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Czech children's theater director to leave at year's end over allegedly racist remarks

20.4.2015 7:34
Cejl Street in Brno is part of a neighborhood nicknamed the
Cejl Street in Brno is part of a neighborhood nicknamed the "Brno Bronx". (Photo: František Kostlán)

Speculation around the choice of Vlastimil Peška to direct the Divadlo Radost children's theater in Brno and the allegedly racist remarks he made during the job interview is continuing. Deputy Mayor of Brno Matěj Hollan, who is responsible for cultural and social issues, has announced that Peška should remain as director only until the end of the year, when he will evidently be replaced by Tomáš Pavčík, who was the hiring commission's second choice.  

Hollan rejects allegations that his decision interferes with the results of the hiring procedure. In a press release, he explains the City Council's decision regarding Peška's temporary work as director by asserting that the hiring commission is just an advisory body, while he bears responsibility for the cultural agenda.    

Peška became unreliable in Hollan's eyes after he allegedly told the hiring commission that he did not want Romani children to come to the theater and that Romani children over 10 years of age belong in prison. "It's not possible for the director of a children's theater to plan on erecting barriers and applying collective blame to young children on the basis of their skin color. One of the priorities of the governing coalition at City Hall is precisely to ameliorate the exclusion of the people in the Bronx and to promote inclusion through cultural organizations, which is not possible with Vlastimil Peška because of his opinions. If the City is contributing millions from its budget to revive the Bronx, it's not possible that the director of one of the most important local institutions sabotages these efforts," Hollan said.  

Peška has objected to these allegations, calling them a complete lie. After meeting with Mayor of Brno Petr Vokřál (ANO), however, he did agree that a new position of artistic director would be created at the theater to replace the existing post of director.  

Peška, however, does not consider Pavčík an appropriate candidate. Petr Jančařík, the manager of the theater, also has complaints about how the City Council and Hollan are proceeding in this matter and says it bothers him that applicants were never told that the winning candidate would only head the theater for one year.

Collaboration with local Romani NGO

Moreover, during his presentation to the hiring commission, Peška mentioned that he has already established cooperation between the theater and the DROM Romani Center, which works with people from excluded localities on Cejl street in Brno. Miroslav Zima, the director of DROM, has confirmed that to Romea.cz.

"Roughly a month ago we agreed with Mr Peška that we might be able to establish cooperation with the theater. Youth from our drop-in club would be able to attend some performances free of charge, take a look backstage, and go on excursions. People from the theater would also aid us with our drama circle," Zima said.  

As for the dispute around the hiring procedure, Zima views it as very unpleasant. He is, however, very interested in collaborating with the theater because he believes it will benefit the children.

"I only know about the scandal around Mr Peška's election from the media. I was not there during the voting and for the time being this is a messy situation as far as I am concerned. However, if Mr Peška actually said what Mr Hollan claims he said, then it should have been responded to immediately, on the spot, not with a delay after the choice has been made. Under such circumstances, the result of the election was a mistake," Zima told news server Romea.cz.   

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, divadlo, Racism, Výběrové řízení



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