Mob rule in Scotland

Sad news from Scotland (via the Scotsman):

AN ISRAELI arts company has been forced to axe its entire run of performances at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe after facing an angry protest before its first show in the city.

Underbelly, the London promoter which had booked Incubator Theatre into one of its main venues, said it had been reluctantly forced to pull the plug based on police advice.

However, it has vowed to find the company – which is part-funded by the Israeli state – another venue, despite threats from campaigners to continue to disrupt its “hip hop opera” wherever it is staged.

More than 50 leading cultural figures in Scotland have called for the company’s shows to be boycotted, although the stance has been criticised by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

More than 150 protesters turned up outside Edinburgh University’s Reid Hall before the first preview of Incubator’s production got under way.

Talks were held later with the theatre company, the police and university officials.

A statement from Underbelly said although the first preview performance had gone ahead, the logistics of policing and stewarding the protest and the impact on both Underbelly shows and those in other venues made it impossible for the show to continue.

The statement added: “All tickets for forthcoming performances in the Reid Hall will be refunded. When an alternative venue is found, customers will be able to book tickets for that show separately.”

Announcing the cancellation of the shows at the venue’s gala launch, Underbelly director Charlie Wood said the attempts to stop the company performing were “plain wrong” and went against the entire ethos of the Fringe.

He added: “The protest caused huge disruption to shows we had here and at the Gilded Balloon. If they continued to protest in this area every day for four hours, the festival simply will not happen.”

Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland said: “It was a practical decision based on the whole picture and the disruption to all the other shows that are here.”

John Stalker of Incubator added: “Everybody who supports the right of artists to have their work presented believes the show should carry on. I had friends there who felt very threatened by the protest. Today was a sad day for Edinburgh.”

Albie O’Neill, spokesman for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which was behind the protest, said: “The level of support from the public has been overwhelming and reflects the strength of feeling against this Israeli state-funded theatre company and revulsion over what is happening in Gaza.”

Peaceful protest? Doesn’t sound like it, does it?

Perusing the comments below the line gives you a flavor of the hatred and bigotry being directed towards Israel. There are one or two swimming against the tide of the baying crowd, but largely it is poison on parade.

Random thoughts:

  • Are the “50 leading cultural figures in Scotland” proud of what they helped achieve? See freedom of speech? Nah, we don’t want any of that.
  • The numbers involved – 150 protesters – are not big. So, despite the big bash Israel campaign, it’s not exactly indicative of mass consent. But 150 was enough. I wonder if the locals have worked out some of the implications of this?
  • The state sponsorship label is a handy peg upon which to hang some hatred. The group does get some money from the state, but they are scarcely apologists for the government. And I wonder how many of the other international groups get state support of some sort or another. I’m sure all their governments are squeaky clean and there are no double standards being exercised.
  • I won’t be buying any Edinburgh rock ever again.
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