Zaječar and GSA presented the concept of “Tolerance Zone” Festival

Belgrade, 11 December 2014

“Tolerance Zone” Festival (the Festival) is an international music festival which is going to be held for the first time on 1-2 May 2015 in the antique locality Felix Romuliana near Zaječar, with a rich accompanying programme, and its opening is planned for 30th April 2015 at a special event in Zaječar itself, it was announced today at the presentation of the concept of the Festival. The Festival is jointly organised by the City of Zaječar and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), as both signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the end of October.

ZonaTolerancije-logoMedia representatives were addressed by the Mayor of Zaječar Velimir Ognjenović, Head of the negotiating team with the EU Tanja Miščević, Director of Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Ivana Ćirković and the president of GSA Lazar Pavlović.

The Head of the negotiating team with the EU Tanja Miščević said that during the Pride Week an open debate on the human rights of LGBT people was held in the National Assembly of Serbia, where an MP Mr. Saša Mirković proposed the idea of organizing this festival.
“From that moment on we support this idea as a continuation of all that we’re trying to do in terms of improving the situation of minorities, different kinds of minorities, so it is natural that every time we talk about the rights of the LGBT community we mention the “Tolerance Zone” as a great idea, a good proposal which will become a reality in the city of Zaječar, which is inherently tolerant and has a very long tradition of festivals, which will show to the rest of Serbia that not only Belgrade is thinking on what should be done, but that it’s the duty of the entire population” Miščević said and added that she’s looking forward to the Festival and participation in debates.

Mayor of Zaječar Velimir Ognjenović noted that Zaječar is a small town, but the largest construction site, and that the budget funds were allocated for the festival “Tolerance Zone”.
“Zaječar has a very long tradition of festivals, next year the 49th Gitarijada festival will be held, and I’ll remind you that by the initiative of Mr. Saša Mirković, city of Zaječar decided to organize “Tolerance Zone” Festival. I invite everyone to come to the Festival, because Zaječar is a tolerant and peaceful city, the citizens of Zaječar are peaceful people and everyone will be happy with organization of this festival” the Mayor of Zaječar Velimir Ognjenović said and added that the Festival will be very visited, that everything will be organized at the highest level and that this festival will become a tradition.

Director of Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Ivana Ćirković, said that the Festival has large capacities and that partnership between municipalities and non-governmental organizations is necessary when it comes to promoting the rights of the LGBT community. She congratulated Zaječar for pointed confidence to GSA.

President of the GSA Lazar Pavlović said at the presentation that he was pleasantly surprised by the proposal of MP Saša Mirković.
“For us it is very important that one local government for the first time takes this concrete step, and gives an example to others, to the entire system and to the country, when it comes to the promotion of human rights” he said. According to him, the Festival will include other LGBT organizations and that the networks in the region have been made as they will work on the Festival’s promotion.

The organizers, in order to create greater domestic and international support for the Festival, realize presentations and meetings with various national and international institutions and organizations. The presentation that took place today had the aim of presenting the concept of the Festival to the international community present in Belgrade, and the representatives of foreign embassies and missions in Serbia were invited to this event.

The music programme of the Festival will take place at Felix Romuliana on 1-2 May 2015 and is going to include performances by well-known international and domestic artists of electronic and pop music, which will perform on several stages within the festival locality. The accompanying programme of the Festival will include a number of quality and varied cultural events. These will be held throughout the duration of the Festival in the city of Zaječar, in various public venues and cultural buildings, as well as before the Festival in other cities as part of the Festival promotion. The accompanying programme will consist of: thematic theater performances by acting ensembles of professional theaters, screenings of quality thematic films, art exhibits, theme debates, workshops, and similar.

The main objectives which the organizers plan to achieve through the preparations for and the organization of the Festival, as stated in the Memorandum on Cooperation which they signed, are: promotion of human rights, tolerance and equality for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or any other personal characteristic; promotion of Zaječar as an open and tolerant environment that accepts and promotes diversity and equality for the LGBT community and other minority groups, as well as promotion of historical heritage and tourist potential of Zaječar including its surrounding area. Also, the Festival is dedicated to all people who want to have a good time regardless of their differences, and organizers expect a large number of visitors from Serbia, from the regional countries and Europe, but they also expect that this festival becomes globally recognized and to be found on the map of the best and most famous European music festivals.

“Tolerance Zone” Festival is comprised of a number of different but significant components, including EU values, internationality and multiculturality, inclusiveness, regional cooperation, ecology… but also has commercial component which is important for its sustainability. Decentralization as one of the components is also very important as it relocates the issue of tolerance outside of Belgrade and national institutions into a local self-government, such as the City of Zaječar, which is very important because local self-governments are the most directly connected to citizens. The specific activity that Zaječar undertakes by organizing the Festival, also aims to motivate other cities in Serbia to deal with issues of tolerance and human rights through a local prism and to undertake concrete actions.

Felix Romuliana, the ancient site and symbol of the city of Zaječar, where the Festival will take place has been an unavoidable point on the tourist map of Eastern Serbia for years and it is also a very popular place for hosting many different cultural and artistic events. It has opened several past “Gitarijada” Festivals, it hosts art colonies and “Antika fest” and next year the “Tolerance Zone” Festival will be held there. The Festival will open on April 30th, on the same day when in 311 the Roman emperor Galerius issued the first “Edict of Toleration”, when for the first time in history the persecution of Christians has been suspended which gave them freedom of belief and religion. It is precisely because of the symbolism of this act from a distant history which stopped the persecution of a previously unaccepted social group and gave them freedom, and the fact that Zaječar is a city with a rich festival heritage and experience, that the organizers decided to have Felix Romuliana and Zaječar host the “Tolerance Zone” Festival.

Since the Festival is held at Felix Romuliana, the logo of the Festival includes a Roman helmet with a plume, which is also part of the official coat of arms of the city. The plume of the helmet is painted in colors of the rainbow, the symbol of the LGBT community around the world and their struggle for equality and acceptance by society.  The logo thus unites the main elements mentioned in the objectives of the Festival, which are: the fact that Zaječar is an environment open to diversity, and the promotion of human rights, tolerance and equality of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or any other personal characteristic.

Festival “Tolerance Zone” has received great support from organizations dealing with human rights in Serbia and the region and some of them will participate in the promotion and realization of the Festival and the greater support is expected by organizations from Europe and the world, as well as by national and international organizations, institutions and various public figures.

Sources: GSA, Tanjug, Tv Best
Photos: GSA, Tv Best, Tanjug