Controversy over LGBT exhibition in Europe's capital of culture

Plovdiv put its name on the map when it was named one of Europe's capital cities of culture for 2019 -- but now it's gaining attention for it's homophobic attitudes instead. 

Eliza Archer
Eliza Archer NewsMavens, Europe
Controversy over LGBT exhibition in Europe's capital of culture - NewsMavens
Plovdiv, Old Town Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Balkan Pride, an LGBT-themed exhibition showing in Plovdiv, Bulgaria is causing controversy. The city is considered to be relatively conservative but was named one of two European capitals of culture for 2019. The exhibition contains photos from gay pride events across the Balkans and is organized by the LGBT rights group, Glas.

The exhibition has caused enough controversy that the city council is seeking to remove Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, head of the municipal cultural foundation. In response, Kuyumdzhieva said “such interference with the programme can only be treated as discrimination and censorship”.

Borislav Inchev from the ultranationalist party VMR, has been a vocal opponent of the exhibition and its contents suggesting, “I am very curious what would happen if a teacher made a mistake and sent her schoolchildren to see the exhibition. What would they see? How would she explain it?”. 

The controversy comes amid rising fears regarding homophobic sentiment across Bulgaria. According to a survey conducted by Glas, only one third of Bulgarians would be accepting if their neighbour was gay.

Details from the story:

  • Bulgarian city Plovdiv was dubbed one of the 2019 European capitals of culture along with Matera, Italy.
  • The city council is set to vote on the removal of Kuyumdzhieva this week.
  • Kuyumdzhieva worries the backlash will damage the city’s progress and particularly its city of culture status.
  • Not all opponents have expressed concern over the LGBT content of the exhibition, instead stating they are concerned with the transparency of public funds spending.
  • Glas sent an open letter to the mayor of Plovdiv in response to the critics of the exhibition
  • The Chief Executive Officer of the international company Reward Getaway with offices in Plovdiv Doug Butler also wrote an open letter to the mayor of Plovdiv about the rise of hate speech and violence in the city.
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