Saturday 12 June 2010

Did Newham Council Censor Embarrassing Play?

Thanks to Mike Law for the fascinating story on his blog yesterday, concerning an apparent attempt by Newham council to censor one of the winners of last year's 'Spread the Word' play competition. Mike writes:

Last year Newham council funded a writing competition, prizes were awarded for various categories such as plays. One of the three prize winners in the playwriting category was Clive Power with his play, 'Hollow the Leader'.

The play is about the shady leadership of an unnamed east London Council, the plot includes dubious decisions and back-stabbing careerism by elected members, most notably the leadership, along with poor performance by the council. Mmnnnn…

The prizes were awarded last Autumn at a ceremony in Stratford Library, presented by the borough's writer-in-residence (who, for unknown reasons, abruptly departed soon after and the position has been left vacant). The winning playwrights were contacted to say that Newham wanted to fund a performance of their plays, at Stratford Circus, in February this year. The authors agreed.

However, a council insider informs me that, a week or two later, Clive Power received a call from the competition organisers to say that the performances had been cancelled - and the caller told him that this was because Newham council was saying that his play was libellous! Scandalous!

I’ve been told Clive threatened all sorts, including taking up the matter with the Arts Council and talking to the media about this issue. It seems that he pointed out that the claim of libel was utterly spurious, claiming that it was, in fact, just a crude attempt at censorship by Newham. As if the Council would…

The play itself is back on, at Stratford Circus on 19 June, but it seems that an agreement between Newham council and Spread the Word, the Lambeth-based agency it commissioned in 2008 to run literature events, means there has been no publicity from either. Even Stratford Circus makes no mention of the play on its website.

Sadly I'll be out of London next weekend, but tickets for 'Hollow the Leader' and the two other competition-winning plays are free and available on the day. For more information, see here.

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