A row has broken out after Hebden Royd Town Council refused to let a burlesque group use Hebden Bridge Picture House.
The organisers of Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival wanted to use the venue, which the town council runs, for a one-off performance as part of their 2014 event but have been refused on the grounds that “many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality”.
The decision has generated strong feeling in Hebden Bridge, with some accusing the town council of censorship.
Joint festival organiser Heidi Waddington, aka “Heidi Bang Tidy”, said: “Burlesque is a legal and legitimate art form. We object to being told that the people of Hebden Bridge are not capable of deciding for themselves whether they wish to purchase a ticket for a Burlesque show, that our show is not ‘appropriate’ use of a public building.”
Heidi said that as part of next year’s festival, which takes place from May 2 to May 4, organisers wanted to put on a one-off show at the picture house featuring an international burlesque performer - the only venue in the town with the capacity to host such an event. She said that despite the decision by the Picture House Committee on the town council, next year’s festival will still go ahead and will include an all-male burlesque performance.
The committee rejected the application on the grounds that it “arouses strong feelings, and many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality”.
Chair of the committee Coun Susan Press, who consulted with Labour councillors and the leader of the Liberal Democrat group before the meeting to gauge opinion, said: “We felt that hosting the Burlesque Festival in the picture house was going to be unacceptable for a significant amount of people. We’re not censoring them because there are other venues in Calderdale where the Burlesque Festival could happen.
““It was divided, but on balance, The Friends of the Picture House group were not of the view that it should go ahead.”
Lib Dem town councillor James Baker has said he will be preparing a motion to full council on Wednesday, July 10, opposing all forms of censorship in an attempt to ensure the council does not discriminate against forms of lawful activity.
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