Wednesday 29 August 2007

The politics of cultural tourism

Its is a considerable number of years since I was in any way involved in active gay politics, and even then I wasn't that active; more just interested and concerned. But age, and the changes in the UK political climate have meant that I only think about politics when reading a couple of gay news blogs.

The news from these has now intersected with my musical activities. A choir I know is thinking of travelling to Poland next year, to sing in Krakow. From a musical point of view, this makes a great deal of sense. Krakow is a lovely, historic place for the choristers to visit and they would be entitled to expect a musical welcome.

Unfortunately the current Polish government is evidently rather Right wing and is currently having a crack-down on Lesbians and Gay men. The question is, of course, how much should these political issues impinge on a cultural trip.

This raises the sort of questions that I remember from proposed Cricket tours to South Africa under apartheid. How much should the cultural tourists be influenced by the political situation in the host country and how much does their visit, in some way, validate the government and political situation.

Should a cultural group worry about these issues, or should they simply leave it to market forces to decide. I.e., let the choir members decide whether they wish to travel. The problem with this scenario is that not all people are politically aware. But there is an additional problem with a choir, you need a balance of members to provide a good range of voices. If certain key members feel unwilling or unable to travel, then it can endanger the viability of the choir and thus cause problems on the tour.

There are two issues which relate to me personally. The first is the simple on of whether it is safe for me and my partner, as gay men, to travel in Poland. The other is one of simple politics and solidarity, whether we want to travel to Poland when other Lesbians and Gay men are being persecuted by the regime, even if we ourselves are not in danger.

I must confess that these issues are not ones that I ever anticipated having to consider when travelling to an EU country. Normally I try to keep my politics out of this blog and concentrate on musical issues. But here we have them intersecting in a startling way. Anyone wanting to learn more, you can read a little here.


  1. Anonymous1:38 pm

    I don't always agree with you, but I see that you are objective in your
    postings. Despite the differences I still enjoy reading your posts and I
    often learn even when our viewpoints are different. :-)

  2. I think one of my points in the post was that I'm not really sure of my own viewpoint in this situation.

  3. Anonymous10:47 pm

    I was in Poland several years ago, before the country officially joined the EU. Even then I did not find myself overly concerned about personal safety. There was plenty of gay nightlife and community publications - which are both a challenge if you don't speak Polish. Unlike much of Western Europe, English is not widely spoken in the former Eastern Bloc members - which I believe will prove to be the choir's biggest real concern.

    Now that Poland must abide by the Human Rights provisions of the EU Charter, homosexuality is no longer a basis for official harrassment. As with all things, it may take the older generation some time to catch up to the law, but they will come around eventually.

    The rantings of a few politicians and church leaders should not deter you from the tour. They represent a vocal but toothless minority. Gays have simply been a useful distraction in a country still trying to adjust to capitalism after the ecomonic problems resulting from so many decades under the control of the Soviet Union.

    Krakow is beautiful and the people friendly. It would be a disservice to everyone if you did not go.

  4. Anonymous8:52 pm

    I think we should separate the politics and culture, the government (conservative) is one thing and the people is another one. It's all very complicated.
    Consider that there's a difference between what you hear and what you know about life in Poland, believe me :)
    Anyway, you're very welcome in Poland. (especially in Krakow, Wroclaw, Gdansk)

  5. It is difficult to define cultural tourism given the many dimensions that it may adopt. Cultural tourism can be seen to have a number of the following dimensions: handicrafts, language, gastronomy, art and music, architecture, sense of place, historic sites, festivals and events, heritage resources, the nature of the work environment and technology, religion, education, and dress.

    ~From Adam4Adam


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