Disability theatre group’s Christmas play cancelled for not being ‘festive’

Disabled performers from a community theatre group protested outside the Old Town Hall after the council cancelled their Christmas play.

Act Up!, an inclusive theatre group, were due to perform “Atos Stories” as part of a Newham Council Over 50s Christmas event at the Old Town Hall Stratford on Weds Dec 19.

But they were told on Fri Dec 14 that their play was not appropriate and not in keeping with the festive spirit of the event so the actors picketed the building where they would have performed.

Yvonne Brouwers, chairperson of Act Up! in Newham, said: “Many Christmas stories are political and it is patronising of the council to decide for themselves what ‘over 50s’ would enjoy.

“We believed that they cancelled the play because of the subject matter, as it is about disabled people’s struggles against Atos and the work capability assessment.

“Act Up! is the only inclusive theatre company in Newham and we felt that the council were censoring disabled people’s stories.”

A council spokesperson said: “We do not consider political satire or potentially distressing material to be in keeping with the theme or tone of this event.

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“Officers have therefore decided to cancel this element of what will be a festive and light hearted event. We have worked well in the past with Act Up Theatre and would hope to do so again.”

Act Up! said they hope to have the opportunity to perform at a council event this year instead.