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Zurich warms up for gay festival

Feeling gay in May (www.warmermai.ch)

Zurich's homosexual community will be coming out of hibernation this week with a month-long celebration of gay life.

Combining workshops, culture, parties and sport, the "Warm May" festival is now in its fourth year.

The festival was originally conceived as a sideshow to the Eurogames, an international gay sports tournament that was hosted by Zurich in 2000.

Now standing on its own, Warm May comprises more than 70 events - ranging from serious theatre to massage courses.

Although clearly targeted at Zurich's sizeable gay community, organisers insist that the festival is open to everybody.

"We just want to come out and show people what we are doing and remind them how varied our activities are," Warm May spokeswoman Monica Tschanz told swissinfo.

Prejudice

"One of the workshops deals with sexual orientation and will be led by a homosexual, a bisexual and a heterosexual who will start a discussion about prejudice and what it's like living these different lifestyles - so for this event in particular everybody will be welcome."

Although the vast majority of Warm May events concentrate on more light-hearted activities and subjects, the issue of prejudice will also be central to the theatre piece "Wilde Oscarade". The play offers a German language re-enactment of Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol" - written following Wilde's two-year imprisonment for "gross indecency".

"I hope the audience will see how much things have changed since Wilde's time, but also feel how much things haven't changed," says the play's director Radu Klinger. "A lot of people are still being killed in jail and it's a problem which is very current in the United States. And just as in Oscar Wilde's day, many of those killed are homosexuals."

Animal magnetism

It's hoped that Zurich's far more tolerant attitude to homosexuality will be enhanced by the Warm May festival - with even the city zoo getting in on the act. Following a successful debut last year, the zoo is offering a tour of its facilities concentrating on the issue of homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

"Last year, we had a very positive reaction to the tour which shows that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon," says Tschanz. "So many people wanted to see the tour last time that we decided to organise four tours this year.

"I myself am a big fan of nature documentaries but I always think it's a pity that the film-makers concentrate exclusively on heterosexual activity. We know there is more to it than that and I think people are now open enough to have a look at this too."

From the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde to gay animal tours, much has clearly changed over the past hundred years. As the man portraying Wilde in the Warm May production, actor Bodo Krumwiede may have the best idea what the Irish playwright might have made of it all.

"I think he would be very happy," reckons Krumwiede, "and very glad that people can come together and talk about what it means to be gay without running the risk of being arrested."

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Zurich

Warm May

The "Warm May" festival comprises more than 70 events.
The programme includes culture, sport, workshops and parties.
Now in its fourth year, the festival runs from May 1 to June 1.

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