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Protest against Newtownabbey Council censorship is successful

28 January 2014

Belfast Telegraph

The Reduced Shakespeare Company production is expected to run as originally scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Anger had been growing since it was revealed the council's artistic board – made up of councillors and independent members – had pulled the plug on the show at Newtownabbey's Theatre At The Mill

DUP members had branded the pay blasphemous and an attack on Christianity, but the decision caused outrage and made international headlines.

But on Monday night the artistic board announced it had reversed its decision - an announcement that was backed by the full council.

Councillors who supported the staging claimed the decision to ban made them look like a laughing stock and there were bitter exchanges at the meeting on Monday when the council agreed for the production to go ahead as scheduled.

A prominent DUP woman broke ranks with her council colleagues to condemn the banning of the play. Alderman Dineen Walker, deputy mayor of Newtownabbey, told the Belfast Telegraph it was not the job of councillors to censor art.

Given the worldwide publicity the Newtownabbey council decision has garnered, several dates on the UK tour have now sold out.

The cancellation of the internationally acclaimed comedy show enraged large numbers of people online and a number of prominent figures, including Australian comedian Tim Minchin and English scientist Richard Dawkins.

Patrick Corrigan from human rights organisation Amnesty International described the ban in Newtownabbey as interference with freedom of speech and artistic expression that "should be of concern to freedom lovers everywhere".

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