Israeli play expelled from Edinburgh venue as Scots protest against Gaza attack

A family evacuates its home in response to Israeli air strikes on Gaza City yesterday; campaigners in Scotland say there is widespread revulsion against the attacks on Palestinians. 

Ezz al-Zanoun APA images

Campaigners in Scotland have succeeded in pressuring the organizers of an arts festival into removing the Israeli state-funded Incubator Theater Company from a city center venue in Edinburgh. 

Protests against Incubator’s play, a “hip-hop opera” titled The City, began with a letter signed by over fifty of the most high-profile artists and writers in Scotland, including the Scots Makar (poet laureate) Liz Lochhead. The play was on the program for the Edinburgh Fringe, reputedly the world’s largest arts festival. 

Other signatories to the open letter calling for a boycott of Incubator included novelist and painter Alasdair Gray and playwright David Greig.

A daily picket of a pop-up theater organized by Underbelly, the festival’s promoters, had been planned. The demonstrations were called by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other Palestine solidarity groups.

But Underbelly announced after just one protest that it was removing Incubator from its listings.

A spokesperson for the promoters was quoted on STV, a news website, as saying: “Earlier today, after discussions between Underbelly, Incubator Theater, the University of Edinburgh and Police Scotland it was agreed that future performances of The City at the Reid Hall would be cancelled. Today’s performance of The City went ahead as planned, but the logistics of policing and stewarding the protest around the Reid Hall … make it untenable for the show to continue.”

However, Underbelly also stated that it would be trying to find Incubator an alternative venue for its planned month-long run at the Fringe.

Albie O’Neill, a spokesperson for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the level of public support for the protest against Incubator was “overwhelming” and that it reflected the “revulsion over what is happening in Gaza.”




The expulsion of this Israeli state-funded company is welcome. The BDS campaign includes a cultural component, which calls for a boycott of such organisations. Their primary work is to portray Israel in terms which render it acceptable to audiences abroad. This collaboration must end. Israel uses the arts as a means to further its military objectives, either by distracting the public from the criminal nature of the regime or by "humanising" and thus exonerating the perpetrators in a more direct fashion.


I am absolutely disgusted with my government, US, cowardly waffling when facing these murderers and bullies! And it goes on-- today it was announced that we are "selling" more weapons to Israel. I'll bet my tax dollars are in there somewhere!
!'m not a political poet, but I feel I must speak out-- so must we all. Perhaps Aristotle was right: Man is a political animal.

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.