Hebden Royd Town Council has put steps in place to avoid a repeat of the burlesque ban at Hebden Bridge Picture House by formulating a new bookings policy.
The policy, which was ratified by full council last week, will see the town council-owned cinema strive to: promote equal opportunities; be open, accessible and accountable in all its decision-making; and be responsive to the needs of the community.
The document was drawn up by a bookings policy sub-committee - made up of Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors, Picture House staff and Friends of the Picture House group members.
That was in response to the controversy caused by the decision of the town council’s Picture House Committee to refuse an application from Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival to hire out the cinema for part of its 2014 event.
Coun Jonathan Timbers, who chaired the sub-committee, said he was delighted with the final outcome of the document and said it put Hebden Royd in a position as an example to follow for other public organisations when it comes to booking policies.
Coun Timbers said: “We are pleased with the result, which puts us in the forefront of local authorities and public authorities in respect of our bookings policy. It’s a standard to which others can aspire.
“The most important thing is it means that if there are acts we feel encourage hate speech or assist with the marginalisation of vulnerable parts of the community, we don’t have to have them - subject to a proper evidence-based process and public discussion.
“The restrictions are for those who promote hate. Ultimately, it is up to the PH manager to decide whether to accept or booking or escalate an issue. My personal view is that burlesque - despite well-founded concerns about it being regressive - would not be caught by the equality provisions, but it’s not my decision.”
The policy states that the initial responsibility for approving booking requests lies with the Picture House manager and Programming and marketing officer. They have the power to approve the booking or refuse it. If they don’t believe they can take a decision on whether to refuse or accept it, the decision goes to the town clerk. If the town clerk is unwilling or unable to take the decision, it will be referred to the Picture House Committee. If a booking is refused, it will be confirmed in writing to the applicant with reasoning for the decision. The applicant can appeal the decision and their case will be heard in front of full council.
To view the policy, go to www.hebdenbridgepicturehouse.co.uk/files/hire-applications-and-booking-process-2013-2014.pdf