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Dispute over Idris Elba play Tree as writers claim they were ‘pushed off’

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Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-ArmahImage copyright
David Sandison

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The show is billed as being “created by” Idris Elba (left) and Kwame Kwei-Armah

A row has arisen over a play created by Idris Elba after two writers who worked on it claimed they were shut out and suffered “intimidation and disrespect”.

Tree, which will premiere at the Manchester International Festival, is credited to Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley said they worked on it for four years but were “pushed off” and got no credit.

In response, the producers said Tree “needed to go in a very different direction with a new writer attached”.

Manchester International Festival and London’s Young Vic theatre, along with Elba’s production company Green Door Pictures, acknowledged that Allen-Martin and Henley were “involved in exploring ideas” for the show.

They said they were “grateful” to the pair, but that their proposed direction was not “artistically viable”.

Kwei-Armah, the Young Vic’s artistic director, wrote the script instead, they said. “Tree is a new work, based on a concept by Idris Elba with an original script by Kwame Kwei-Armah.”

Image copyright
Manchester International Festival

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Sinead Cusack and Alfred Enoch star in Tree

However, in a lengthy and impassioned blog published on Tuesday, the two women documented how Allen-Martin had been asked by Elba to come up with an idea for a show before they researched it, wrote a script and came up with the name.

But they said Kwei-Armah then took over the project, and they were later dismissed and “threatened… with legal action if we spoke up”.

“There is no way it’s a ‘different project’, no matter how much it’s changed,” they wrote.

“And the reluctance to take any accountability for the fact that until we fought it, the majority of the revised synopsis was our work, just without our names on it, is at best sad and at worst, disgusting.”

Kwei-Armah “refused to engage” with them, and the episode was “devastating proof of the way doors are shut on women, and on the underdogs”, they said.

“We became completely disposable because we’re not famous or important enough. We were expected to shut up, lie down, and take it.”

In his response on Twitter, Kwei-Armah said he understood “the pain of being ‘released’ from a project”.

‘I am sorry for your pain’

He also said that Elba had requested that Allen-Martin and Henley remain involved, but that they “refused to meet me” after he wrote a “very, very rough outline” for a new direction for the show. “I never refused to communicate with you,” he said.

He eventually wrote a new script that he said was “very different” from their original. “I am sorry for your pain. But to almost single me out as the reason your script was not produced is neither fair nor correct.”

Elba is not in Tree, which stars Sinead Cusack and Alfred Enoch, known as Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films and Wes Gibbins in How To Get Away With Murder?.

The show is billed as a mixture of drama, music and dance, and was inspired by Elba’s 2014 album Mi Mandela. It will have its premiere at MIF on Thursday before a run at the Young Vic.

In their statement, MIF, the Young Vic and Green Door said: “Tree is a new work, based on a concept by Idris Elba with an original script by Kwame Kwei-Armah.”

MIF artistic director John McGrath said: “His script for Tree is entirely his creation and is, in my opinion, a resonant and exciting response to the themes of Idris’s Mi Mandela album.”


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Children In Need 2019: Strictly, Star Wars and soaps help charity appeal

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Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli

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The Strictly Come Dancing judges in charitable mood

Stars from Strictly, Star Wars, Doctor Who and EastEnders are lending a hand to Children In Need to help raise funds in this year’s charity BBC TV appeal.

The five-hour telethon also features England football players, a celebrity edition of music quiz The Hit List and songs by Louis Tomlinson and Westlife.

They are all hoping viewers will donate to Children In Need, which supports 3,000 local charities and projects.

Last year, £50.6m was raised on the appeal night.

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The hosts: Marvin and Rochelle Humes, Mel Giedroyc, Tom Allen, Graham Norton, Ade Adepitan and Tess Daly

Children in Need is the BBC’s official UK charity and raises money for disadvantaged young people around the country, such as those experiencing poverty, with disabilities, or victims of abuse or neglect.

This year, comedian Tom Allen joins a presenting line-up that also includes Graham Norton, Tess Daly, Mel Giedroyc, Ade Adepitan and Marvin and Rochelle Humes.

EastEnders actors Ricky Champ (who plays Stuart Highway), Louisa Lytton (Ruby Allen), Maisie Smith (Tiffany Butcher) and Rudolph Walker (Patrick Trueman) swap Albert Square for the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom for the night.

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Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood appears in a sketch with EastEnders’ Ricky Champ and Rudolph Walker

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The EastEnders teamed up with Strictly professionals

Star Wars actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega challenge YouTuber Colin Furze to build a real working landspeeder [vehicle that hovers], helped by young people from Children In Need projects.

Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker also makes an appearance, and Norton gives three children the chance to be on his chat show sofa – and the power to tip joke-telling celebrities out of his famous big red chair.

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Graham Norton gives Julio, Iara and Emma control over his famous lever

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Will Julio like the jokes told by Anneka Rice in the big red chair?

Meanwhile, there are special versions of Mock The Week, Crackerjack and Dragon’s Den, along with performances from Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, plus the casts of Big, The Tina Turner Musical and Circus 1903.

England footballers Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling have been filmed surprising children from the England Amputee Football Association.

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England stars Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling with children from the England Amputee Football Association and presenter Mark Wright

A special edition of BBC One’s The Hit List features pop stars including rapper Wretch 32, ex-JLS singer JB Gill, Heidi Range from the Sugababes, Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle, Liberty X star Michelle Heaton and Blue’s Antony Costa.

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JB Gill and Wretch 32 on the special Hit List

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Marvin and Rochelle Humes host The Hit List

TV personality Rylan Clark-Neal has already raised more than £1m for the cause with his 24-hour karaoke marathon on BBC Radio 2.

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Media captionRylan’s karaoke challenge: The best bits

Children in Need is on BBC One at 19:30 GMT on 15 November

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Al Murray: ‘Nephew needs a transplant before Christmas’

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Comedian Al Murray is urging people to sign up to a blood stem cell register run by the cancer charity DKMS.

His nephew Finley, aged six, has a rare and aggressive form of childhood leukaemia.

He is undergoing chemotherapy but his best chance of fighting the disease is a bone marrow transplant.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC Two and BBC News Channel, 10:00 to 11:00 GMT – and see more of our stories here.



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Taylor Swift says AMAs performance in doubt amid music feud

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Taylor Swift performs at the MTV Video Music Awards in New Jersey, US, 26 August 2019Image copyright
Reuters

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Swift is being named Artist of the Decade at this month’s AMAs

Taylor Swift has said her performance at the upcoming American Music Awards (AMAs) is in doubt because she is being barred from performing her own songs.

In a message to fans on social media, the singer said music managers Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta would not let her perform songs from her past albums, which they own the rights to.

She said a Netflix documentary about her life had also been put in jeopardy.

Braun and Borchetta have not yet responded.

Swift made the allegations in a statement posted to Twitter with the caption: “Don’t know what else to do”.

“Right now my performance at the AMAs, the Netflix documentary and any other recorded events I am planning to play until November 2020 are a question mark,” she wrote.

Why is there a feud?

In June, Swift revealed that the masters of her early music had been sold to Braun by her former record label, run by Borchetta, and alleged that she was not told about it.

At the time the singer accused Braun, who also manages Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato, of “incessant, manipulative bullying”.

  • Swift v Braun: Personal or strictly business?
  • Taylor Swift ‘bullied’ by man who now owns her music

Swift also accused Braun of attempting to “dismantle” her “musical legacy”. While he did not respond to her comments, he was supported by Lovato and Bieber, who claimed Swift was just out “to get sympathy”.

The singer confirmed in August that she planned to re-record music from her first six albums so she could own the rights to the new versions.

What about the AMAs and Netflix documentary?

Swift is set to be named Artist of the Decade at the AMAs later this month and said she had been planning to perform a medley of her hits.

But in her statement on Thursday, she said the two men had blocked her from performing her old songs on television, claiming that this would be re-recording her music before she is allowed to next year.

They also blocked the use of her older music or performance footage in the upcoming Netflix film, she claimed.

Swift alleged that Borchetta told her team she would only be allowed to use the music if she agreed “not to re-record copycat versions” next year and stopped talking about the two men.

“The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished,” she wrote.

She went on to ask her fans to help to pressure Braun and Borchetta into changing their minds and to appeal to the artists they manage for help. She also asked for help from the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, which she said financed the sale.

Fans responded instantly, with the hashtags “IStandWithTaylor” and “FreeTaylor” trending on Twitter.



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