TVN acquired the rights to the festival in 2017, and they started to organize annual festivals again in 2018.