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See below for Update from Burleque Festival following council meeting of 10 July

Friday, 28 June 2013

Town Council vetoes Burlesque Festival from using The Picture House

Organisers of Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival were today left reeling after a request to their Local Council to stage an event in Hebden Bridge’s historic Picture House was rejected.

An application was made to use the Town’s art deco cinema for a one-off Burlesque event in May of next year as part of the second annual Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. However, the request was refused on the grounds that the Picture House Committee did not wish the Town Council to be “associated” with the event. A letter from Hebden Royd Town Council on behalf of The Hebden Bridge Picture House stated:

“The Picture House Committee does not feel that it is appropriate for Hebden Royd Town Council to be associated with the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. Burlesque arouses strong feelings, and many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality. It is also inevitable if held in the Hebden Bridge Picture House that it would be seen to be associated with Hebden Royd Town Council, so the committee declines the approach to host a part of the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival.”

The inaugural Hebden Bridge Burlesque, which was staged in May is thought to have generated an estimated £15,000 of spending in the local economy, with performers and audiences travelling to the quiet Yorskshire town from across the UK. The event also raised over £700 for Derian House Children’s Hospice in neighbouring Lancashire.

Burlesque cheque

Festival organisers Heidi Bang Tidy and Liz Goodman
present a cheque at Derian House Children's Hospice.

Festival Producer, Heidi Waddington explained to the HebWeb, “following the success of the Festival in 2013, we made an approach to Hebden Bridge Picture House with a view to using the venue next year. The Picture House is the only venue in Hebden Bridge that can accommodate an audience of more than 150. Since all of the evening shows at the 2013 event were sold out in advance and we had to turn people away, we decided that for next year we needed a larger capacity for at least one show. We felt the grandeur of the Picture House was perfect for a high-end Gala performance and planned to bring some big names to the Town for a one-off event.”

Co Producer, Lizzy Goodman who also produces a The Frou Frou Burlesque and Cabaret in the Town and runs a popular Burlesque Course and Showgirl Fitness Classes in a nearby church hall added: “Not for a moment did we expect that we would be refused on moral grounds, especially in a venue that regularly stages Stand Up Comedy and 18 Certificate films. We are surprised that the Committee can act as censors in this way.

"We would have liked to have been able to stage the event and allow people to decide for themselves if they wish to attend, especially as our audience statistics for 2013 show that over a quarter of tickets sold for the 2013 event were purchased by Hebden Royd rate payers. It seems that some members of the Town Council are not as liberal as they would have us believe, which is such a shame, since the Town has a reputation for being one of the most tolerant and inclusive places to live in the UK.”

It is understood that the Committee’s decision was not unanimous. Indeed, local Councillor, Christine Davenport said today: “I voted to support the Festival and do not agree with the decision to refuse permission for The Picture House to be used during Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. In my opinion, it is up to the individual person to decide if they want to attend or not.“

Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival today called the decision by the Picture House Committee to veto the event at the venue “out-moded, ill-informed and unfair”.

They cited statistics for the 2013 Festival, including the fact that 86% of ticket buyers were female and quoted eminent feminist, Germaine Greer who, when asked at a recent event what she thought of a Burlesque Festival being staged in Hebden Bridge, reportedly replied with: “Well, from what I do know about it Burlesque doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it was probably a lot of fun”. 

The organisers of Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival are urging those who support them to write to Hebden Royd Town Council in advance of the next full council committee meeting on 10 July.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Lib Dem councillor hits back at decision to ban the town's Burlesque festival from using the Picture House cinema, claiming it amounts to cultural censorship.

Councillor James Baker has reacted angrily to the decision telling the HebWeb: "Councillor Press' the chair of the Picture House committee is acting like a later day Mary Whitehouse. Both male and female performers freely choose to participate in a Burlesque festival because they enjoy it, who are we as the Town Council to say they can't use a venue which is meant to be available for the whole community."

"Prudish neo-puritan Labour Councillors should not be acting as moral censors determining what people can and can't see. What's next? Will they start vetting what films are shown too?"

Councillor Baker has said he will be preparing a motion to full council opposing all forms of censorship in an attempt to ensure the Council does not discriminate against forms of lawful activity some Labour Councillors happen to object to. He hopes that members of the public will attend the meeting in support of this motion and the festival.

Read Cllr Susan Press's response and extensive discusssion on the HebWeb Forum

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Update from Burleque Festival following council meeting of 10 July

We were delighted with the turn out at last night’s Town Council meeting and would like to thank everyone who contributed to the debate in public question time. We were pleased that the Council gave us an opportunity to raise concerns and ask questions about the Hebden Bridge Picture House Commitee’s recent decision to refuse our request to stage an event in the venue as part of Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival.

We were disappointed – and a little dismayed – that the “Equal Access to the Picture House” resolution was not passed by the Council , especially as we felt that this resolution had wider implications than just the staging of Burlesque in the venue. However, we trust that the new Sub Committee, established to develop a Booking Policy for the Picture House and to draw up some clear guidelines for all future bookings will mean that we can re apply to stage Burlesque in the Picture House once the new policy is in place. We await the timely outcome of this Committee’s recommendations and trust that the new Sub Committee will consider fully the legal ramifications in establishing a policy which might seek to exclude anyone from using the venue for any other reason than that their activity would be criminal in nature.

We would also like to assure those who spoke in opposition to Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival that we listened carefully to the points raised and we intend to respond responsibly. Specifically, we shall be considering concerns regarding some of the imagery used to advertise this year’s Festival when choosing images for future publicity materials. In addition, we plan to take advice about what steps can be taken by the Festival to ensure that those attending the Festival and those in town over the weekend of the event feel safe and secure in our wonderful town. We take our role as burlesque promoters very seriously and are committed to representing our industry accurately at the same time as working to safeguard women (regardless of whether they have tickets for our events or not).

In the meantime, plans for the 2014 Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival (which will take place 2 – 4 May 2014) are moving on a-pace. We are delighted to be working again with The Little Theatre, Hebden Bridge and Hebden Bridge Town Hall and would like to thank both venues for their continued support and enthusiasm. We are looking forward to what will be a weekend packed to bursting with some of the finest circus artistes, dancers, cabaret performers, vaudeville villains and showgirls from the world of Burlesque and are hopeful that the Hebden Bridge Picture House may still be made available to us as a venue for a large gala performance as part of the Festival. We ask that people who share this hope, add their name to the petition to request that we be granted permission to use the venue here: http://chn.ge/13rLnun

Meanwhile, Heidi Bang Tidy and Lady Wildflower will stage their first ever Haifax show in the new Bedlam Arts Centre Halifax on Sat 20 July and Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School in Hebden Bridge Town Hall on Sun 22 July. Full details can be found atwww.yorkshireburlesque.co.uk We invite both supporters and those still undecided on Burlesque to join us for what we be two events featuring some of our favourite Burlesque and cabaret performers.

Heidi Waddington and Lizzy Goodman - Producers, Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival.

See also:

HebWeb Forum: Burlesque Festival

HebWeb Forum: Middle Class Pole Dancing