News Column

Producer of Israeli show says Edinburgh should be ashamed

August 13, 2014

Phil Miller; Phil Miller Arts Correspondent

THE producer behind the Israeli show that was forced to cancel its Fringe run after protests said Edinburgh should "hang its head in shame".

He said the events that led to the closure of the show meant the Fringe was "no longer an open access festival".

The City by Incubator Theatre lost its home, a venue at the Underbelly, after protests against the theatre company, which receives funding from the Israeli Government.

In a strongly worded article for theatre magazine The Stage, John Stalker, a producer and director for 30 years and former chief executive of the Festival Theatre, said: "Is Edinburgh feeling any better as a result of the events of the past two weeks? I sincerely hope not.

"There should be a collective head hanging in shame.

"The Edinburgh Festival was itself created in the lee of the Second World War with a remit to provide 'a platform for the flowering of the human spirit' and enrich the cultural life of Scotland, Britain and Europe.

"The Fringe has grown into the largest open access arts festival in the world except that it is, from this year forward, no longer an open access festival. Productions can only now come if they do not upset protestors of whatever cause happens to be raging in that moment."

Speaking about the day of the protest, he said: "I witnessed at first hand a level of menace, intimidation and coercion that I had previously thought impossible to witness on the streets of Edinburgh. The hideous intolerance currently evident in the Middle East between and among communities that have to find a way of living together is unlikely to be eased by intolerance and brute force on the streets of Edinburgh.

"It panders simply to those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing."

In the article, Mr Stalker referred to the letter signed by 50 arts figures who had called for Underbelly to cancel the show before it began.

"The task of enforcing the boycott was, surprisingly, not left to those who had summoned it.

"These included some prominent voices in the arts in Scotland, including our makar, Liz Lochhead, and playwright David Grieg, all of whom were, remarkably, absent on the day I have just described. No, this precious responsibility was passed on to the 'professionals' who had the simple objective of closing the show down."

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society earlier said it was "deeply saddened when any artist or show is prevented from taking part in the Fringe", adding it had done what it could to support Incubator Theatre. Last week Sir Jonathan Mills, director of Edinburgh International Festival, said it was "regrettable" that the company had cancelled The City.


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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