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Czech Republic's 2017 Ghettofest to feature Amaro Records music stage, an Anne Frank corner, and readings in a former prison

8.6.2017 9:46
Brno's 6th annual Ghettofest will take place on 10 June 2017. (PHOTO: Ghettofest)
Brno's 6th annual Ghettofest will take place on 10 June 2017. (PHOTO: Ghettofest)

The multi-genre street fair known as the Ghettofest annually opens up the locality around Brno's Bratislavská and Cejl streets - this year it is changing its usual backdrop, thanks to the closure of Francouzská Street, and is offering its program at the Hvězdička Park, in the spaces of a former prison, and at the Museum of Romani Culture. The sixth annual Ghettofest will take place in those locations on Saturday, 10 June.

Besides musical productions, the pivotal focus of the program is a series of readings focused on literature about and by minorities and political prisoners: In the spaces of a local former prison there will be readings from the prison poetry composed by the Czechoslovak Catholic literary historian Zdeněk Rotrekl; by Czech poet Jan Zahradníček, who wrote during the early and mid-20th century; a reading and staging of the transcript of the Gestapo's interrogation in Brno of Vítězslav Nezval, one of the most prolific avant-garde Czech writers in the first half of the 20th century and a co-founder of the Surrealist movement in Czechoslovakia; passages from the recently-published book about the Romani Partisan fighter, Serinek; and a music and sound installation created from the recorded testimonies of those who survived the Soviet jails. Local residents will also be involved more than in previous years, primarily through dance and music performances.

The local Amaro Records recording studio will present itself on its own stage, and there will also be discussions, arts and crafts workshops for children, and a "happening" about the Diary of Anne Frank during which participants can make their own contributions to the story. The aim of Brno's multigenre festival, Ghettofest, is to annually open up the excluded locality in the area between Bratislavská and Hvězdová streets and to make it possible for all visitors to spend a day together in a festival atmosphere of positivity.

Organizers are not just interested in sharing the area, demythologizing it and providing a one-time experience, but also are interested in longer-term thinking about the the direction of the locality, which is automatically associated in most people's minds with the negative connotations expressed by its nickname, "Brno's Bronx". The program will include a reflection on current and past events there and will directly involve local residents.

Visitors can anticipate two thematically-focused discussions, the first of which, called "Romani Footprint", will be dedicated to the figure of the famous Brno leader Eugen Horváth, the renaming of Hvězdička Park after him, and work with Romani memory more generally, while the second discussion, entitled "New Neighborhood", will be oriented toward the future of the entire area and should be an introduction to the longer-term seeking of a vision for the locality. Local residents will be involved primarily in the dance and music programming:  A new element this year will be a stage directed by Amaro Records recording studio, where Romani groups will perform and where it will also be possible to jam together with members of the Guitar Institute.

"The involvement of locals is a big challenge for us and we are glad we managed to reach out to Amaro Records in particular. This year the festival will be arranged differently in terms of space and will be more focused on local residents. We are also preparing a new dramaturgical line about Poets in Prison," the co-founder and main manager of the festival, Zdeněk Raiser, said.

Dance, music and theater will enliven the streets of Brno

A second music stage will be filled by music groups like Vložte kočku, Iszek Baraque Band, burningboy, Debbi Love and Meluzína. As every year, dance ensembles of young Romani dancers - Karika, Merci, and Piroš Rouža - will make their contributions, and the Museum of Romani Culture will offer its own full program.

Guided tours of the museum's current and permanent exhibitions, a dance workshop by Veronika Kačo, and a bag-making workshop for children will be held there, while the local DROM organization will contribute its own involvement as well. Several theater ensembles will be involved too:  A program will be arranged by Brno's Polárka Theater for Children and Youth, whose lecturers will prepare an "Anne Frank Corner" at Hvězdička Park, conceived of as a "Diary Happening" during which visitors can contribute their own feelings, impressions and observations to the famous diary.

The Polárka ensemble will also organize a music and sound installation called "The End of Which Person?" at the locality's former prison, based on texts by the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer, who reflects on the experiences of the victims of Soviet repression. In a similar vein, this year's innovation of Ghettofest will feature programming called "Poets in Prison", which will also be performed at the former prison on Cejl Street.

In addition to the authors described above, the prison will also hear performances of the daily orders issued by the Council of Elders and communications from the Jewish Self-Administration in Terezín as part of a dramatic musical performance called "A City In Name Only" (Město jménem jakože). Visitors can also relax in the Hvězdička Park where, as during previous years of the festival, there will also be programming provided by the Jiří Mahen Library, the cooperative-run freetrade cafe Tři Ocásci, a meditation corner, a "non-romantic speed dating" corner, and a play by the Líšeň Theater Ensemble, which will stage the show "Figurkov".

The naiff Film Collective, which regularly screens films at the local Clubwash venue, will show a short documentary about social problems in residential hotels. The festival is organized by the Tripitaka group in collaboration with other organizations and is free of charge.

press release of Ghettofest, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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