Cultural boycott

60s17. Playwrights Against Apartheid

In June 1963 48 British and American playwrights signed a declaration that they would not allow their plays to be performed before segregated audiences in South Africa. This was part of a wider cultural boycott. The actors union Equity already insisted that if members performed in South Africa they must perform in ‘non-white’ venues. The union later took up a declaration promoted by Vanessa Redgrave where members pledged they would not perform in front of segregated audiences.

cul02. Letter from Samuel Beckett, 1963

In June 1963 48 British and American playwrights signed a declaration that they would not allow their plays to be performed before segregated audiences in South Africa. This letter from Samuel Beckett pledges his support for the declaration.

pic6404. Marlon Brando and Abdul Minty

Marlon Brando asked film directors, actors and producers to forbid the screening of their films before segregated audiences in South Africa on a visit to London in 1964. In the photograph he is at a press conference with the AAM’s Hon. Secretary Abdul Minty. He also took part in a vigil outside South Africa House calling for the release of political prisoners.

pic6502. Launching an academic boycott of South Africa

Philosophers Isaiah Berlin and A J Ayer were among the supporters of an academic boycott of South Africa launched in 1965. The boycott pledge was signed by 509 British academics. Left to right: Professor K W Wedderburn from the London School of Economics, AAM President David Ennals MP, and novelists Angus Wilson and Iris Murdoch at the launch of the boycott in the House of Commons.

60s34. ‘Come Back Africa’ programme

Programme for a fundraising concert in the Royal Albert Hall to mark the UN Human Rights Year and South Africa Freedom Day on 26 June 1968. The concert was arranged by the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF). Contributors included Marlon Brando, Warren Mitchell and ‘the Alf Garnett family’, Jonathan Miller and guitarist John Williams. The concert was supported by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

cul01. Equity referendum, 1976

The 1976 annual general meeting of the actors union Equity called for an extension of the union’s boycott of South Africa. It asked Equity’s Council to ban the sale of all filmed or taped material and to instruct all Equity members not to work there. This leaflet asked members to support the new policy in a referendum held to ratify the resolution. Members voted to support the union’s existing policy of banning sales of television programmes to South Africa and asking members to refuse to perform if they were prevented from appearing before multi-racial audiences. But the new proposals were narrowly defeated. Members also voted against a ban on performing in Zimbabwe. Performers Against Racism was set up to persuade actors to support the new policies; it worked closely with the AAM.

pic8211. Picket of Shirley Bassey concert, Cardiff

Wales AAM supporters asked Shirley Bassey to speak out against apartheid when she appeared at St David’s Hall, Cardiff in November 1982. The year before, she performed in Sun City, South Africa, breaking the cultural boycott. Shirley Bassey grew up in Cardiff’s multiracial Butetown area.

pic8301. ‘Leo’s on the List’

Tyneside AA Group picketed a concert by singer-songwriter Leo Sayer in Newcastle City Hall in May 1983. Sayer had played in Sun City, South Africa, in contravention of the cultural boycott. In 1983 the UN Special Committee against Apartheid set up a register of performers who had played in South Africa. Newcastle City Council tried to cancel the concert, but was forced to let it go ahead after consulting legal opinion. In the picture is Namibian student Gotthard Garoeb.