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Event Series Event Series: Regional Speakeasies

Edinburgh Summer Speakeasy – Can the Arts Survive in Scotland?

July 19, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0



In a censorious climate, how can we protect the freedom to imagine for actors, artists, comedians, musicians, poets, writers and audiences?

Last summer, comedian Jerry Sadowitz was forced to cancel his show at the Edinburgh Fringe when staff at The Pleasance refused to work at his gigs. He’s back this year, performing ‘Last Year’s Show’ at the Queen’s Hall, but recently The Stand Comedy Club made headlines when it tried to cancel an event planned with MP Joanna Cherry as speaker, on the same grounds of staff sensitivity. After an outcry, that invitation was reinstated, but what is the impact of such censorious threats from within the arts world, on those who are in the business of making us think?

We are all familiar with stories of artists having their reputations and careers attacked as punishment for the expression of views which challenge certain new orthodoxies, and more subtle attempts to limit the artistic imagination by, for example, demanding that artists prioritise non-artistic factors such as ‘inclusivity’, ‘diversity’ and ‘sensitivity’ when creating their work.

And this is not just about those who make a living from their creativity. We the audience are increasingly prevented from judging for ourselves the value of a work of art, performance or literature. Stories abound about retrospective re-writes of literary classics deemed ‘out-dated’, of sensitivity-readers employed to rule on the ‘appropriateness’ of new works, ever-growing labels in galleries and museums telling us what to think about the objects and the artists.

How can we make the case for the freedom of the artist and the audience today?

We have a panel of three speakers who are making a stand for freedom of expression in the arts, poet Jenny Lindsay, actor, writer and producer Kirstin McLean and author Ewan Morrison.

There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion, as well as socialising with fellow free speech supporters.

DATE: Wednesday 19th July

VENUE: The Counting House, 34 West Nicolson St, Newington, Edinburgh EH8 9DD.

Panel debate 7pm – 8.45pm, (doors open 6.30pm), bar open until 10pm.

Tickets are £5, but FSU members can book FREE of charge.

Members receive free speech support and discounts for live events as well as exclusive access to online content, so do consider joining the Free Speech Union. Membership starts from as little as £2.49 per month.

About the Speakers


Jenny Lindsay is a poet, writer, essayist and performer. Her film-poem The Imagined We won the inaugural John Byrne Award for Critical Thinking in 2020 and she also won the Creative Edinburgh Award for Leadership in 2017. Her latest work This Script, a poetic memoir about her often fraught response to #MeToo, feminism and gendered expectations, has been described as “brave, complex and beautifully performed” and as bringing “a refreshing sense of joy to subject matter often debated in a much more humourless space” by The Scotsman.

Kirstin McLean has worked in the performing arts in Scotland for the past 22 years – initially as an actress and community facilitator, and in recent years, as a writer and director. She has worked in most theatres across Scotland, alongside her work in television. Since 2021, she has been artistic director of A Moment’s Peace Theatre Company, delivering participatory arts projects through a women-only community theatre company and a multi artform group for refugees. She is a founding member and serving Executive Committee member of Cairn, a new association (and aspiring trade union) representing performance professionals and the allied trades in Scotland.

Ewan Morrison is a multi-award winning Scottish author. He writes regularly for Areo Magazine and Psychology Today. His novels include How to Survive Everything, Nina X (winner of the Saltire Society Award for Fiction in 2019), Tales from the Mall, The Last Book You Read and Menage. He has also written for the Independent, the Scotsman, the Daily Mail, New Statesman, GQ and Esquire, and Morrison was a weekly columnist for Scotland on Sunday from 2009-2011. Visit his website here.

CHAIR: Fraser Hudghton is Director of the Free Speech Union Scotland. He joined the FSU in 2020 as Director of Case Management and oversees our vital work in helping those who have been cancelled or are threatened with cancellation get their lives back. In 2022, he also took on the role of Director of Scottish Affairs. Prior to his time at FSU, he worked in key roles for the Law Society of Scotland, in Scottish politics and in charity fundraising regulation.


July 19, 2023
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
Event Category:


The Free Speech Union
020 3920 7865
View Organiser Website


The Counting House
38 West Nicolson Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9DD United Kingdom
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