This statement is in response to an email sent by Paul Roseby, Artistic Director of The National Youth Theatre (NYT) to The Arts Council of England (ACE), in which our play, Homegrown, and its creative team were labelled as “extremist”. The creative team did not have an “extremist agenda”, they had one of support and allowance to a cast of over 100 artists who developed a response to pressing issues such as radicalisation.
• Cancellation of Homegrown shows that more support needed for tackling controversial work
• Statement by the creative team behind Homegrown
• Statement by some of the cast members of Homegrown
• Statement by Paul Roseby of the National Youth Theatre
We want to clarify that as a company working on this production we have the utmost respect and adoration for work that NYT do. The many members of NYT are not only our friends and colleagues, but they are also the people that will ultimately inspire the world as artists. We will continue to be staunch defenders of NYT and will work hard to be as involved as possible, because no other outlet for youthful creativity exists on the same playing field.
On the 31st July, Paul Roseby came before us as a company and explained that Homegrown was being cancelled. The afternoon before, Roseby and other significant figures within the organisation came to see Act 2, which is just a single act in a five-act play; and purposely the most controversial section of the play. As Roseby never viewed previous devised sections of the production we believe he was unaware of the play’s structure. This structure was carefully orchestrated in order to challenge every prospective audience member on a personal level, asking them to reassess their current views and received-opinions, whatever they may be. The message we are presenting with Homegrown is a well-rounded and intelligent discussion of a matter that needs to be dealt with in a direct and unmediated manner.
Claims were made within a statement by NYT that their position to continue forward with the play was “further compromised by the creative team’s inability to deliver a completed script at any time”. This is thoroughly incorrect as several attempts were offered by the creative team and the script was able to be read at any given time. Within the email that was sent to ACE they called for an overall “intelligent character arc,” as if dismissing the majority of individual, shorter character nuance already depicted within the piece. There is no overall intelligent arc on the issue of radicalisation. It is a difficult and multi-faceted discussion, which Homegrown looks to explore in as much of its entirety as possible.
With the inevitably delicate nature of coming into a creative process with such controversial topics, we sometimes felt like we treaded a fine line as a company. However, the overwhelming support from the entire creative team, specifically Nadia and Omar, assured us that we always had a heightened level of trust and safety. Every day as we peeled back yet more layers of the complex and nebulous issues surrounding radicalisation and Islamophobia, we became more aware of what was happening in the world around us. Our views were always treated with the utmost care and we were always given the option to refrain from participating in aspects we might initially feel uncomfortable with.
The issue of censorship undermines the very nature of art and, in this instance, has become an undeniable signpost of the state of our nation as one still rife with phobia. It is a genuine worry on behalf of the freedom of speech promised to creatives in this country and we do feel silenced as artists. The irony being that this is one of the poignant elements which runs through our play, Homegrown.
Signed by the following members of the Homegrown cast:
Grace Cooper Milton
Vanessa Dos Santos
Sam Rees Baylis
Mohammed B. Mansaray
Kai Kwasi Thorne