Friends, who happen to be respected left-field musicians, were invited to Austria to perform a couple of gigs and film some music videos paid for by an Austrian arts grant. The lovely hosts were welcoming as was the creative coterie circling them in Vienna – the city of perfect public facades veiling the multifaceted private lives within (I don’t use this phrase lightly having encountered Austrian ways whilst recording in Vienna in the early nineties). All was well for these two travellers until Graz, where our beautiful young African-American singer took to the stage with aplomb accompanied by his Middle Eastern producer set back on stage, before an inebriated North European crowd – amongst them a solitary man shouting animatedly. The singer and producer took this to be enthusiasm for the electronica rap, presuming he was saying ‘louder’ or ‘harder’… Only when the man aggressively reached for the singer’s foot when atop the monitors at the front of stage and seeing the two young girls trying to hush him, the artists realised that in fact this was a nutter of some kind. The guards stood by and watched with no attempt to intervene, it later transpired the man was shouting racist profanities. Is it just me or is this scene reminiscent of a nightmare from a racist past, which I thought we left behind with the fall of South African apartheid? Is it too much to expect that in a crowd of people, including big strapping male guards more than two young girls should have interceded!
Later that evening during a video shoot in the forest around Graz a disgruntled man in lederhosen and two accomplices arrived in a car shouting at the creative team and cowardly pushing over the weakest member of the crew causing her considerable physical injury. Visitors to this little corner of Europe seem to have suffered local expressions of racism and intolerance during this festival – which through bringing in multiracial unusual arty characters clearly heckled the right wing feathers of some living in and around this town.
The rise of fascism in Europe is as scary as it is predictable. The European Union opening up borders to the weaker members of the union, dubious expenditure of European funds by some member nations, instability in the Middle East and North Africa heightening security concerns and summoning boat loads of refugees, alongside greedy bankers and global business players wielding corrupt power over governments, altogether have crafted a poisonous brew. In Britain the rich became 64% wealthier and the poor 57% worse off during the most recent recession (Morris 2015) which seems to have been a boom for some, calling into scrutiny the unethical relationship between big business and white hall.