Record number of entries for Amnesty theatre award

  • Fringe productions will challenge, inspire and ensure human rights at very heart of the world’s biggest arts festival
  • Another year of firsts with The Guardian's Lyn Gardner joining the 2012 Award judging panel

Amnesty International today announced a record number of entries for its Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with more than 110 productions nominated.

The award, now in its ninth year, recognises outstanding theatre productions which raise awareness and understanding of human rights. Last year saw the award go to two productions in the award’s first tie – the joint winners were Quiconque's Sold, written by Suzie Miller and directed by Catherine Alexander at the Pleasance Courtyard, and The National Theatre of Scotland's production of The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Vicky Featherstone, at the Traverse.

New judges, Lyn Gardner, Theatre Critic from The Guardian and Caroline Bishop, Theatre Editor for Fest Magazine, will join the panel this year.

The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner said:

"The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is one of the most coveted at the Fringe and a reminder that theatre can raise awareness, change hearts and minds and really make a difference. I am proud to be joining the panel of judges and look forward to this year's entries which I am sure will both challenge and inspire."

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Scotland, said:

“It is incredibly heartening that year on year, we see more productions coming to the Edinburgh Fringe which raise awareness about human rights and communicate the importance of these issues in a way that only the power of theatre can.

“Freedom of expression is at the very heart of Amnesty’s work and what better place than the world’s largest arts festival, to celebrate freedom of expression and campaign for the rights of people whose free speech is denied.”

All entries to the Freedom of Expression Award which fit the essential criteria of raising human rights, are visited by Amnesty reviewers and a panel of professional theatre critics, which also includes Joyce McMillan of the Scotsman; Neil Cooper of the Herald newspapers; and academic, artist and researcher Stephanie Knight. The winner will be announced at a special awards event on Thursday 23 August.

There were 92 entries in 2011, including short-listed productions Extreme Rambling (Walking the Wall), by Mark Thomas at The Bongo Club; and Release, by Icon Theatre at the Pleasance Dome.

Amnesty will be out on Edinburgh’s streets this year asking festival-goers to take their own stand for freedom of expression, in solidarity with human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, U Myint Aye, who was arrested in August 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment plus another eight years.

About the Freedom of Expression Award

The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is presented in association with Fest magazine.

The Freedom of Expression Award is part of Amnesty’s annual Edinburgh Festival programme, and this year marks Amnesty’s 15th year at the Edinburgh Festival campaigning for freedom of expression.

Every year Amnesty asks festival-goers and performers to stand in solidarity with an individual whose freedom of expression has been denied and campaign for their release.

In 2012, Amnesty is calling for the release of Burmese human rights defender and political activist, U Myint Aye.

U Myint Aye was imprisoned for the first time for his involvement in protests in 1974 and has been repeatedly held over the years for peaceful protest.
Most recently, he was involved in raising and distributing relief aid to survivors of cyclone Nargis, but was charged with providing funds for a bombing which took place in Yangon. He was tortured during interrogation and received an unfair trial. U Myint Aye was sentenced to life imprisonment plus eight years.

Amnesty is calling for the release of all remaining prisoners of conscience in Burma

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