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.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect