Index on Censorship calls on the National Youth Theatre (NYT) to publicly and transparently disclose its consultations with police and council officials in the lead-up to the cancellation of the play Homegrown.
The team behind the production, which explored Islamic radicalisation among young people in the United Kingdom, released a statement that details the cancellation from their point of view. It is now up to the other parties involved to fully disclose their decision-making process to allow the public — including tax-payers who are funding this production — to understand this violation of free expression.
“We were deeply shocked to find out in an email that the company had decided to cancel the production of Homegrown 10 days before the first preview,” read the statement, which was signed by Mina Aidoo (choreographer), Omar El-Khairy (writer), Paris Erotokritou (associate director), Nadia Latif (director), Lorna Ritchie (designer) and Keziah Serreau (associate director).
The production was two weeks into rehearsals when the cancellation was announced, The Guardian reported. The show, which had been in development for six months, was the product of workshops with British young people between the ages of 16 and 25.
It is very worrying that an arts project exploring an important subject that young people of all ethnicities need to be able to discuss and debate has been closed down. Equally concerning are the actions of Tower Hamlets council, some allegations about police involvement and the absence of any clear and transparent public statement on the part of NYT.
Without even a line of legislation being debated, the government has created an atmosphere whereby a play about extremism can be cancelled with no reason given, in a completely opaque way with no respect for freedom of expression.
Police, councils and arts organisations have a duty to respect and protect freedom of expression — even, and most especially, where they disagree with the message or find it controversial.
Obscene Publications (available autumn 2015)