Artistic freedom is under threat, says NTS chief

THE artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland has spoken out against the controversial cultural boycott of Israeli artists.

Laurie Sansom, artistic director of NTS. Picture: Contributed

Laurie Sansom, who is also directing one of the showpiece theatre productions in Edinburgh this summer, said he was concerned at the implications of the targeting of visiting performers.

He has warned that freedom of expression had been put at risk by attempts by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others to prevent art groups funded by the Israeli state from taking to the stage.

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Last night Hollywood actor Brian Cox also told Scotland on Sunday he was against such treatment of artists, saying protesters need to “think it through a bit more”.

Sansom was speaking ahead of the premiere today of The James Plays, the centrepiece home-grown production at the Edinburgh International Festival, which was targeted two years ago after booking an Israeli dance company.

He has spoken out following concerns expressed by Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Fringe promoters Underbelly.

Sansom said: “It depends on where people have got their funding from, that does make a difference. But I would never want to feel like we were reducing the opportunities to speak their mind.

“A blanket boycott is very difficult. It concerns me as well. I would like to actually talk to Israeli artists to see how they feel about it. I would want Israeli artists to actually lead on whether they think anyone here should be doing that.

“The point is whether we are working hard enough to create enough opportunities for Palestinian artists.”