The Strand Arts Centre has said it will not be cancelling a show featuring a controversial Polish travel writer and comedian.
The Rainbow Project, a support and advocacy organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people here, has condemned the scheduled appearance of Wojciech Cejrowski at the east Belfast venue this Saturday.
Urging political and community representatives to speak out against the planned show, John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, said: “We spoke out originally in July when this event was announced, as this performer has a well-known history of making discriminatory and inflammatory comments through his content on YouTube and during his various television appearances. This content is homophobic in nature with direct intent to incite exclusion and discrimination against members of the LGBT+ community.
“His comments are also explicitly derogatory towards women, claiming that their place is in the home and that they are inferior to men. With regards to immigration, Cejrowski has also called for immigrants to be expelled from Poland.”
Despite concerns about the possible content of the show, a spokesman for the Strand Arts Centre said assurances have been given that Mr Cejrowski will talk about his travels and will not discuss his personal opinions.
He revealed that Wojciech Cejrowski booked the venue in June as a private hire customer, and said at that stage arts centre staff weren’t aware “that Mr Cejrowski was known in Poland as having a range of personal views which might be considered by some as controversial.”
“Upon receiving an expression of concern in relation to this booking and upon being advised on the nature of some of Mr Cejrowski’s views, Strand Arts Centre decided to cancel the event,” the spokesman explained.
“Discussions then took place with the organisers of the event, along with Mr Cejrowski’s solicitor. We have been advised and received assurances that the event will exclusively entail a discussion about Mr Cejrowski’s travel experiences in connection with the promotion of his travel book and will not include any discussion of his personal opinions. In light of these assurances, Strand Arts Centre has agreed to re-instate Mr Cejrowski’s private hire booking.”
He added: “Strand Arts Centre is a small charity which strives to provide a shared space for all especially within the east Belfast community. We are conscious of the need to treat everyone who uses our space and services with integrity and respect.
“To ensure that we remain consistent to our core aims and values, we are undertaking a review of our private hire policy and, in particular, our rights of cancellation to ensure that all future private hire events held on our premises are consistent with those core aims and objectives.”
The News Letter has contacted Mr Cejrowski via his website asking for comment.