Belarus Free Theatre runner up in Freedom to Create prize

We are delighted that Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) nominated by Index for the ArtVenture Freedom to Create prize wre runners up in the main prize category of the inaugural awards. Tom Stoppard, a long-time supporter of the theatre company, handed them the cheque for $15,000 to be shared with Charter 97 in recognition of their tenacious and deeply committed work to oppose the last dictatorship in Europe. The winner of the prize was Cont Mhlanga whose work, like BFT’s brings with it great personal danger, but sees the prize as providing a degree of protection against the extremes of censorship, as his works gains in international profile.

Hopefully this is the case, though popularity and recognition both at home and abroad has not protected Zarganar who won the artist in prison award, from being handed the harshest sentences only days after being given 45 years sentence by the Burmese Government, a term that has since been increased to 59 years. Index on Censorship is part of a working party including Equity, International Pen, A19 and ArtVenture, looking at how to support the artist and his family in the face of such an extreme sentence. A group of young rappers from the favellas of Recife, purported to be the most violent city in Brazil, called City of Rhyme won the youth category. The awards have, as anticipated, brought together the most exciting and dynamic range of artists working to support freedom of expression around the world and ArtVenture is already setting its sights on next years prize.