Natalia Kaliada, director of the Belarus Free Theatre, moved to the UK in 2011 after fleeing a state where freedom of expression is severely restricted, activists can be arbitrarily detained and opposition journalists are routinely harassed.
But now she notes that Britain is not entirely free of state censorship either. Speaking at an arts symposium called No Boundaries she said her company was:
Highly sensitive to any form of control because of its experience in Belarus. I paid the price, and my family paid the price, for speaking our minds freely while living under a dictatorship.
Now, living in a democracy, I start to develop a fear of speaking freely in our shows in case we will lose our funding. Creative conformism is blooming in democratic countries, and so you have to ask whether the only way to secure funding today is to create safe art.
She questioned why there was so much fear in the UK about standing up for provocative artistic work :
We understand that censorship under a dictatorship is imposed by the external ruling regime. Censorship from within a democracy is often self-imposed by the individual.
Nadia Latif, director of the play, called Homegrown , told the Symposium:
We jump to support artists struggling to make work in the regimes of the East, but here in our haven of Western liberal democracy we hesitate to stand behind those pushing against a more insidious authoritarianism.