Fringe Playwright from Dumfries and Galloway Calls for a New Wave of Anti-Racist Scottish Theatre


A Clockwork Orange for 21st Century Scotland

After the SDL threatened to march in Edinburgh during the Festival, the writer of one of the darkest productions at this year’s Fringe has called for a new wave of anti-racist activism in the Scottish theatre.
Graham Main’s play Blood Orange, at Summerhall from 1 to 24 August, was written in response to a march and attempted mobilisation by the far right group in Dumfries last year.
His work, and his call to oppose extremism, have received backing from senior figures in the SNP and the Labour Party. The play has powerful echoes of A Clockwork Orange with smartly dressed, violent gang members seduced into a world of hatred and loathing.
Main has a deep commitment to political action and social justice – in recent years he swapped a career as a Holyrood political researcher to a life developing performing arts in Dumfries and Galloway
Blood Orange is set in the drug-fuelled, sexualised and sometimes vicious contemporary club scene and exposes attempts to radicalise a vulnerable young man and turn him into a racist killer.
Main said: “The idea of the SDL marching in Edinburgh during the Festival was hideous. What could be more contradictory – a festival which embraces and welcomes the world and a movement whose ideology is based on a hatred of anything different.
“Political theatre has a proud tradition in Scottish culture. And with the rise of the far right and the level of hate crime we now face, there is a job to be done by writers and performers to confront this as one of the nastiest threats to society.
“There are some great examples of anti-racist action around, but it is clear that more needs to happen. The arts are ideally placed to reach out to communities and individuals and to push back against extremism.
“Events like the Festival also make a superb platform for anti-racist action as they embody what’s best about Scotland.
“But what is crucial, and something the arts can do well, is go beyond simply condemning extremism as wrong – they can also ask some searching and uncomfortable questions about how it has managed to gain a foothold in our society.”
Among those who turned out to oppose the SDL was Dumfries and Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown who said “I was encouraged by the large turnout of local people, and those who came a distance to support us, that we were able to show that our local area was not prepared to accept the vile views of the Scottish Defence League.
“As individuals, families and communities, we stood together to show our strength of purpose and determination that we have in rural south west Scotland, that we will not allow their poison to spread. I applaud anything that we are able to do, in whatever form it is presented, to show that these people will not win over those of us who want to live in a tolerant society.”
Main set up his company, The Electric Theatre Workshop, after leaving his role as a researcher for Joan McAlpine MSP and says he “swapped the theatre of politics for political theatre”.
Joan McAlpine MSP said: “As one of those who was there to oppose the SDL in Dumfries I fully support the way that the arts community from Dumfries is pushing spreading the word that the far right must be stopped. Their spread in Scotland, and across Europe, is deeply troubling.”
Working at Holyrood fulfilled a long-held ambition to play a part in Scottish political life, but ultimately Main found he wanted to get back to grass roots arts activism.
He said: “I was raised in Dumfries and knew how much of a gap there was there in the performing arts, and also how much talent there is. Working directly with the community, and by helping develop talent from the community is something that you can see makes a real difference.
“In fact, it’s this kind of community-building, positive and creative activity which really gives people a sense of hope and purpose and should be one of the most powerful weapons we have in combating the despair that can encourage extremism.”
The SDL march in Dumfries was met by a large turnout of local people, including many from the arts sector, who opposed their presence.
The cast of Blood Orange are young, up-and-coming actors from Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Ireland. The play has already been well-received across southern Scotland and at this year’s Prague Fringe.
Parts of the play were also performed at the Scottish Parliament where it was well-received by MSPs.
The cast are now relishing the chance to perform in a prestigious venue at the world’s largest fringe festival.
● To book seats go to festival14.summerhall.co.uk/event/blood-orange

Latest Articles