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Kwame Kwei-Armah Responds To Female Writers' Allegations That He Erased Them From TREE

Kwame Kwei-Armah Responds To Female Writers' Allegations That He Erased Them From TREE

In a Medium post published today, Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin claim they were the original creators and developers of the show Tree, which is currently playing at Manchester International Festival (MIF) ahead of a run at the Young Vic.

In the post, the duo accuse Kwame Kwei-Armah - Artistic Director of the Young Vic - of co-opting work which they spent years developing, alongside Idris Elba. They allege that their original contract was not honoured, and that Kwei-Armah lifted - and distorted - their ideas for his own synopsis of the show, after which he and Elba were credited as the creators, and they were dismissed from the project.

Henley and Allen-Martin subsequently sought legal advice, but were told it would cost about £20,000 to defend their case in court. They claim the experience was damaging to them both professionally and in terms of their mental health.

In an attempt to find a positive outcome, the pair have now founded Burn Bright, an organisation supporting female artists. It includes an open forum, connections to industry professionals willing to help or mentor, and a fund to cover first their legal fees, and then to support female playwrights in their careers. It has so far raised over £5,000.

Kwei-Armah posted a tweet in response, promising a full statement in due course:

Update: Kwei-Armah has now responded on Twitter to the allegations. He expresses sympathy for the pair's situation, but firmly refutes the characterisation of events, claiming the intention was never to produce the work as originally conceived, but for them to rework it with him acting as "mentor".

Kwei-Armah says that he was willing to meet the pair for creative development sessions, but that when they refused to meet following his drawing up a rough outline, he had to write something himself in order to meet the deadlines of the workshop:

Update 2: The Young Vic, MIF and Green Door Pictures have now released a statement, supporting Kwei-Armah's version of events, and noting that Henley and Allen-Martin are acknowledged in the foreword of the Tree programme.

Update 3: There have since been further responses from Idris Elba, supporting Kwei-Armah, and from Allen-Martin, expressing gratitude for the support.

There was an outpouring of support for Henley and Allen-Martin on social media from other industry figures following their Medium post:

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