Artists remove work over cancelled Palestinian arts event

Image source, Mollie Balshaw

Image caption,

Dozens of artists removed their exhibits from Home in a collective protest

About 100 artists are taking down their work from a gallery in Manchester in protest against the cancellation of a Palestinian arts event.

Actresses Maxine Peake, who was due to appear, and Juliet Stevenson also joined hundreds of creatives in signing a letter which called it “cowardly”.

Home said it wanted to remain a politically neutral space.

The venue initially announced it would be “celebrating Palestinian voices” at a performance called Voices of Resilience on 22 April.

The event was due to highlight work by Gazan writers including Atef Abu Saif, who is also the minister of culture at the Palestinian Authority.

However, the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester called for the event to be called off after criticising previous comments made by Abu Saif, including in 2014 when he was alleged to have said “Israel surpassed Hitler’s massacres”.

Image caption,

Bob Marley actor Kingsley Ben-Adir and Maxine Peake were expected to perform work by Palestinian writers

Shortly afterwards, Home issued a statement saying: “In the face of recent publicity around Voices of Resilience, we have cancelled this event.”

It described itself as “a politically neutral space, committed to welcoming the full range of artist expression”.

Artist Mollie Balshaw, who was among those taking their work down on Wednesday evening, told BBC North West Tonight: “I wanted to remove my artwork because I was incredibly disappointed.

“The decision that they’ve made is political and it’s a decision that I disagree with, as do so many other artists in the show and it felt like the right thing to do.”

About 70 exhibits were taken down and many other artists plan to take down their work in the coming days.

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Hundreds of creatives have signed open letters criticising Home’s decision

British-Palestinian artist Dani Abulhawa, who was curator of the cancelled Voices of Resilience event, added: ” Venues should not shy away from the challenges of presenting work that touches on geo-politics and should foster safe, critical spaces where different perspectives can be seen.”

Several artists also signed a joint letter calling on the venue to reinstate the event and to apologise for “insensitivity to Palestinian suffering”.

Manchester-based publisher Comma Press, which organised the event and has released work by Abu Saif, said it was “disappointed with Home’s decision”.

The publisher described critical comments towards the author as “baseless and libellous”.

Home has been asked to respond to the fresh criticism.

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