Burnley riots play banned ... in Burnley

Theatres refuse to perform work that displays town in a 'negative light'

It is based on the true stories of white and Asian teenagers from Burnley attempting to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the 2001 riots, and has received widespread acclaim for its portrayal of the town's racial tensions.

But while the play Mixed Up North has struck a chord with critics and audiences across the country, it cannot be seen by the local community in Burnley on which it is based.

The production, a joint venture between the Out of Joint theatre company and the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, has become the focus of controversy in Burnley which has left its director, Max Stafford-Clark, fearing that the council may have advised theatres against staging the show because it portrayed the town in a "negative light".

Two venues in Burnley declined to put on the play after showing initial interest. Burnley Youth Theatre said it had accidentally "double-booked" itself, and a local school theatre said it would cost too much money to stage the play during half term.

Burnley council contacted officials at nearby Bolton council, where the play was shown at numerous venues, to alert them of the play's contents. John Blackmore, executive director of the Octagon Theatre and chair of Out of Joint, claimed that at one point the council wanted any mention of Burnley removed from the script.

The play, which has toured north-west England since September and is currently showing at London's Wilton's Music Hall, revolves around a group of mutually suspicious Asian and white teenagers who join a drama club.

Through the club, they reveal their personal stories and discuss tensions in the area, from the issue of arranged marriage to the lure of the BNP and the grooming of a white girl by older Asian men. The characters were developed with the help of 36 teenagers from the area who told their own stories, including those of rape, which were partly dramatised without revealing their identities.

Mr Stafford-Clark, who has worked with playwrights including David Hare and Caryl Churchill, accused Burnley council of attempting to interfere with the drama. "They were frightened that it would show a negative image of their town," he said. "I think their concerns were hot air. The people of Burnley who got to see it in Bolton were thrilled to see their world depicted."

He added: "Some members of Burnley council did not like what characters in the play say about the council's policies and wanted to change this. We thought this undue interference and were not prepared to change these elements. On the other hand, when performing at our nearest venue to Burnley, we changed a particularly sensitive storyline."

Mike Waite, who oversees the council's community cohesion, dismissed accusations of censorship. He said: "The council has not blocked any independent organisation from staging the show – we do not have the power to do so."

But he did suggest that the play had caused some affront in the local community. "The reason for the unease and distaste that some people in the town have expressed about the play is that a number of people in Burnley hold the view that the writer and director failed to honour clear commitments they made to use 'real life' stories carefully, and in ways which avoided risk to actual people being identified closely with characters in the play," he said.

Mr Stafford-Clark said all the teenagers involved had been consulted after social workers raised concerns, and those who had expressed worries were allowed to change their part in the drama.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week