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Statement from Paul Roseby, artistic director of the National Youth Theatre
08 Sep 2015
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

The National Youth Theatre’s decision to commission Homegrown was born out of a proven track record of commissioning and producing work with young people, some as young as 14, that tackles challenging subjects and pushes artistic boundaries.


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

Our unique commitment as an organisation is to the creative and personal development of young people through theatre. That stated aim is what differentiates us and informs the work we do and the decisions made by our executive body. The NYT has never shied away from tackling controversial subjects. If this play was to provide those opportunities for the cast, we required the potentially controversial subject matter to be handled sensitively and with editorial balance and justification.

The decision to commission Homegrown was taken in view of those commitments and aims, and the decision to cancel it was taken according to the same criteria.

Despite a lengthy and willingly collaborative process, the co-creators were not able to reassure us that the content of Homegrown satisfied these understandable and important criteria. Our position was further compromised by the creative team’s inability to deliver a completed script at any time, therefore we could have no certainty that the play would either be ready for the planned opening night, or that if completed it would meet our aims and responsibilities as a youth arts charity. Complaints and concerns expressed by members of the production team, the cast and parents compounded the issue and rendered our position completely untenable.

Clearly our commitment to our members goes beyond an editorial one, and their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance at all times. The subject matter of this play, its immersive form and its staging in a school required us to go beyond even our usual stringent safeguarding procedures to ensure the security of the venue and safety of cast members. However, we can categorically state that no external parties had any involvement in the decision to cancel the public presentation of Homegrown. It was a decision taken solely by the executive of the NYT and one that we sadly felt compelled to make.

We had hoped to address these differences out of the public gaze and directly with the creative team. However, we recognise the wider interest that the decision to cancel the production has attracted, and with the release of information today from the Arts Council it is only appropriate that we address this publicly and fully.

We do not regret commissioning Homegrown and wholeheartedly agree with those that have stated that the issues raised by the creeping radicalisation of the young should be addressed by the arts. We set out to do so but on this occasion were not successful.

We acknowledge that our view of the readiness of the play as an NYT production does not chime with that of the creative team. However we can only base our decisions on the facts, and on the unique criteria upon which the NYT is proudly founded.

We are releasing the rights in Homegrown to Omar El-Khairy and wish him and Nadia Latif well in securing another outlet for their show, when it is completed.

— Paul Roseby, artistic director of the National Youth Theatre

One response to “Statement from Paul Roseby, artistic director of the National Youth Theatre”

  1. Catherine Alexander says:

    This useful statement from Paul Roseby seems to suggest that collaboratively devised work has no place at the National Youth Theatre. Having worked in devised theatre for my whole career it is in no way abnormal for there not to be a completed script shortly before opening night. I also firmly believe that meaningful theatre processes are not always ‘ready’ at press night but are all the more worthwhile and interesting for that. It seems that this production needed much more support and hands on management (possibly through close mentoring) of what sounds like an exceptionally complex and interesting project. It is certainly the only NYT production that I have actively wanted to see for many years. What a terrible shame that this theatre company was unable to find a productive way to problem solve without having to cancel. What message does that send to the passionate and deeply committed cast and creative team? It seems that the forces of conservatism, fear and caution have won out. Joan Littlewood is turning in her grave.