Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Tricycle Theatre explains why they are not hosting the UK Jewish Film Festival

Controversy has broken out over the Tricycle Theatres's decision not to run the UK Jewish Film Festival while it is funded by any parties in the present conflict in Gaza.

Here is the statement issued on the Theatre's website:

‘We have been contacted by several patrons who have been given misleading information about the Tricycle and the UK Jewish Film Festival. We would like to set down an accurate account.
The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict.  For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.  We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality. 
We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.  
To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.’  Indhu Rubasingham

A comment from Nicholas Hytner:  ’I greatly regret the UKJFF’s decision to leave the Tricycle cinema. Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture or their desire to host a festival that would have included films from all over the world, including Israel. It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival. The Tricycle serves a diverse community with a notably diverse repertoire and it has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict.
It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture and I deplore any misrepresentation of the Tricycle’s position. I support Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle without reservation.’ 
A comment from Dominic Cooke: ‘The Tricycle is a venue with a history of celebrating plural cultures and viewpoints. A central strand of this work is the platform it has given to Jewish artists, a recent example of which was Indhu Rubasingham’s delightful production of Paper Dolls, which was set in Israel. The UK Jewish Film Festival is similarly plural in spirit, giving voice to a diverse range of Jewish talents and viewpoints.
As two organisations celebrating diversity, they seem to me to be a perfect match, which is why the UKJFF’s decision to withdraw from the Tricycle is so very sad.
By taking funding from the Israeli government, the UKJFF are coercing the artists, supporters and the venue involved in the festival into a public association with the actions of a government they may not agree with. This runs counter to the values of pluralism which are central to the Tricycle’s identity. That is why I fully support the Tricycle in their effort to encourage the UKJFF to accept their offer of alternative funding and hugely regret the Festival’s decision to force the theatre’s hand by withdrawing.’
A comment from Philip Himberg, Artistic Director, Sundance Theatre Program: ‘I am the Artistic Director of a major American theatre company, and the author of Paper Dolls, a play set in Israel, which looks at the warm and loving relationship between an Israeli citizen and his caretaker. The play’s world premiere was exquisitely produced by the Tricycle Theatre in its world premiere in 2013, and sensitively directed by Indhu Rubasingham. I believe, without a doubt, that as regards the current crisis in the Middle East, the Tricycle must remain neutral by refusing sponsorship from any government directly involved in the conflict. As a great lover of Jewish theatrical culture, (I will soon be supporting the development of a new Yiddish language opera), there was a clear way for the UKJFF’s celebration of diverse Jewish culture to go forward at the Tricycle – but at this particular moment in time, utilizing funds from any of the governments in power in the region would be taking an unfair political stand.’
A comment from David Lan: ‘What matters is not what is happening in Kilburn but what has been happening in Gaza and in Israel. Violence will only produce more violence – theatre has been saying this for 3000 years. The Tricycle have acted morally and with sensitivity. I support Indhu and the Board and hope that all theatre people throughout the world will do the same.’
A comment from Christopher Haydon: ‘It is wrong to describe the Tricycle’s decision as anti-Semitic – their commitment to Jewish people and culture is clear. Any arts organisation has the right to make decisions about who they will or will not accept money from – whether directly or indirectly. Personally, I feel very ambivalent about the whole notion of cultural boycotts – particularly around such a painfully complex issue as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But regardless, the Tricycle in no way tried to boycott the festival. A difference of principle around funding arose between them and the UKJFF. The Tricycle offered an entirely sensible alternative in good faith and have demonstrated a clear commitment to trying to make it happen. They have behaved reasonably and fairly and attempts by some to misrepresent their actions only serves to poison a vital debate. Indhu and her team have my full support.’
A comment from Sean Holmes: ‘Having directed many productions at the Tricycle I am writing to strongly support the Board’s decision regarding the UKJFF. It is important that the Tricycle remains politically neutral. It is a bastion of openness and tolerance and I regret the UKJFF’s decision to politicise the legitimate concerns of the Tricycle and refuse their offer of an eminently sensible compromise.’
A comment from Richard Eyre: ‘I wholeheartedly support the position of Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle Theatre and deplore any attempt to misrepresent that position.’
A comment from Dominic Hill: ‘The Tricycle is without doubt one of the most inclusive, multi-cultural, diverse and open-minded arts organisations in the UK. It must be, and be seen to be, politically neutral. I wholeheartedly support Indhu’s position.’
A comment from Dawn Walton: ‘The Tricycle is a space that has always delivered and supported work from a truly diverse community of artists. I support Indhu and the Board of the Tricycle Theatre for a position which seeks to maintain The Tricycle as a place of political neutrality. I support their sensitive approach in a challenging situation.’

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  1. More actions like this, please, and from as many individuals and organisations as possible. The scope for affecting Israeli and US policy is very limited and all available legitimate means should be utilised. The degree of credibility of the inevitable accusations of anti-Semitism will be in inverse proportion to the numbers who make their voices heard; apologists for Netanyahu and the Zionist right can accuse individual fruitcakes of racial/religious prejudice but not so easily a huge proportion of the UK population.
    Mike Hine

  2. Powerful piece from Rabbi Michael Lerner - "Israel has broken my heart" http://fb.me/2PHMpyzaO.

  3. Good for them, good to see an organisation sticking to it's principles

  4. There was a pitiful performance - pun intended - on BBC Newsnight last night by the Jewish Leadership Council's Simon Johnson attacking the Tricycle's decision. Philippe Sands put the case for the theatre.