Archives for posts with tag: UK Jewish Film Festival

It was clear from early on in the row over the Tricycle theatre, during summer 2014, that government interference and threats to funding had played a significant role in the theatre’s capitulation. Now we have incontrovertible evidence in the form of a boast from the mouth of the UK Culture Secretary himself.

Sajid Javid joins Prime Minister David Cameron this week in conflating non-violent boycott actions – or in the case of the Tricycle simply the rejection of Israeli government funds during that state’s military assault on Gaza – with violent attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions. At a speech to the Board of Deputies of British Jews on Sunday, Javid referred to his unblemished record of bolstering the bullying tactics of pro-Israel lobby groups. According to Jewish News, Javid branded cultural boycotts ‘a form of the oldest hatred in the world.’

Javid told deputies he had “no tolerance for cultural boycotts of Israel”. He added: “Whether cultural, educational or divestment, the answer is the same.”

Citing last year’s boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival by the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, Javid said: “I intervened. I thought it was totally and utterly unacceptable and wrong. I have made it absolutely clear what might happen to their [the theatre’s] funding if they try, or if anyone tries, that kind of thing again.”

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A series of five minute plays will be premiered in London next week, 26-31 January, responding to issues of censorship and boycotts in the arts. Offstage Theatre, in association with Theatre Uncut, have commissioned playwrights Caryl Churchill, Ryan Craig, April De Angelis, Tim Fountain, Hannah Khalil, Neil LaBute, Hattie Naylor, Gbolahan Obisesan, Julia Pascal, Evan Placey, Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Solemani; several of whom were outspoken in their support of London’s Tricycle Theatre that was vilified in the press over its offer to UK Jewish Film to replace Israeli embassy funds for its annual film festival.

Offstage Theatre company names the events of Summer 2014, including the Tricycle decision, as the inspiration for this series of short plays: in July at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Underbelly pulled an Israeli show, The City, after protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and in September, the Barbican closed the live art installation Exhibit B, following protests that it dehumanised Africans.

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Speaking at the Union of Jewish Students’ Annual Conference on 14 December, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, boasted – as he had done in a letter we posted previously – about the role pressure by his government department played in bullying the Tricycle into withdrawing its conditions for hosting the UKJFF in future years:

[In August 2014] the Tricycle Theatre, just a few miles from here, announced that the internationally respected UK Jewish Film Festival was no longer welcome.

Why?

Because the organisers had accepted a small grant – less than £1,500 – from the Israeli embassy.

Neither grant came with political conditions attached.

Just as when the Arts Council awards funding to UK artists, there were no attempts to dictate content or censor views.

Yet the connection to Israel was enough.

The protesters came out and the shutters came down.

The moment I heard about the Tricycle ban I knew I couldn’t just let it go.

It’s completely unacceptable for a theatre to act in this way, and I didn’t shy away from telling its directors that.

And I’m pleased to say that, after lengthy discussions, the Tricycle and the UK Jewish Film Festival have resolved their differences.

This story, at least, has a happy ending.

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This letter was read out at the Amnesty event by Chair, Kamila Shamsie. On 22 September the UK Department for Culture, Media & Sport sent the letter in response to a letter of complaint that urged Culture Secretary Sajid Javid ‘to put a stop to this harassment and open manipulation of public institutions, and protect the theatre’s Arts Council funding.’ The letter confirms the UK government department’s close relationship with the Israeli embassy, which is funding the film festival.

The Department has kept closely in touch with the Israeli Ambassador during this unfortunate chain of events, and assured him of the Government’s commitment to challenge anti-semitism wherever it might arise.

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Do artists and arts organisations have the right to say ‘no’ when governments with negative human rights records try to co-opt culture in the service of their public relations strategies? Please join the discussion – After the Tricycle: Can arts organisations say ‘no’ to embassy funding?

In August 2014, during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Tricycle Theatre asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to forego Israeli embassy funding. The festival refused, walked away from the Tricycle, and briefed the press that the theatre was boycotting a Jewish festival. The theatre came under sustained attack: campaigns to de-fund the theatre, denunciations by liberal newspaper columnists, even intervention by the Secretary of State for Culture himself.

Do we have to accept that the kind of backlash the Tricycle experienced is inevitable as far as funding by a powerful state is concerned, and make sure we never follow where this theatre led?

Panel chair: Kamila Shamsie, novelist.
Speakers: April De Angelis and Tanika Gupta playwrights, Antony Lerman writer & commentator, and Ofer Neiman of the Israeli group Boycott from Within.

Panel discussion. Free entry, but reservation is recommended.
There will be a drinks reception afterwards.

When: Tuesday 7th October, 19:00 – 21:00. Doors open 18:30
Where: Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London. EC2A 3EA.

Amnesty Human Rights Centre map

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