The following is a statement issued by the creative team behind the cancelled production Homegrown.
We were deeply shocked to find out in an email from the Artistic Director of NYT, Mr Paul Roseby, that the company had decided to cancel the production of Homegrown 10 days before the first preview. We have since been left disappointed and baffled that every subsequent attempt to meet with the NYT – including a meeting planned for Tuesday 11 August – has been either postponed or cancelled.
Homegrown was intended to be a site-specific theatrical exploration of radicalisation, the stories and communities behind the headlines and the perceptions and realities of Islam and Muslim communities in Britain today. The creative team and our cast of 112 young people were two weeks into rehearsals, the culmination of a six-month process, when the production was cancelled. There was no warning and no consultation. We feel that the reasons for this production being shut down have not been transparent, openly addressed nor fully addressed.
Not only have we been silenced, but our 112 cast members – who cared passionately about the show, its content and its questions – have had their artistic expression curbed. The following are just some of their words:
“I have no doubt in my mind that Homegrown would have been an incredible and hugely important production, and for those reasons I truly believe that even though it isn’t happening at present it absolutely must be resurrected in the future.”
“The issue of radicalisation and the role Islam plays in our society is one that needs to be addressed. It’s an elephant in the room for the UK that is not being currently explored.”
“I felt like a genuine creative; and with strong guidance we crafted responses to the world around us. Yet in a moment we were taken back to the level of “just kids” who need to be told what’s best and most safe for us, I can’t say how frustrating it is to go from a place of give and take discussion to top-down authoritarianism. It genuinely worries me on behalf of the freedom of speech promised to creatives in this country and I do feel silenced as an artist. The irony being that these are all strands that would have run through Homegrown.”
“To me, Homegrown being pulled was like my vocal chords being cut. It was everything that was needed to be said and everything that I always felt I couldn’t say.”
“I was genuinely thrilled and exhilarated every day as we peeled back yet more layers of the complex and nebulous issues surrounding radicalisation and Islamophobia”
“If you are going to take on a subject matter this sensitive then you have a responsibility to see it through. To a lot of us this was not just some controversial play we wanted to be a part of, it was about social change and awareness and staying ‘awoke’.”
We feel it is imperative, considering the current political climate, to open up and bring awareness to some of the broader issues and the socio-political landscape of radicalisation, homegrown extremism, and even the simple conversation about Islam. We are making art in a particular climate: the climate of PREVENT and CHANNEL – programmes which are creating an environment in which certain forms of questioning, let alone subversion, of the given narrative pertaining to radicalisation or extremism can be closed down.
It felt like battle lines were being drawn when, on the first day of rehearsals of a show that was to be denied its voice, David Cameron gave his strongest statement drawing links between non-violent extremism and jihadism. As artists we find it unseemly that we are having to defend our work in this manner but, also as artists, we would defend the irreducible right of all artists to make art.
We are keen to turn this into a positive galvanising moment and start a dialogue around these long-standing questions, and are reaching out to artists, institutions and individuals across a spectrum of industries to support us in opening up the conversation we had hoped to initiate with Homegrown.