Nitra has its Hidepark too

Inhabitants of Nitra have elected Marek Hattas, the 31-year-old activist and co-founder of this community centre, for mayor. (From our achive)

(Source: Courtesy of Hidepark)
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A campfire, a playground, or an open-air venue located close to Nitra’s downtown but also hidden on the fringe of the city are just some of few things that one can find in Hidepark.

Before anything else, it is a rare alternative space only 80 minutes away from Bratislava, offering a list of events accessible to everyone free of charge.

"Hidepark means freedom to me," said Paľo Ferčák, one of the founders of Hidepark.

The idea of putting such a place in Nitra came from a group of technicians, construction workers, and IT programmers who wanted to create a space for themselves back in 2010, after a long observation that the social life of the city had been gradually fading.

"The idea came up in one of Nitra’s bars," another Hidepark co-founder, Filip Stranovský, said.

From a dump to Hidepark

As two underground clubs closed down in Nitra, a born-at-the-pub idea to organise concerts elsewhere happened to be the driving force for Hidepark founders to fix the situation in their hometown.

"We just wanted to drink beer, sit on the grass, and listen to some good music with our peers," Marek Hattas mentioned, another man behind Hidepark, adding that they had no intention of going big.

After having walked around the city in winter, they discovered a meadow under the snow nearby the Nitra River, which used to be a dump. They returned months later to see the overgrown grass.

"We came one week before our first concert and had to cut the grass all week long," explained Filip, adding that they were always putting a huge military tent up and down to make gigs happen at all.

Over the two-year period of gigging in the grassland, the number of visitors significantly increased, and the question of how things should operate emerged. They met people who had created public spaces before.

"We realised we were creating a public space," said Hattas.

So they founded a civic association, Triptych, to manage the Hidepark cultural and community centre. A few cargo containers, service water, and electricity were gradually delivered to the place.

Of the people, for the people, by the people

If you’re determined to stride down Vodná Street towards the bridge to be crossed, you’ll spot a wooden “Hidepark” sign right after. A short walk along the river finally brings you to Hidepark, which is hidden behind trees but where you can easily make out a colourfully painted mini U-shaped ramp.

Cargo containers sprayed in colours catch one’s eye in a heartbeat. One of them serves as a small stage. A café and a caravan bar open up during events. Behind the containers there’s a vast open-air arena with two huge tents, a couple of campfires and a painted outhouse.

"People don’t sit in their homes, they come out here to enjoy themselves and even grill," Hattas described the atmosphere.

For children, Hidepark offers a huge playground. Many of its summer events are suitable for children, like the screening of animated movies or theatre performances. Kids can also sign up for the ecological day camp over the summer holidays.

"The culture summer season begins in mid-May," noted Hattas.

In the daylight, one can choose from day festivals, picnics, workshops, or seminars dedicated to the ecology and the environment, to gigs, parties, film nights, and more.

"We primarily give space to contemporary unconventional art and thinking," said Hattas, but stresses that they consider all ideas. The season ends in mid-September.

"Outside the summer season, volunteers work to improve Hidepark, but anyone can use the facilities over the year," Hattas highlighted.

A pétanque court can be found here. A parkour area, of use for anyone who wishes to stretch their body, is located in Hidepark as well.

"In the months to come we intend to build a pump track and a bike repair station,” explained Hattas. Their desire is to sustain a cycling community in the city.

Hidepark is unique, not because everyone can help through donations, volunteering, or bringing new ideas, but for an opportunity given to Hidepark supporters to decide on the centre’s future, before and after the summer season, at public planning assemblies.

"It’s a place where I can spend my spare time actively with new faces in a friendly environment," said Juraj Half, one of the all-year volunteers at Hidepark.

"What I like most is that people of all ages are able to work together on projects which breathe new life into old things," he added.

Gardening at KOZA

A community garden (KOZA) has already become an inherent part of Hidepark. A field, consisting of nearly 50 parcels, is divided amongst almost a hundred gardeners of all ages each year. Every spring, aspiring gardeners are invited to respond to a Facebook call.

"Then, there’s a welcome meeting where all the KOZA rules are explained,” Hattas said. Gardeners pay an annual fee, which enables them to use service water or tools from the colourful storage.

The KOZA garden is based on permaculture principles only, instructing people how to grow plants in an ecological as well as sustainable way.

"We do not use artificial fertilizers,” said Zuzana Kiripolská, KOZA manager, who came up with the idea of having such a garden at Hidepark. “That’s our number one rule.”

An inexperienced gardener can acquire gardening skills with the help of others and from the workshops organised on a regular basis, or can find out more about green roofs or composting.

KOZA isn’t just a garden but also a name of the day festival held each June, at which everyone can listen to music and lectures, have discussion, or participate in various workshops.

"There’s been a growing need of spending time in nature since I live in a flat," Henrieta Kelemenová explaining her reason as to why she has decided to take part.

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