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Palace of The End wins Amnesty Freedom of expression award at Edinburgh Festival

Amnesty International today announced that Palace of the End by Judith Thompson has won its prestigious Freedom of Expression Award . The production was by the Royal Exchange Theatre Company (Manchester) at the Traverse.

The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is given to an outstanding Fringe play that carries a human rights message, in association with Fest magazine.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Amnesty International Scotland Director John Watson said:

“We’re delighted to announce that Palace of the End is the winner of the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

“It’s a truly formidable piece of work - 3 absolutely stunning pieces that together encompass the range of consequences of political decisions, from the individual human level right up to the stresses on society as a whole.

”The production highlights so many of the issues that Amnesty International works on, including illegal detention, torture and the humanitarian cost of war. Yet the judges found the script and performances so strong that the play never falls into the trap of being ‘worthy’ or ‘preachy’.

“Instead, the audience is drawn in towards understanding and even empathising with the three characters, each of them a world away from our daily experiences.

“The power of the arts to engage people with human rights is precisely what we want to celebrate with this award. To have such an excellent winner, chosen from a record number of entries, really underlines that the Fringe has lost none of its political bite.”

Judging the award were Joyce McMillan of the Scotsman andNeil Cooper of the Herald newspapers; academic, artist and researcher Stephanie Knight; Sam Friedman of Fest magazine and Amnesty International Scotland Director John Watson.

Palace of the End was chosen from an impressive shortlist that included The Chronicles of Long Kesh, The Chronicles of Irania and Year of the Horse. A record 63 productions entered for the award this year, showing that human rights remains a major theme of the festival.

Last year’s Freedom of Expression Award winner, Deep Cut, went on to be performed at the Tricycle Theatre in London and the 2007 winner, The Container, recently completed a sell-out run at the Young Vic in association with Amnesty International.

This year Amnesty is reinforcing its Freedom of Expression message at the Festival by campaigning for Dr Binayak Sen, an Indian doctor facing trial on trumped-up charges that Amnesty believes are a response to his activism, speaking out on behalf of the poor and marginalised. If convicted he could face a life term in jail. Amnesty is asking people to fill in one of its Action Cards or go to to send an appeal to the Indian authorities.

Campaigners will be out on Edinburgh’s streets this year with Amnesty’s Protect the Human placards, asking festival-goers to take their own stand for human rights by posing for a photo brandishing an Amnesty banner demanding justice for Dr Sen. All the photos will be displayed on Amnesty’s Flickr Stream.

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