A LIVE Shakespeare performance by a group of Iranian students in York will still go ahead despite the group being refused visas to enter the UK.

The former and current students of performing arts had been due to perform Coriolanus at York St John University’s Temple Hall this afternoon as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival.

Now, according to the festival’s website, the show will still take place but “in a different format from what was previously advertised.”

They were also due to take part in a Coriolanus workshop at the university tomorrow in collaboration with the drama and theatre department, which was to have been led by Hamed Asgharzadeh, from Tehran, and David Richmond from the York university.

Their aim is to “re-invent classic works of literature in the context of the current state of affairs in the Middle East and in particular Iran, by combining the dramatic elements of the play with the individual experiences of the performers.”

But organisers say the Home Office turned down visa applications by Hamed and five other people for a number of reasons, including a lack of assurance they would return home at the end of their four-day stay. The help of former York Central MP and election candidate Rachael Maskell was sought in a bid to get the decision reversed, but in vain.

Ms Maskell said her office had dealt with a sharp increase in the number of visa application appeals and she had met the Immigration Minister to discuss challenges faced by people in York in trying to get visas for visiting groups.

“The Government have hardened their stance, making the assumption that despite all the paperwork being in order and people do not want to stay here, they should not be granted short-term access to the UK,” she said.

“This is having a detrimental impact on sponsoring organisations, and in this case, on the cultural opportunities of the city.

“Rather than making general assumptions about individuals and organisations, the paperwork should be examined in detail and each case dealt with on the basis of whether it fits the criteria.”

Philip Parr, of Parrabbola, which is organising the festival in partnership with York Theatre Royal and the University of York, said he was disappointed by the decision, and said the Iranians were extremely disappointed they would not be able to come to York to take part in the festival.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that unfortunately, it was unable to comment on individual visa applications, and nor could she comment on the general principles under which such applications were considered.