A town council’s ban on burlesque at Hebden Bridge Picture House remains in place despite a lengthy and fiery meeting.
The full council of Hebden Royd met to discuss its picture house committee’s refusal to allow the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival use of the historic cinema - owned by the town council- for a one-off performance.
Around 100 members of the public attended the meeting, which had to be moved to Hebden Bridge Town Hall’s Waterfront Hall because of the large turnout, and argued for and against the decision.
Festival organiser Heidi ‘Heidi Bang Tidy’ Waddington presented the council with a petition protesting the committee’s decision, which contained 1,150 signatures.
She also read out extracts from a letter sent to the council from Equity - the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners. Battling through tears, she also read out a letter from a user of Derian House Children’s Hospice.
Heidi said: “Feelings are clearly very strong, but we feel that the majority of the strong feelings are in support of our use of the picture house for the 2014 festival.”
When asked by Heidi, town clerk Jason Boom said the council had received 23 letters before the agenda for the meeting had been sent out - 22 in favour of the festival being held at the cinema and one against. Prior to the agenda being sent out, 41 communications had been received - 40 in support of the festival and one against.
Local resident Sarah Courtney said: “I have been to see burlesque on a number of occasions and I really enjoyed the cabaret aspect and the anti-establishment feel.
“It might not be the point of the burlesque people, but a lot of the public do view it as objectification of women. I think that it’s great that women are being empowered, but it can’t be at the expense of other women who are not being empowered.”
Local resident Gwen Goddard said: “I go to the cinema very frequently. I chose what I want to see and I buy my ticket. If I’m taking my grandchildren I take extra care with my choice. What I want to know is why the Picture House Committee feels that films like Pulp Fiction and The Rocky Horror Show are appropriate and burlesque is not.”
Liberal Democrat James Baker, who called for the removal of the committee’s chair Coun Susan Press, put forward a motion to allow “Equal Access To The Picture House”, which was rejected by the majority of councillors.
Coun Baker said: “I don’t want us to become one of those councils that goes around banning things. We already have a system in place which governs what can and can’t be shown in a public building - the licensing system.”
Coun Susan Press put forward an alternative motion, which was carried, calling for a sub-committee to be set up to formulate a booking policy. This would be made up of two Labour and two Lib Dem Councillors - none from the current Picture House Committee - the town clerk, a member of the Friends of the Picture House Group and the cinema’s manager.
Coun Baker called for the ban to rescinded, but because the Picture House Committee has delegated powers it was not possible for the committee to even re-consider it for six months. The only way it could be done any sooner is if six councillors write to the town clerk calling for the decision to be re-examined.
If and when the town clerk receives this letter the matter will then go to the next meeting of the full council. It is then up to the full council, whether they decide to overturn it or stick with the committee’s original decision.
Currently, five members of the town council’s Lib Dem group have drafted a letter to the town clerk and Coun Baker said he was going to give the Labour group a chance to support their letter.