INUNDATED: Hundreds of young people went to Hackney hoping to audition for Top Boy but were turned away
OPEN AUDITIONS for Channel 4’s acclaimed drama series Top Boy descended into chaos after organisers buckled under pressure from the hundreds of young people who turned up.
The one-off casting call took place at the 120-capacity Hoxton Hall, in Hoxton Street, Hackney, on Sunday, and was meant to last between 12pm and 5pm.
But it was abruptly called off after an hour without explanation to the disappointment of the crowd which had formed a mass queue around the block.
A BRIT school student who arrived at the auditions at 11 am with her friends and their parents, described the scene as out of control. She said: “It was horrible. When they shut the doors the people behind us started pushing to find out what was going on.
“We had no choice but to move forward or we would have been crushed. There was nobody there; no barriers, no stewards to stop it from happening.”
Casting agents said they were looking for black, mixed race, Asian and other “non-white” teenagers, aged between 13 and 16 to appear in the gritty drama set on a Hackney housing estate. No previous acting experience was necessary, the advert read.
The first season, starring Ashley Walters and UK rappers Kano, Sway and Scorcher, was a massive hit for Channel 4 which commissioned production company Cowboy Films to create a second season.
Hackney police confirmed they were contacted at 12.39 pm by organisers asking for help. Other calls were made by local residents and business owners who feared things could escalate.
Eyewitnesses reported a bottle being thrown and fireworks being let off which spooked the the crowd and sparked rumours of gunshots.
Among the crowd was British heavyweight boxer Julius Francis who chaperoned his 12-year-old daughter, Jada-Kai, to the audition.
He told The Voice: “I’m glad I was there with my daughter and not her mum – she would have been terrified. It looked like a bomb had gone off with no sign of anyone in charge.
“I didn’t see any violence, but there was chaos because it was so poorly organised. Jada is with an acting agency, so we’ve been to open auditions before. You get a number, you do your thing and you get a call back. There was none of that.
"It was totally irresponsible and someone should be held accountable. A child could have been seriously injured or killed.”
Mother June Nyarko called on organisers to apologise.
“We saw people jumping into bins to hide as they were really petrified,” she said.
“It is not good enough to call for youths to come to an open casting then fail to keep them safe. To close the doors on thousands of hopefuls who travelled wide and far without any explanation is sickening and should never have happened.
Top Boy star Ashley Walters urged people not to blame him or the show itself for what happened, adding: “It should’ve been handled better but as people we could’ve handled ourselves better also.”
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “The auditions were attended by more people than had been anticipated and was closed early for safety reasons. The situation was extremely well handled by police on the ground and the crowds dispersed very quickly.”
Organisers blamed social media for the unanticipated turnout.
Hayley White, group director at Hoxton Hall, said: “Following Sunday’s auditions, we’re in discussion with young people, parents, local businesses, residents and police to ensure we are fully prepared for future events of this nature.”
A statement said: “We appreciate the time and effort taken by young people and their parents who attended the auditions and share their disappointment that many did not get the opportunity to take part.”
Producers were now looking at alternative ways of holding auditions.