Artists demand Manchester venue reinstates event celebrating Palestinian voices

Artists demand Manchester venue reinstates event celebrating Palestinian voices
Artists have condemned the Manchester theatre and arts centre HOME for its decision to cancel a planned event that celebrates Palestinian voices.
2 min read
04 April, 2024
Pro-Palestine protest in Manchester [GETTY]

Over 300 artists and cultural workers, including Palestinian novelist Atef Abu Saif and actor Maxine Peake, have criticised a Manchester theatre and arts centre for cancelling an event celebrating Palestinian writing.

The event, titled Voices of Resilience, is described as a "celebration of Gazan writing," and was planned for 22 April.

The arts centre, HOME Manchester, announced last week that it had been forced to cancel the show due to "recent publicity" surrounding the event.

The company cited concerns for the safety of its team, audiences, and artists.

The cancellation of the event came after the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester sent the venue a letter on 27 March asking for the event to be called off.

The Jewish representative claims that a featured writer, Atef Abu Saif, who is also the Palestinian Authority's culture minister, had engaged in antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

The event's organiser, Comma Press, has called the allegations against Abu Saif "baseless and libellous".

"We condemn this cowardly decision to silence the voices of Palestinians and to contribute to their erasure during an ongoing genocide," they said stated in an open letter addressed to HOME. 

Comma Press has also previously published Abu Saif, and said they were considering legal action. 

The open letter, signed by the theatre director Pooja Ghai and the patron of HOME, Kapadia, added that they believed that the decision sends a message to other arts organisations that Palestinian voices "can or should be silenced."

"To cancel an event based on the ethnicity and nationality of its participants is discrimination, which directly contradicts HOME's stated commitment to anti-racism, equality and diversity," the letter states. 

The writers are demanding for the event to be reinstated, and for HOME to apologise and explain its reasoning for cancelling the event and what steps the venue will take to repair its commitment to anti-racism, including anti-Palestinian racism.

Other notable signatories of the letter include playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and dramatist April De Angelis.