A new survey of Brits in the creative professions reveals a climate hostile to dissenting beliefs
I can’t say I dropped my “Job Done” commemorative Brexit mug in sheer molten astonishment when I read the results of the Freedom of Expression survey conducted by the publication ArtsProfessional of Brits toiling in the creative professions. Eight out of 10 respondents said that sharing “controversial” opinions could mean being bullied or even “professionally ostracised”, while expressing views sympathetic to Brexit was seen as controversial and isolating.
I’m not surprised because a couple of years back, a pro-Brexit play I co-wrote – People Like Us2020欧洲杯足球即时比分 – sold out on the morning the box office opened (as well as the venue bar reporting the biggest alcohol sales on record: I love my fans!) Yet no one offered to transfer it to a big theatre or put it on TV while rubbish Remainer plays had money thrown at them.
Brexit Shorts: Dramas from a divided nation was an online co-production by The Guardian and the Headlong Theatre Company featuring predictable tripe from such professional bed-wetters as David Hare, who described the aftermath of the Brexit result as “the most depressing time in my life.” (He’s obviously never sat through one of his own plays.) In Time to Leave Kristin Scott Thomas played a Brexiteer who moans that the result “doesn’t seem to have made anyone happy.” Presumably because we’re all drowning in the super-gonorrhoea promised by Project Fear.
Elsewhere Carol Ann Duffy staged the perfunctory exercise in Remain doom-mongering My Country: A Work in Progress which the splendidly named Susannah Clapp of The Observer condemned as “old hat… we are in a different, dark condition, the closest to civil war than any time in my life. Old friends cannot bear to be in the same room with those who voted differently. That is the country I’d like to see on stage.” And that was exactly the situation Jane Robins and I portrayed in our play, based on the time she was expelled from her North London book group for being a Brexiteer.
People sent us stories, usually anonymously, about how they had endured gross intolerance from the professionally tolerant; “I work in festival stage production”, one wrote. “People I’d known as friends for 10 years began referring to me as ‘the token racist Leaver’… I’ve never recovered from laughing at the irony of their ‘all-welcome, inclusivity for everyone’ mantra.”
On the comedy circuit you were free to tell all the rape jokes you liked, but express support for a democratic mandate and you’d be called a fascist. Radio 4 comedy has recently started inviting Brexiteer comics such as Geoff Norcott and Andrew Doyle (Titania McGrath), but only because their panel shows had become so dismal that even tame audiences struggled to raise a titter as Nish Kumar yelled “Brexit!” for the nth time.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分When a superannuated rebel went rogue, it triggered pearl-clutching overload from the arts establishment. But why should they be surprised that the likes of Morrissey and Lydon might have views on Brexit which differed from Ian McEwan’s? We were merely reverting to our social origins and – pleasingly – proving that a bright prole can’t be bribed out of class loyalty by a cushy job and a pat on the head. We were contrarians and also in tune with what the majority of powerless citizens wanted; personally, I can’t think of a better way for a creative type to be.
ArtsProfessional’s Amanda Parker said “Our survey shines a damning light on the coercion, bullying, intimidation and intolerance that is active among a community that thinks of itself as liberal, open-minded and equitable.” I’ve always maintained that the real cause for Remainers’ unending bitterness wasn’t worthy claptrap about “no more European wars” but an almost parasexual level of wounded vanity.
While our side (supposedly insular and scared) had the guts to abandon Fortress Europe’s smothering embrace and engage with the wide world, their side (in theory daring and experimental) turned out to be a bunch of status-quo upholding stick-in-the-muds. Inclusivity and diversity have become the “Mom and apple pie” of our culture – but exclusivity and groupthink still control the arts.