By BENJAMIN POORE
Shoreditch can sometimes feel like the nadir of twenty-first-century triviality, so I was pleased to find myself, on Saturday afternoon, listening to a serious and clear-sighted discussion about freedom of expression in Rich Mix cinema. Discussions of this sort can be predictable, with attacks on political correctness, and libertarians demanding the right to say anything to anyone anywhere. Thankfully, none of the three panellists at English PEN’s "Crossing Borders" event once mentioned Voltaire.
Their conversation was shepherded (for a two-dozen-strong audience) with understated authority by the BBC’s Ritula Shah. "You Can’t Say That!" was part of a day of events organized by PEN, Rich Mix and the Arts Canteen with the title "Crossing Borders". The dramatist Omar El-Khairy spoke eloquently about the last-minute cancellation of Homegrown, his play about radicalization, by the National Youth Theatre earlier this year, after concerns were raised about its content. (I was pleased to read that it is now likely to be put on in the new year.) El-Khairy didn’t want to be seen as a free-speech martyr: “I don’t want to be put in some kind of Salman Rushdie box”, he noted wryly.