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Lee Hall Community Opera Beached Will Go Ahead

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Lee Hall's community opera Beached will go ahead next week as planned, after an apparent u-turn by Opera North.

The project appeared to be in jeopardy after a participating primary school withdrew nearly 300 pupils from the event, objecting to the portrayal of a homosexual central character.

In a statement, Opera North said: "We have been at pains to work closely with the writers at all times, and have supported their rights of artistic expression throughout. We have also worked equally hard to ensure that the schools and community groups involved in the project have positive feelings of ownership and identity within the production. Thankfully rehearsals have been taking place throughout the week."

Both Bridlington's Bay Primary School and East Riding local authority had expressed concerns with the piece and Hall's portrayal of Sewerby, a retired gay painter. Hall has now agreed to changes, including changing "queer" to "gay" in the libretto.

Hall had struck out in the press earlier this week after Bay Primary School withdrew its children from the production, "raising objections" about Hall's choice of language and apparent lack of co-operation in making chanages.

Opera North appeared to cancel the project, which has a budget of over £100,000 and has been in rehearsals for six months. A large-scale Twitter and media frenzy ensued with Opera North director Richard Mantle forced to defend the organisation and its partners against accusations of homophobia.

It has now been reported in the Guardian that although Hall is "relieved and happy" that the opera will go ahead, he may still sue East Riding council over "defamatory allegations" made during the row including a subsequently retracted a statement which suggested that one of the characters in Beached was a paedophile.

Over 2,700 tickets have gone on sale for Beached which takes place on 15 and 16 July at The Spa in Bridlington. The cast for the opera consists of over 400 community participants, including 280 local school children.

Hall, who wrote 2000 feature film Billy Elliot and collaborated with Elton John on the subsequent musical, is also the author of The Pitmen Painters which transfers to the West End's Duchess Theatre from 5 October 2011 following its second national tour.


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