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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 11:13 GMT
Stars backing beleaguered writer
Cancellation notice at Birmingham Rep
The play was cancelled after violent demonstrations
More than 400 figures from the arts world have signed a letter supporting the playwright who prompted violent outbursts from the Sikh community.

Poet laureate Andrew Motion, director Richard Eyre and writer Willy Russell are among those to have written to the Guardian backing Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti.

"It is a legitimate function of art to provoke debate and sometimes to express controversial ideas," they wrote.

The play Behzti caused outcry because of scenes of sex abuse inside a temple.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre cancelled the play following unrest outside the venue, which resulted in several police officers being hurt.

Although plans were in progress to stage it elsewhere, Bhatti has requested that it not be revived following personal threats to her.

The signed letter to the Guardian calls on "those who use violent means to silence it must be vigorously opposed and challenged".

Andrew Motion

All losers

"We all have the right to protest peacefully if a work of art offends us. We do not have the right to use violence and intimidation to prevent that work of art being seen by others," it continued.

"Doubtless, some will see the fact that the play's production has been brought to end by this campaign of as some kind of victory. The reality is we all lose by it."

Among those who signed the letter were actors Sheila Hancock, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy West and Prunella Scales.

Writers Jonathan Coe, Ayub Khan Din and Bryony Lavery also joined the long list of those supporting Bhatti, along with artistic directors from many of the main theatres in the country.

Bhatti has been upset by the furore surrounding the production but has so far not issued a response.

Protest play may move to London
22 Dec 04 |  London

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