‘This is no laughing matter’: Index on Censorship’s Stand Up for Satire targets comedy clampdowns

Outspoken comedians took to the stage for a Vauxhall-based freedom of expression charity on Tuesday night as one comic joked the move was not entirely altruistic – as he might need it himself one day.

The UK’s favourite pub landlord Al Murray lined up with Brendon Burns, Tim Key, Dane Baptiste and others to stand up for satire at Islington’s Union Chapel, getting the audience laughing at some of the country’s hot topics from Brexit and Theresa May to love poems and koala bears.

Index on Censorship hosted the night in aid of its work supporting comedians, satirists and cartoonists in countries where freedom of expression is an ideal rather than reality.

Index of Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley said: “We are getting more and more people reporting comedy clampdowns in different parts of the world and this is no laughing matter.

“Comedy is about challenging society where it needs to be challenged, it rubs against expectations and conformity, and tries to take the temperature of the nation.

“In 45 years Index on Censorship has worked with many comedians, comedy writers, and cartoonists who have faced threats or imprisonment for their work. We publish work that is banned in other countries. We bring international attention to cases, and rally support for their cases.

“That’s why this Stand up for Satire performance is so important.”

Last month the global-reaching charity became recognised by the Arts Council England as a sector support organisation for its work tackling censorship, and self-censorship in the arts and culture industry.

Index is currently working with China’s notorious cartoonist Rebel Pepper on a fellowship year training and support programme, after the exiled satirist won the NGO’s arts category in its annual Freedom of Expression Awards back in April.

Comedian Al Murray, who appeared in Index’s 2015 sell-out show, said: “It’s great to be doing Stand Up for Satire again, being able to take the mickey, send politicians up, or just flick V’s at the powerful in general is something we take for granted sometimes in the UK.”

Charity patron and actor Simon Callow also took to the stage with a reading from Animal Farm, and an appeal to the mixed audience of Index supporters and new faces, to help fund the NGO’s work as a much needed lifeline.

Islington local Riddhi Sen, 28, said: “I didn’t actually know about Index on Censorship before but I’ve donated and I’m going to look more online as well.

“Some of the history of it when we were looking up during the break seems very riveting so absolutely we’ll look them up more and hope to find out further.”

Index launched the summer edition of its quarterly magazine in June exploring 100 years on from the Russian Revolution.

Charlotte Lamb, 27, said: “I came to support Index tonight, Tim Key was my favourite and there was a really good mix of comedians- Al Murray was great at the end.”

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