Edinburgh "riot" play censored
Robin Tudge: Edinburgh riot play censored
13 Aug 11

This is a guest post by Robin Tudge

The Facebook page of a touring musical comedy show, an “epic tale of violence, greed, and cheap sofas” about middle-class rioting in an IKEA store in 2005, has fallen victim to the kind of blanket censorship that David Cameron is planning for any further urban tumult.

The page, titled “Riot in Edinburgh”, which since mid-July had given information about the Edinburgh Fringe showing of ‘Riot’, was taken down by Facebook on Wednesday, August 10. ‘We received no warning’ about the removal, said Helena Middleton, part of The Wardrobe Ensemble company behind the show, which was first shown at the Bristol Old Vic in June. As of yet, the page, which included an IKEA catalogue image of a plate with meatballs and a knife, has not been put back up, said Middleton.

The censoring appears to be Facebook’s own work, as the Ensemble was sent the following message: “The event “RIOT in Edinburgh” has been removed because it violated our Terms of Use. Among other things, events that are hateful, threatening or obscene are not allowed…Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled”.

The one-hour show retells the riot of 10 February 10, 2005, when over 6,000 customers overwhelmed the midnight opening of a new IKEA store in Edmonton, that promised massive discounts. Customers punched and kicked their way to £45 sofas, others were crushed, five shoppers were hospitalised and one man was stabbed with an IKEA knife.

The show has been blessed with remarkable timing. As debate swirls about whether the recent English riots were a violent underclass taking their extreme materialist cue from corrupt MPs and bankers, the play shows how cheap MDF shelves can lure the middle-class into mindless mob violence. And in 2005 the police were overwhelmed. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said at the time: “It was something that the Met Police were as taken by surprise by as the IKEA management.”

The Facebook page disabling also shows the potential mindlessness and indiscriminate criminalisation of the potential wholesale shutdown of social media platforms, amid any further unrest or legitimate protests, that the UK government suggested last Thursday.

Riot is on daily at 1.15pm until August 29 at the ZOO Roxy, 2 Roxborough Place Edinburgh.