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Czech Republic: Ghettofest 2015 will have less loud music, more reverence

7.5.2015 18:33
Last year's Ghettofest took place on 6 - 8 June in the quarter of Brno nicknamed the
Last year's Ghettofest took place on 6 - 8 June in the quarter of Brno nicknamed the "Bronx", where many socially vulnerable people live. Originally a one-day music festival, it has become a weekend event with dozens of features on the program, including dance performances, discussions, film screenings, public gatherings and theater. This year the festival will take place on 5 -6 June. (PHOTO: Facebook page of Ghettofest)

The fourth annual Ghettofest will take place on 5 and 6 June in the "Bronx" neighborhood of Brno. In addition to a full program of music and theater, the festival will focus on the tragic past of the locality and the fates of its local inhabitants.

A special thematic section called "Ghettofest Memory" is part of Brno's Year of Reconciliation (Rok smíření). "Ghettofest is a multicultural street festival which many Brno residents have managed to take note of or visit during the last three years. The organizers are striving to open up and transform Brno's Bronx, and primarily to open up the notional ghettos in the imaginations and minds of the majority society - this excluded locality, hobbled by myths and prejudices, becomes a place for creativity, encounters and mutual respect during two days in summer, a space without borders or limits," the organizers write in a press release.

This year will introduce several dramaturgical changes. The program will be concentrated within two days and will be held in the name of composers who were active during the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) as well as contemporary artists and performers, and will approximate the street concept and model of a shared neighborhood in general.

There will be fewer large, loud concerts and more significance placed on reverence. The "Ghettofest Memory" section of the festival is part of the city's Year of Reconciliation and will open with the children's opera "Brundibár", originally one of the most frequently performed productions from the Terezín ghetto, which will now be performed mostly by Romani children.

"This is an opportunity to draw attention to the problem of racism and social exclusion which continues today, and not just in the Bronx locality of Brno," comments Kateřina Geislerová, one of the organizers of the festival. A concert in honor of Pavel Haas, the brother of the famous actor Hugo Haas and an interwar composer from Brno who tragically died in Auschwitz, will be performed in a similar spirit.

The performance will take place directly in the building where Haas was born on Bratislavská Street. Another component of "Ghettofest Memory" will be a guided tour of the traces left by the deported residents of Cejl Street conducted by historian Michal Konečný, a co-author of the publications "Nazi Brno" (Brno nacistické) and "Stalinist Brno" (Brno stalinistické).  

This year's Ghettofest, however, will not only be looking at the past. Another component will be a project by Kateřina Šedá, a Brno native and winner of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award, called "Bronx Station" (Zastávka Bronx).  

Over the course of a year and a half a series of interviews will be conducted, as will many community meetings and artistic gatherings both indoors and out. The output of these endeavors will be a printed guide to the locality.  

A full musical and theatrical program also awaits festival-goers, the gastronomic offerings will be expanded to include vegetarian food, and there will be dance performances, the screening of a documentary film by Apolena Rychlíková and Martina Malinová, a discussion about the future of the local Hvězdička park, and many other surprises. "Right now we can confirm that the music scene will be represented by the bands Ant Attack, Transzan, the Ústav voiceband ensemble, the Cimbálovka Švarcavan ensemble, and, as he did last year, MC Gey will rap - we are also communicating with other Brno musicians. The theater program is being taken care of the Divadlo Líšeň and Le Grando theater companies, and Brno's new social enterprise, Bajkazyl, will also introduce itself," the organizers say.  

The main motifs of Ghettofest are tolerance, the building up of a space for multicultural encounters, and the creation of a relaxing atmosphere to which everyone can actively contribute, irrespective of his or her social position. As in all the previous years, Ghettofest is free of charge. 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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