On Tuesday 30 May 2023 on Hwyl Stage at the Hay Festival performers and directors from two ground-breaking acclaimed productions, Peaceophobia and Waswasa – which explore faith, systemic racism and the lived experience of young Muslim men in Bradford and Birmingham – discussed why the arts are so secular and if audiences are scared of faith, and why.

There was a unique script reading performance accompanied by film and projection, and was followed by a post-show conversation.

Peaceophobia is on a current UK tour, co-produced by Fuel Theatre and Common Wealth, written by Zia Ahmed. Waswasa is a show by Mohammed Ali MBE, Soul City Arts and originally commissioned by B2022 Festival.

Collaborating at the event was Dr James Hodkinson, Professor of Modern Languages and plays a leading role in the Institute of Public Engagement at Warwick University. He specialises in forging links between academic research and the arts sector and moderated the session.

The panel comprised producers and actors from two Midlands arts organisations, Common Wealth Theatre, and Soul City Arts, both of which have recently run nationally acclaimed, immersive arts programmes dealing with the representation of Muslims and Islam in contemporary British society. Speaking to the panel, James posed questions as to why faith has been such a taboo in the arts sector, and why the topic is now starting to win funding. The panel also discussed the challenges this kind of work still faces and the impact it is having locally and nationally.