McDonald's Vs'MacBurgers: Real Neat Scotch Fare'
Summary:Written as a fictitious satire on the fast food industry, Real Neat Scotch Fare was to be performed by and largely to schoolchildren. McDonald's forced the authors to make changes to the script, then allowed it to be played once after which it was NEVER to be performed or published again. Below are letters between the authors, the district council and McDonald's aswell as press articles and the eventual agreement between the two groups. We are also pleased to say that the entire play is now available on McSpotlight.
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
3 April 1991
TO THE AUTHOR OF "MacBurgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare".
TO THE ORGANISERS OF "EK EYE"
TO THE OWNERS /ORGANISERS OF THE EAST KILBRIDE VILLAGE THEATRE.
We are instructed by McDonalds Corporation of Oak Brook, Illinois,
USA and by McDonalds Restaurants Limited, the Company which operates McDonalds'
restaurants in the United Kingdom. Our clients have asked us to write to
you to express their concern at the contents of an article which appeared
in the Glasgow Evening News on 30th March 1991 under the headline "Kids'
Big Beef" which previews the forthcoming production of "MacBurgers
- Real Neat Scotch Fare" at the East Kilbride Village Theatre.
It appears from this article that the play is critical of the "hamburger
industry" generally but in view of the reference to "MacBurgers"
in the play's title it seems clear that the criticism is directed at McDonalds
in particular. Our clients have also been told by the newspaper that their
"golden arch" logo appears in the theatre foyer, thus reinforcing
The newspaper article comments that the play will contain a swipe at "low
wages and poor working conditions." It then states that "the STUC
has fought a running battle with chains like McDonalds accusing them of
paying their young staff stlg2.25 per hour in Scottish stores, well below
the Wages Council minimum of stlg2.60 an hour".
This statement is in fact a very serious defamation of our clients. Neither
in Scotland or elsewhere do they pay wages which are below the Wages Council
minimum rates for the relevant age groups. In fact, the vast majority of
McDonalds staff receive wages which comfortably exceed the Wages Council
minimum rate. A small proportion of their staff may receive a the minimum
rate for the first three weeks of their employment, after which their rate
of pay is invariably increased in line with their experience and performance.
Our clients do not know, of course, whether this serious allegation is-repeated
in your play but the appearance of this comment in the newspaper article
causes them some concern. McDonalds has no wish to interfere with the enjoyment
of the children who are to appear in your production, or with the enjoyment
of the audience, but are concerned that any criticism which might be directed
towards them is fair and based on accurate information. They would therefore
like the chance to reassure themselves that it contains nothing defamatory.
We would be grateful therefore if a copy of the script could be provided
to our clients as soon as possible, and in any event before the opening
night tomorrow. Could you please telephone Mr. Craig Atherton (041-248-7767)
who will make arrangements to collect the copy of the script from you.
You should also be aware that if, as the newspaper has told our clients,
it is your intention to use our clients logo in connection with the production
this is on the face of it a breach of our clients copyright in the logo
and an infringement of our clients trade mark rights.
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
4 April 1991 EK EYE - "MacBURGERS - REAL NEAT SCOTCH FARE"
East Kilbride District Council
Dear Mr Dunn,
I write to confirm the contents of our telephone conversation
earlier this afternoon.
McDonalds are grateful to Miss Campbell for providing them with a copy of
the script of this play, which our clients and ourselves have had an opportunity
briefly to consider. The play is, of course, due to open later this evening.
My clients are greatly concerned at the contents of the script. We understand
that Miss Campbell has already agreed to some minor amendments suggested
by our clients, and that a number of sections of the script will not be
performed in this week's production. However, the script as a whole appears
designed to portray McDonalds as a company which pursues a deliberate policy
of exploiting young employees by requiring them to work excessively long
hours in poor conditions, without proper breaks, without proper time off,
for excessively low pay; by maintaining excessively low staffing levels
for reasons of economy, thus causing their work force to work under undue
stress and pressure; and of treating their workers as "disposable".
This characterisation of McDonalds is defamatory and untrue, and goes far
beyond the bounds of what could be considered fair comment.
From our initial reading of the script, we have gained the impression that
the author may have based it at least in part on allegations which were
made in a pamphlet entitled "Working for big Mac" which was published
and distributed by a company known as Transnationals Information Centre
London Ltd. Following the issue of proceedings for libel in the High Court
in London, McDonalds received a full apology for these allegations in open
Court both from Transnationals and from the Guardian, which published a
newspaper article based on the offending pamphlet.
However, it is only at a very late stage that our clients have become aware
of the contents of the script. They recognise that to seek to prevent the
play going ahead this week at this very late stage would cause great disappointment
to the young people who are involved in the production. I am therefore able
to let you have an assurance that even should the play go ahead this week
our clients will not pursue their undoubted legal remedies against those
involved in the performance. However, McDonalds expressly reserve their
right vigorously to enforce their legal rights against the author or authors
of the script, and should they hear of any future intended productions they
will take whatever steps are necessary to protect their reputation from
G. J. FREER . 15 May 1991
MR. STEVE BROWN and MS JENNY FRASER
in favour of
MCDONALD'S RESTAURANTS LIMITED and
MCDONALD'S CORPORATION INC.
U N D E R T A K I N G
Mr. Steve Brown c/o Harpers, Solicitors, Ca'D'Ora Building, 45 don Street,
Glasgow and Ms Jenny Fraser c/o Harpers, Solicitors, Ca'D'Ora Building,
45 Gordon Street, Glasgow ("the Authors") to McDonald's Restaurants
Limited, 11-59 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 8AW and McDonald's Corporation
Inc, McDonald's Plaza, Oak Brook, Illinois, USA ("McDonald's")
on 22nd May, 1991, ("the date of the Undertaking")
WHEREAS the Authors are the owners of and accordingly retain copyright in
a play entitled "MacBurgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare" ("the
Play"), a copy of which is appended hereto, which they accept to be
defamatory to McDonald's, they have agreed, and hereby agree, to provide
this undertaking to McDonald's on the following terms:
1. The Play shall be performed on 22nd and 23rd May, 1991 at Maryhill Community
Centre, Glasgow, in its present form.
2. Thereafter, the Authors shall not knowingly allow the play to be performed
again, in its present form or in any form substantially similar thereto,
and shall, without prejudice to the foregoing generality, take all practicable
steps to prevent the production of the Play at any venue at which, to their
knowledge, it is proposed to stage the play.
3. The Authors recognise and accept that should the Play be performed after
the date specified in 1. hereof, in its present form, or in any form substantially
similar thereto, that McDonald's shall be entitled to seek any appropriate
legal remedies including those of Interdict/Injunction and/or damages. Further,
the Authors recognise and accept that should they chose to rewrite or revise
the Play in an attempt to distinguish it from its present form that McDonald's
have expressly reserved their right to take whatever action McDonald's deem
to be appropriate in the event that McDonald's consider the text of any
such re written or revised form of the play to be defamatory to McDonald's.
4. The Authors acknowledge in signing this undertaking that they have received
the benefit of independent legal advice from Messrs Harpers, Solicitors,
Glasgow as to its terms and agree to be bound by the terms of this Undertaking
Signed .....Steve Brown L M M Taggart....(Witness) M McParland.....
(Witness) Signed .....Jenny Fraser L M M Taggert ...(Witness) M McParland......(Witness)
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
Steve Brown, Esq., and
Ms Jennie Fraser
Dear Sir and Madam,
We are instructed by McDonalds Corporation of Oak Brook, Illinois USA and
by McDonalds Restaurants Limited, the company which operates McDonalds Restaurants
in the UK.
On 3rd .April 1991 we wrote to you, jointly with the organisers
of "EK EYE" and the owners/organisers of the East Kilbride Village
Theatre. We know from the picture of Mr Brown which appeared in the Glasgow
Evening Times on Friday April 5th 1991 that you safely received this letter.
You are no doubt also aware of discussions which subsequently took place
between ourselves on behalf of our clients and the Legal Department of the
East Kilbride District Council. We enclose a further copy of our letter
to Mr Dunn of that Department dated 4th April 1991, from which you will
see that our clients expressly reserved their rights vigorously to enforce
such legal rights as they have against the author or authors of the script,
and that should they hear of any future intended productions they would
take whatever steps are necessary to protect their reputation from further
Since that letter was written we have had further time to consider the script
of "MacBurgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare" ("the play")
in detail. Having done so, it appears that our clients initial concern at
the contents of the script is amply justified. We have also been able to
identify no fewer than twenty one quotations or references extracted from
a leaflet entitled "Working for Big Mac" referred to in our letter
of 4th April 1991. This has confirmed our clients in their view that the
play is riddled with political and defamatory anti McDonalds propaganda.
Our clients have just been made aware that, despite our previous warnings
about the defamatory nature of the script, and our clients stated intention
to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their reputation, the play
is to be produced on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd May at the Maryhill
Community Central Hall by Phantom Productions for the Drumchapel Creativity
Please note that unless we receive your immediate undertaking that these
performances will not go ahead - and that no further performances will take
place by any group in the future - our clients will be left with little
alternative but to take the appropriate legal action.
We should add that our clients regret the disappointment which may be caused
to those taking part in the production. However, they make no apologies
for taking the appropriate action to protect their reputation, and all our
clients legal rights in this matter are strictly reserved.
We are sending a copy of this letter to Phantom Productions, and the Drumchapel
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
PS Since dictating this letter we have been told of the telephone conversation
between Ms Fraser and McDonalds earlier today and we have spoken briefly
with Ms Frances Eccles, whom we believe you are consulting for advice. Our
clients are considering your request for a meeting to discuss the matter,
and we hope to be able to confirm possible arrangements very shortly.
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
15 May 1991
Drumchapel Creativity Group
We are instructed by 'McDonalds Corporation of Oak Brook Illinois, USA and
by McDonalds Restaurants Limited, the Company which operates McDonalds Restaurants
in the United Kingdom.
Our clients are extremely concerned that Steve Brown and Jennie
Fraser's play "McBurgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare" is intended
to be produced by Phantom Productions at the Maryhill Community Central
Hall on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd May. You should know that shortly
before a previous production took place at the East Kilbride Village Hall
we entered into correspondence on behalf of our clients with the authors
and the East Kilbride District Council in which we pointed out that the
script was highly defamatory of our client. On that occasion, our clients
were prepared not to interfere in the production, bearing in mind the fact
that many of the performers were children and that McDonalds had only come
to hear of the production on the day before the opening night. Our clients
did however warn the District Council - who we presume passed these sentiments
on to the authors - that they expressly reserved their right vigorously
to enforce their legal rights against the author or authors of the script,
and that should they hear of any future intended productions they would
take whatever steps were necessary to protect their reputation from further
For your information we enclose herewith a copy of our letter to the authors
of the play dated 3rd April 1991; our letter to the Legal Department of
East Kilbride District Council dated 4th April 1991; and our letter of today's
date which has been delivered to the solicitors who have been consulted
by Mr Brown and Ms Fraser.
Our clients have received an approach from the authors who have suggested
that they and their solicitor should meet with McDonalds to discuss this
matter generally. Our clients are currently considering this suggestion,
but are not optimistic that the play could be altered in such a way as to
remove the matters of which they complain. We will keep you closely in touch
with any discussions held with the authors but you should be aware of at
this stage of the possible consequences should they not produce a solution.
We have written in identical terms to Phantom Productions. We look forward
to hearing from you.
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
3 June 1991 MacBurgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare
For the Attn. of Miss Frances Eccles
We write following the meeting held at the offices of Maclay
Murray & Spens on Friday 15th May, at which it was agreed inter alia that
we would set down in writing the grounds on which our clients consider Mr
Brown and Miss Fraser's play to be defamatory.
As we explained at the meeting, the difficulty with the play is that its
defamatory effect stems from the cumulative effect from many different references.
The overall defamatory effect of which our clients principally complain
is the characterisation of them as employers who deliberately and callously
exploit young employees without regard for their welfare. In particular,
by making them work excessively long hours in poor conditions, without proper
breaks, without proper time off, for excessively low pay; by maintaining
excessively low staffing levels for reason of economy thus causing their
work force to work under undue stress and pressure; thus treating their
workers as "disposable".
There are also separate allegations about McDonalds environmental policies
and about their attitude to disabled customers.
Rather than set out examples at length below, we are enclosing a copy of
the script which we have highlighted to show some of the passages referred
to above. We have also made marginal notes cross referring the contents
of the play to "Working for Big Mac". The abbreviation on which
we have used in the marginal notes is "WFBM". We would be grateful
if you could please acknowledge receipt of this letter and its enclosure
and confirm that copies have been forwarded to Mr Brown and Miss Fraser.
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
BARLOW LYDE & GILBERT
Early public statement by the authors of the play
MacBurger's - Real Neat Scotch Fare
9th July 1991
We would like to bring to your attention what we believe to be a serious
infringement of artistic freedom in the Scottish Arts community.
The multi-national food chain McDonalds, hove recently forced us to sign
an undertaking that our play, MacBurger's - Real Neat Scotch Fare
will never be performed again, on the grounds that they consider it to be
defamatory. MacBurger's is a young people's play, originally commissioned
by Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh for a production in October 1988. There have
been four subsequent productions:
Stirling District Youth Theatre (May '89, MacRobert Arts Centre);
RSAMD Junior School (March '91);
EK Eye (April '91, Village Theatre, East Kilbride);
Phantom Productions (May '91, Glasgow).
Set in a fictitious store, the play combines dance and music satirising
the fast food business and stereotypical images of Scotland.
Our aims when writing the play were threefold:
During our research we used anecdotal evidence from a variety of sources
pertaining to the fast food business, as well as using information from
a booklet "Working for Big Mac" (W.F.B.M.) This was published
by Transnationals Information Centre London - an independent research and
action group working with local authorities, community organisations and
trade unions to provide information and contacts which will help to make
transnational companies more accountable to employees and consumers .
- to highlight the appalling working conditions many young people have
to endure in the fast food industry
- to question the selling of Scotland's heritage
- to celebrate and explore youth sub-cultures
As the play is a work of fiction, it does not attack McDonalds
specifically. Indeed McDonalds are not mentioned in the script.
The play has been well received critically and has proved to be very popular
with both audiences and those involved in all five productions.
Despite both local and notional press coverage for previous productions,
we suddenly ran into difficulties with McDonalds over the East Kilbride
performances. We reluctantly agreed to four changes in the script demanded
by London Lawyers acting for McDonalds in Illinios, in order to avert a
very real threat to halt the production. (Please see attached press cuttings.)
In the run up to Phantom's production things got decidedly more nasty! McDonalds
lawyers informed us that "the play is riddled with political and
defamatory anti- McDonalds propaganda." They also stated that following
the issue of proceedings for libel in the High Court in London, McDonalds
had received a full apology over allegations printed in W.F.B.M. This obviously
complicated our situation, to say the least!
Following a meeting with their lawyers and the vice-president of McDonalds
UK, it became apparent that they were prepared to raise a court action against
us. They have also taken our script to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Our own lawyer believes that we do have the basis of a case against them.
However we are not in the position to fund a long and protracted bottle
against them in the courts. We had little option but to sign their undertaking.
In order to maintain the essence of the play and to salvage some self-respect,
we now intend researching the case against Transnationals to determine what
information was defamatory, re-writing the script and having the revised
text approved by Counsel at the Court of Session.
Obviously this will be a costly undertaking. We would like to establish
a fund which would finance us and other members of the Scottish Arts community
who may find themselves in similar positions in the future.
We believe that our case is an important one both politically and artistically.
In the longer term we hope that the play will not only be performed by other
groups, but also be published and made widely available.
We would welcome any advice, help or support you could give us.
Steve Brown & Jenny Fraser
JULY 28 1991
The makers of Big Mac Behaved like Big Brother in attacking a play for children.
The play MacBurger's - Real Neat Scotch Fare, did not even mention McDonald's,
but the hamburger chain claimed it would harm the company's image. Their
heavy-handed action ensured that any damage was entirely self-inflicted.
JULY 28 1991
Mac the Knife!!!
Burger firm kills off Scots play Big Mac has knifed performances of a popular
Scots play for kids - anywhere in the world. McDonald's the huge multinational
hamburger giant, won the ban after they threatened costly legal action.
Macburgers - Real Neat Scottish Fare, a light hearted satire on life in
fictitious Scots fast food store, will now never be seen again. McDonald's
thinks the plays lines about poor wages, long hours and fast food shop training
programs are about them.
BUT THEIR NAME IS NEVER MENTIONED.
Now MP's are accusing them of "heavy handedness and artistic bullying".
Glasgow playwrights, Steve Brown , 29, and Jenny Fraser, 21, wrote the play
for young people in 1988 when it was first performed by the Theatre Workshop
Although the play has been performed since, it wasn't until April this year
that the fast food firm put the bite on the playwrights. They sent a lawyer
to see the play when EK EYE - a group of ten to sixteen year olds - staged
it in East Kilbride. McDonald's demanded cuts under threat of legal action
and Steve and Jenny agreed to make changes so the play could go ahead. McDonald's
moved in again when Phantom Productions - a Glasgow group for deprived kids
- prepared to stage it At a meeting in Glasgow attended by McDonald's UK
vice President, they threatened to sue The playwrights lawyers believed
they could have defended themselves but the cost of doing so could have
run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Steve explained that they could not afford a court battle and in the circumstances
signed an undertaking that they would never allow the play to be performed
anywhere in the world. They are now working on a new play about the fast
food industry - with legal guidance. And they are also setting up a fund
to finance other members of the Scottish Arts Community who may be faced
with similar action.
Twelve MP's, including five Scots, backed the playwrights in motion on the
commons order paper last week. In it the MP's condemned McDonald's for "heavy
handedness", and claimed the firms actions were a "gross over
reaction". A spokeswoman for McDonald's UK in London said "We
took the view that this play was defamatory to McDonald's."
5 APRIL 1991,
MAC THE KNIFE BURGER GIANT
CUTS KIDS PLAY
By ALLAN CALDWELL
International burger giant McDonald's forced 60 school children to make
cuts to their play hours before the opening performance. The American
based fast food chain instructed their London lawyers to insist on the changes
as the kids prepared to take the stage in East Kilbride's village theatre
The company claimed the play Macburgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare contained
lines which were defamatory. It is being performed by EK Eye, a group of
children aged between 10 and 16 and highlights the problems facing many
youngsters employed in the burger business. It is a comedy with music.
Neither the name McDonald's nor the companies logo appears in the production
but the company said it seemed cleat to them the criticism was being directed
In a letter delivered by hand to the theatre, London solicitors Barlow,
Lyde and Gilbert, demanded a copy of the script. Two representatives of
McDonald's also showed up for the dress rehearsal and insisted on sitting
through it. They then told the theatres director cuts would have to be made
or legal action would be considered. Four changes were asked for in the
script. They referred to environmental conditions and employee relations.
Joint authors of the play, Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser, reluctantly agreed
to the changes so that the show could go ahead. Steve said today:
"We didn't want to disappoint the kids, the whole thing is just
ridiculous." "McDonald's have over reacted and come in heavy
handed. These are kids and are not out to make a political statement. McDonald's
placed the whole show in jeopardy over a few remarks."
"They had us over a barrel. If we didn't make the changes
they implied they would take out a court injunction to stop the play going
A spokeswoman said:
"We didn't want to disappoint the children so we have gone
out of our way to adopt a low key approach. The script was found to be seriously
defamatory and we will be taking this up with the authors."
She added that McDonald's would be providing free hamburgers for the cast
at the end of the shows run tomorrow night. But a spokesman for the theatre
"I don't think their hamburgers will be too welcome."
THE GLASGOW GUARDIAN
FRIDAY JULY 26 1991
BY ELIZABETH MCLAUGHLIN
Hamburger giants have stopped two West End actors chances of fame and fortune
because they didn't like their play! And although the actors have agreed
to stop further showings of "Macburgers - Real Neat Scotch Fayre"
a battle looks set to rage with McDonald's. Hillhead MP George Galloway
tabled an Early Day Motion, as Parliament prepared for its summer recess,
demanding an explanation from the multi-million pound company. The play
has already been shown and played one night in Maryhill Community Central
halls before McDonald's demanded the curtain should fall. Despite being
assured the production is fictitious and highlights working conditions within
the fast food world in general, McDonald's believe the play is about them
- and is "defamatory".
After discussions between the actors, Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser and McDonald's
legal department in London, the play was abandoned. However, Mr Galloway
is angry that the company has been allowed to attack what he regards as
"artistic freedom". He said:
" This is a serious infringement on artistic freedom
and it seems ridiculous that a fictitious satire on the fast food business
could cause this upset.
"It is like using sledgehammer to crack open a small nut."
Mr Galloway describes the action as "artistic bullying".
A spokesman for McDonald's head office in London said;
"We have met with the artists and agreed that the work
is defamatory and had the undertaking that it would not be produced again."
26 JUL. - 8 AUG. 1991.
BIG MAC CENSORS PLAY
The writers of a play satiring the fast food industry have been threatened
with court action by burger giants McDonald's. Alan Morrison reports on
a serious infringement of artistic freedom. When Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser
were commissioned to write a play for an autumn 1988 production at Edinburgh's
Theatre Workshop, little did they know that it would start causing waves
as away as Illinois.
The play met with favourable reviews in the Scottish press and, after a
second production by Stirling district youth theatre at the McRobert Arts
Centre, three separate organisations approached Brown and Fraser with the
result that the play was subsequently put on tour.
It was at the East Kilbride show that the writers had their first brush
with the multi-national power-hold of McDonald's. The firms London's lawyers
demanded four changes to the script, to which Brown and Fraser reluctantly
agreed. By the time of the M
The problem that the writers faced, no matter how strong they believed
their case to be, they could not agree the lawyers fees needed just to meet
McDonald's in court. In the end, they were forced to sign an undertaking
that contained areas they disagreed over. When they attempted to rewrite
the play in the light of what had been said, they found that McDonald's
had built another obstacle. Steve Brown asked for a list of the 21 points
to which the company had objected.
Having read the play myself, I find it hard to believe.
Many of the statistics contained within it are uncontestable, and any
subjective criticism of working conditions in fast food outlets - and here
it should be stressed that the name McDonalds is not mentioned.
"I am pursuing the matter on a parliamentary level, where of course
it is immune from the Big Brother tactics employed by this company and other
fast food chain," he told The List in a statement from his constituency
office. "Due to parliamentary privy Meanwhile Brown and Fraser are
considering their next move. They are currently trying to gauge what moral
support there is in the Scottish Arts Community for their position.
FRIDAY JULY 26, 1991
By SANDRA MONETTI
Burger giants McDonalds have taken legal action to halt a play about a fast
food chain. Bosses claim the satirical MacBurgers is defamatory - and pledge
that they will sue if it is ever performed again. So the writers have reluctantly
agreed to scrap stagings in Scottish community halls. But the Scottish TUC
aim to try to fight the ban. A spokesman said yesterday: "McDonalds
are being very heavy handed and are acting in extreme fashion."
McDONALDS THREATEN PLAY
The writers of a satirical play about the fast food industry have been obliged
by McDonalds, the burger giants, to sign an agreement never to stage the
play again anywhere in the world, writes Maxton Walker. Steven brown and
Jenny Fraser who wrote "Macburgers - Real Neat Scotch Fare" in
1988 had produced several critically successful productions of the play
when they were approached on the eve of an April 1991 performance in East
Kilbride by representative Later during a run-up to a May production in
Glasgow, McDonalds legal department informed the producers that the play
contained "anti-McDonalds propaganda" despite the fact that McDonalds
itself was not named in the script.
THE STAGE AND TELEVISION
TODAY JULY 25, 1991
BIG MAC THREATS BURGER SCOTS PLAY
BY BRIAN ATTWOOD AND PATRICK SMALL
Scottish writers have set up a fighting fund to combat alleged big business
censorship after burger giants McDonalds threatened legal action to block
a controversial satire on the fast food industry. Authors, Jenny Fraser
and Steve Brown, signed an undertaking not to allow future performances
of their play MacBurgers-Real Neat Scotch Fare following lengthy talks with
McDonalds executives and the firm's London lawyers.
The companies solicitors said that the play, which did not mention McDonalds
by name, was never the less potentially defamatory and warned the firm would
sue if the work ever again appeared on stage. A spokeswoman for the fast
food chain this week confirmed to The Stage that action had been threatened
but said the matter was now settled.
"we did meet with the authors. During that meeting they
agreed that the work was defamatory and made an understanding not to perform
it again," she explained.
But Brown and Fraser have now invited fellow entertainers to join their
new Scottish Art Legal Fund, set up to advise and help "any artist
facing censorship from multinational or other powerful bodies." They
plan to set up donation points at venues throughout the region. Christine
Hamilton, arts officer for the Scottish Trades Union Congress - itself a
long-standing critic of McDonalds, promised her organisation would do what
it could to help.
"We are obviously concerned and will be looking at ways
of supporting them in any way we can. But there is a wider issue here. The
STUC has already leafleted a number of their outlets in Glasgow publicising
both the wages and the working practices."
The head to head meeting between Brown, Fraser and the burger firm took
place following a complaint from a McDonalds branch in Maryhill, Glasgow
about plans to stage the show at the nearby community central halls. Lawyers
warned that the Maryhill dates, which took place on Mat 22 and 23, would
be prevented from going ahead unless the authors promised the performance
would be the very last. The incident is not the first time that the show
has fallen foul of McDonalds. After two productions were staged, at Edinburgh
in 1988 and Stirling in 1989, the company was tipped off about rehearsals
for a version by the East Kilbride Eye Theatre last McDonalds lawyers sent
two representatives to attend a run through of the show and collected a
copy of the script. On that occasion the authors were forced to agree to
make several cuts demanded by the fat food chain.
DUMBARTON AND VALE OF LEVEN REPORTER
31ST JULY 1991
BIG WEAN'S CULTURE COLUMN :
BY NIALL BLACK
MacBurgers is a story of artistic censorship. Censorship of a play commissioned
for a Scottish Youth Theatre Group which talked about the appalling working
conditions in the fast food industry. This play call "MacBurgers -
Real Neat Scotch Fare", and was written by Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser.
The production met with favourable reviews in the Scottish press and was
performed several times across Scotland, between 1988 and 1991.
The authors had three aims when writing this play
- 1) to highlight the appalling working conditions many young people have
to endure in the fast food industry;
- 2) to question the selling of Scotland's Heritage;
- 3) to celebrate and explore youth sub-cult
During a performance in East Kilbride the play ran into trouble with lawyers
acting on behalf of a fast food chain. At this point, the authors were forced
to make four script changes on the grounds that the chain felt parts of
the play to be defamatory.
When Phantom Productions tried to stage the play in Maryhill earlier this
year, the lawyers informed the authors that "The play is riddled with
political and defamatory propaganda". They let it be known that they
were prepared to raise a court action against the authors, who had no funds
with which to fight a legal battle.
Court action was averted when the authors had to sign an undertaking that
the play would never be performed a It seems extremely worrying that a company
can prevent a group using their democratic right to free speech. The name
of the chain was not used a single time in the play and yet they seemed
pretty paranoid about the whole affair. When a company can intimidate a
couple of playwrights and a youth group, then something is certainly seems
rotten in the state of burger. The whole story has outraged the artistic
world, who have set up a campaign against censorship through legal intimidation.
In Scotland "The Scottish Arts Legal Fund" has been set up to
help combat alleged big business censorship.
- JOINT PRESS STATEMENT RE MacBURGER -
REAL NEAT SCOTCH FARE
The play "Real Neat Scotch Fare" contains material which is defamatory
and untrue. The authors acknowledge that the script could be interpreted
as unfair criticism of McDonald's. The authors regret any such interpretation
and fully accept that McDonald's practices and policies towards their staff,
their customers and the environment are beyond reproach. Therefore, the
authors have signed an undertaking not to put on a performance of this play
at any time in the future. Furthermore, they will be making a contribution
to McDonalds legal costs which in turn McDonald's will donate to a children's
charity of their choice.
MacBURGERS-REAL NEAT SCOTCH FARE The authors acknowledge that the script
could be interpreted as unfair criticism of the well-known international
food chain McDonald's. The authors regret any such interpretation and accept
fully that McDonalds employment practices and policies towards its employees