December 21, 2004
Defensible space contrast in Birmingham

Last night I concocted a Samizdata posting on the identical subject, the closing of a play at the Birmingham Rep that was alleged insulting to Sikhs, to one that Perry de Havilland posted about while I was doing mine. So I scrapped mine. He linked to this story, I linked to this BBC report, to this review (which was written before thing got violent), and to this further comment (when the violence had happened and the production had been cancelled).

I ended what would have been my Samizdata bit by speculating (and hoping) that we had not heard the last of this row. Nevertheless, I rambled over much the same ground as Perry had traversed more concisely, so I refrained from posting mine.

But now, it seems that indeed we have not heard the last of this row, and that Birmingham may not even have seen the last of the play itself being performed:

The manager of a Birmingham theatre company is considering staging a play cancelled after a violent demonstration by members of the Sikh community.

Mr Foster told BBC Radio 4's PM: "I think it's one of the blackest days for the arts in this country that I've ever experienced.

"If I'm really honest, I think the people who have made the decision ... have actually been cowards and I don't think we should be cowards in this country.

"We can't allow violence to dictate what we produce in this country in artistic forms."

Well said mate.

However, I cannot help wondering if the contrasting attitudes of the boss of the new Birmingham Rep, where the play was cancelled, and of Mr Foster, who now wants to stage the play at the old Rep, might have something to do with the fact that the old Rep looks like a far easier place to defend against a violent mob.

Here's the New Theatre:

BirminghamRepNew.jpg

I couldn't find a picture of the old Rep, but I did manage to dig up this map, here.

BirminghamRepOld.gif

I know which one I'd rather try to stop rioters trying to get into. The new edifice seems to be surrounded only by open country, and to be pretty much made of glass, a hopeless combination. Definitely not a building to be throwing stones from, even if only metaphorically. The old Rep, on the other hand, seems to be stuck in a small street, defended by being flanked by buildings on either side, like the one's in London's West End, and I'm guessing it's much more solidly constructed and less vulnerable to missiles than the new place.

BirminghamRepOld.jpgAh, and now I have found a picture of what I think must be the old Rep building. It's only a tiny little picture, but it makes my point well, I think.

With only a bit of skill, the Police could probably stop rioters getting anywhere near the old Rep, and if rioters did get near it they'd do far less damage. Plus, if anybody bent on doing damage contrived to sneak in before showing their violent hand, they'd have a far harder time escaping.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:38 PM
Category: ArchitectureTheatre