In November, the Humanities programme organised a free trip for students to the Battersea Arts Centre in London to see the play Trojan Horse.
The play depicts events in Birmingham in 2014 when local teachers were accused of mounting what newspapers called a “schools jihad plot” to bring extremism to schools with predominantly Muslim pupils and teachers.
The accusations originated from a letter purporting to be from an Islamist to a co-conspirator outlining a strategy to Islamicise Birmingham schools by stealth in a “Trojan Horse operation”. Although the letter would be subsequently exposed as a fraud, the story had by this time been leaked from the Home Office to newspapers.
Ofsted investigations followed, in which some schools previously judged to be “outstanding” now became rated as “inadequate”. Teachers were taken to court for professional misconduct. Parents and pupils were plunged into a media frenzy.
The play Trojan Horse is adapted by Lung theatre group from the real-life testimonies of the teachers, governors and pupils at the heart of the “scandal”. It investigates the reality behind the headlines and explores “the story of a community torn apart by racial division, ‘British values’ and the culture of Prevent” (Lung’s website).
Students and lecturers found the play to be affecting, thought-provoking and inspiring. “It tells a story about Islamophobia, contemporary politics and the distortions of media representation that needs to be heard,” said Humanities lecturer Dr Vicky Margree.
The Humanities programme hopes to welcome the play’s engagement officer to the University in January for a follow-up workshop with students, that will explore issues of racial and ethnic identity, truth vs. opinion, British values, and the role of the arts in social and political narratives.
The Trojan Horse play will be performed in Parliament on 7 Jan 2020 and is touring the country again in February.