The sister-in-law of former Prime Minister Tony Blair wants to see “coach loads of Muslims” be encouraged to attend and made welcome at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Lauren Booth, half-sister of Cherie Blair, became a Muslim more than a decade ago after campaigning for Stop The War against military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.
She was speaking ahead of the world premiere of her first Fringe show, Accidentally Muslim.
Booth intends leafleting mosques across the UK to persuade Muslims to attend the festival. “If you could get a coach load of Muslims every day it could change the demographic of the Fringe,” she said.
The actress and journalist said her one-woman play is based on her autobiography Finding Peace In The Holy Land. It tells of how she encouraged celebrities to support Blair, before becoming disillusioned with his foreign policy stance and becoming a human rights activist, sailing on a Free Gaza ship reporting on conditions in refugee camps in Rafah in Palestine.
She said she hoped her insights would challenge the negative way “other” cultures can be portrayed. Describing her motivation to write the play, Booth said: “I was at an event in the north of England and an Asian female comedian was performing in front of a home crowd and it was all about how ‘funny’ Asian culture is.
“It reminded me of what it must have been like for the West Indian community in Britain in the 1970s. It was sort of the Lenny Henry thing ‘if they can laugh at themselves then we, in the audience, can laugh at them too without being racist’.”
Karen Koren, artistic director of Gilded Balloon, said: “The Fringe is in a constant process of becoming more diverse, which of course can only be a good thing, even though we do need to keep working to see all of society taking part. The Fringe itself is already doing a lot to reach out to all communities, and I am glad to see Lauren Booth is championing the cause of involving our Muslim communities – her show will be a real highlight and talking point this Fringe.”
Anas Sarwar Scottish Labour MSP, chair of the cross-party group on tackling Islamophobia, said: “It’s important that the arts, just like other walks of life, represents our society. Our diversity is a strength, and opening up the arts not only encourages people from all backgrounds to become more creative, it can also help build a more tolerant society.”
Accidentally Muslim is at the Gilded Balloon from 31 July to 26 August.