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Past Events

The Institute of Ideas Battle over Culture debate
Brickbats, bovver-boots and bans: how free should artistic expression be?
Venue: Toynbee Studios, Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, E1 6LS; nearest tube Aldgate East
Date: March 10, 2007
Time: 2pm-3.30pm
Booking: Tickets are available on 020 7247 2584
see http://www.alternativearts.co.uk for more details

This debate has already taken place, but you can download a recording of the event from the IoI Media Archive.


Art and literature can hit where it hurts. Artists can deal with the extremes of the human condition, giving us access to experiences beyond our own lives. But what happens when things turn nasty and art offends, upsets, or angers? From the fury of Sikhs at the play Bezhti in 2004, or Christians at Jerry Springer the Opera in 2005, to the protests in 2006 at the filming of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane by those who objected to her portrayal of the Bangladeshi community, it seems we live in an atmosphere of heightened sensitivity to anything that might cause offense. Will more arts organisations feel unable to withstand pressure to curtail the free expression of art? Will we see more of the sort of self-censorship exercised by the Deutsche Oper Berlin, which cancelled its production of Mozart’s Idomeneo because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammed?

And how should art lovers and political activists react when religious and political controversy hits the cultural spotlight?  The start of 2007 saw a record number of Ofcom complaints following allegations that Bollywood star and Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty had been the victim of racism at the hands of her celebrity housemates. In the same week, protestors picketed London’s Coliseum before the English National Ballet’s performance of Giselle as Simone Clarke, the principal dancer who had been revealed as a BNP member by the Guardian, was about to take the stage.

Should regulators be more active in cracking down on inflammatory or offensive expression in the arts and culture? Should the state factor in political acceptability when considering funding applications, rejecting those likely to be offensive? Or should the arts be free from any kind of restraint or interference? When is it right - if ever - for artists just to shut up?

Speakers
Linda Bellos - campaigner, political activist, former leader of Lambeth Council and director of Diversity Solutions Consultancy Ltd
Karen Chouhan – chair, Black Londoners Forum, board member 1990 Trust and recipient of JRCT Visionary Award.
Shirley Dent – communications director, Institute of Ideas and development editor of reviews website www.culturewars.org.uk
Louise Jury – journalist, arts correspondent, The Independent
Humera Khan - freelance consultant, researcher, founder member An-Nisa Society, founding editor Q-News
Chair: Claire Fox - Director, Institute of Ideas; panelist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze


More details re speakers:

Linda Bellos - campaigner, political activist and former leader of Lambeth Council and director of Diversity Solutions Consultancy Ltd
See: http://www.blackinbritain.co.uk/LindaBellos.htm, http://www.savo.org.uk/Linda%20Bellos.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Bellos

Karen Chouhan – chair, Black Londoners Forum Chair.
See: http://www.blink.org.uk/pdescription.asp?key=12638&grp=47&cat=399 and http://www.jrct-visionaries.org.uk/page.asp?section=0001000200050001

Shirley Dent – communications director, Institute of Ideas and development editor of reviews website Culture Wars.
http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/2712/

Louise Jury – Arts correspondent, The Independent – for collection of articles, see: http://www.findarticles.com/p/search?tb=art&qt=%22Louise+Jury+Arts+Correspondent%22

Humera Khan - freelance consultant, researcher, founder member An-Nisa Society, founder editor Q-News - see: http://www.humerakhan.com/index.html