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Burlesque Festival

From Lady Wildflower

Saturday, 29 June 2013

If anyone would be interested in reading a full event report of our festival which includes statistics about our charitable giving, economic impact on the local area, and audience demographics, please click here.

From Tamsin C

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Well done. Good to hear you won't be hosting Burlesque Festival. Agree with your statement

From Cllr Susan Press

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I find it extraordinary that Hebweb did not ask me to clarify as Picture House Committee chair what actually happened at the meeting and prior to the decision.

Because I knew thus was a contentious issue I consulted all Labour Town Councillors and the leader of the Lib Dems Tony Hodgins. He agreed with the consensus view the Festival was 'inappropriate' .

I am no Mary Whitehouse. I recognise opinion is divided and some women see Burlesque as empowering.

Our councillors also recognise that for many others, particularly women, burlesque also represents the sexual objectification of women and it raised difficult issues for us.

Our Friends of The Picture House rep confirmed opinion re the Festival was sharply divided as far as they were concerned

We recognised we were in a difficult situation whichever decision we made but decided on balance that offending a significant portion of Hebden Royd was not acceptable . There are other more appropriate venues in Calderdale where the Burlesque Festival can happen.

From Richard Woodcock

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I wouldn't want to attend a burlesque event,but I think that the council's ban on using the Picture House to stage an event next year is disproportionate - they're not the EDL or the BNP for goodness' sake. Violent films are often shown there, as someone has already said, and it's possible to see risqué standup there, and I guess that's fine with me - I just don't go. I think this ban sets a dangerous precedent, and I would like to see it reversed.

From Anne H

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I find it amusing that, in Hebden Bridge, the news is not 'local residents are reeling from the shock of risque burlesque festival' as it probably would be in any other small Yorkshire town, but instead - burlesque performers are reeeling at the shock that they are not universally accepted and appreciated in said small Yorkshire town!

Well, here's another shock - not everyone in Hebden Royd is as liberal (small 'l') as the media, and this forum, likes to make out. There are many straight-laced people, people with high moral standards and a few prudes and bigots. Some will object to burlesque and if it's a significant number then the council are right not to actively promote it.

From Cllr James Baker

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A contentious issue like this should have been refered back to full council. I've spoken to Cllr Hodgins today and he says it was a bad decesion and he felt he was given an accurate picture of what this festival was. At our next group meeting I hope the Lib Dems will decide to oppose this as a group.

It is my intention to bring a motion to Council opposing cultural censorship and allowing equal access to community facilities like the Pictue House. Sadly this motion may not be able to reverse this ban now it has been made as I believe the committee has devolved powers to determine issues relating o the Picture House. However I hope the committee wil reverse the decesion based on the views of many people who would like it to go ahead.

For those who don't enjoy this sort of thing then I suggest you don't goto the event. I personally don't like some films or shows and I just stay away and let other people get on with living their lives. If we all sought to ban what we found offensive it wouldn't be a very free society to live in.

I hope the festival supporters appreciate many people and liberal councillors are opposed to this ban.

From H Gregg

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Will the Picture House Committee now be looking at future film screenings to check if they might be 'inappropriate'?

I agree with Richard - this sets a seriously dangerous precedent.

What we will be able to see at the Picture House in future could now be decided by the moral standpoint of, presumably, just over half of the members of that committee! (do we know who they were?)

From Sarah C

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hello again! Reading back through the previous HebWeb forum on this topic (Middle Class Pole Dancing) I was interested by Glorian Gray's posting of 2 June. Glorian says: "So some men and women think that burlesque is sexist, choose to dismiss the strong, intelligent, informed, creative female artists and business women who make it what it is, because we live in a patriarchal culture, and because some men might mistakenly think the events are to turn them on. That is up to them..." I have to say, that pretty much sums up my point.

I get the historical reference; I can see where they are coming from and agree that much of what many/most people into burlesque believe in is laudable. However (isn't there always a 'however'?!) for me the point is that this cannot be taken out of context of the current socio-political climate, where there is still 'page 3' and widespread violence against women and girls, where many people are happy to make/not challenge rape jokes, and perpetuate sexism, objectification of women, misogyny, homophobia, etc, etc.

Of course I believe that the majority of burlesque performers/audience do not fall into this group and are strong pro-equality activists, and maybe if we lived in an ideal world where women (and some men) were not routinely treated as sexual objects then burlesque would be great. But we don't.

And sadly I do think that burlesque, in balance, at the moment, adds a sort of validation to the objectification of women. It is seen as fairly respectable, an event that is mainstream enough to be put on in a town hall or other publicly owned venue. But also still seen as something titillating; if not by the performers, but by the general public. Once burlesque is accepted as mainstream in this way, apparently endorsed by the establishment, it makes people question their feelings about it. Many people have said to me words to the effect of, "I don't feel comfortable about burlesque, but because it is so 'mainstream' and apparently 'politically correct' if I express my sentiments, people will think I'm narrow minded, a killjoy, anti-liberal, neo-puritanical, uptight, etc."

Consequently, the apparent civic endorsement of something that is still contentious stops people expressing their opinions; and while we continue to live in such a patriarchal culture (Glorian's expression) I believe that open debate and discussion is vital.

From Cllr Richard Scorer

Sunday, 30 June 2013

I am a town councillor but not on the PH committee. Had I been I would have voted against allowing this event on council premises.

It is a bit hysterical to talk about "bans" and "censorship". Nobody is preventing the burlesque from performing in Hebden Bridge. The issue is whether they can use a community facility. In considering this it's reasonable to take into account the fact that many people in the community will be uncomfortable about it. It's a question of degree- presumably not even Cllr Baker would be happy with a lap dancing event being staged on HRTC premises, so one will always have to draw the line somewhere and I think it's reasonable to say that this event falls the wrong side of the line.

I note Cllr Hodgins is now denouncing his own vote on the committee. This is not the first time this has happened - I recall Cllr Hodgins voting in favour of a particular grant on Community Funding Committee and then denouncing the decision on Hebweb the next day, omitting to mention that he had voted in favour! Even by Lib Dem standards of facing both ways on issues this is pretty silly.

From G Golden

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Have I been transported back a hundred years?

I find this censorship very sad and unnecessary, are people so afraid of some sensuality?

This is a totally legal form of entertainment that both performers and audiences enjoy. Yes women, men, bodies, feathers and dancing are appealing to others! Newsflash! There is no wrong in that if people enjoy it and it is respectful.

I don't believe burlesque has any relationship to sexual violence myself as alluded to above, I think it's beautiful theatre but there is some element of sexuality and sensuality to it, so it irks me when people deny this aspect. It also irks me that people focus solely on this.

Nor do I see it as degrading but in fact as empowering woman, celebrating women and guys for their power and bodaciousness and I think the prudes need to have a look at themselves really.

If you don't enjoy burlesque just give it a miss, same as a movie, a band.

From Cllr James Baker

Sunday, 30 June 2013

I think inferring Burlesque is part of a wider culture of objectification is entirely wrong. Many men like myself who have campaigned against violence towards women (with White Ribbon) are actually put off from lending more time and energy to the cause by certain people who then use it as an excuse to attack, prohibit and ban things like lads mags or Burlesque (which is more funny and sartorical than titilating).

These campaigns of censorship are are creating gender conflict and entrenching problematic views rather than educating people. There is absolutley no scientific evidence of a causational link between Burlesque and violence toward women. To suggest such a link is offensive and insulting to all the performers. How do you think they feel when they start essentially getting blammed for creating a 'culture of objectification.'

Secondly the idea that the Town Council allowing an external organisation to put on a production in one of its venues represents a civic endorsement is false. Hebden Royd would no more endorsing the festival than it does endorse every film shown. The cinema is meant to be there for everyone to use, not just those people who meet Councillor Press and her committees moral approval.

Talking of films how many of those screened at the cinema portray violence, sexual violence, titillation etc? if you universalise the maxim behind the burlesque ban than what else could/should be banned/vetted by our moral guardians?

Would Monthy Python's Life of Brian get banned too for upsetting religious sensibilities. After all if supposed objectification of women is a good enough excuse to ban something surely something that offends some people's sensibilities on religion, violence, political, grounds should be banned too? What if the Town Council got offended by a gay act could they ban that too? Why are the morals of a handful of councillors imposed on the community?

We live in a community. There will be times when some people do things others are offended by. So long as it doesn't cause others harm being offended does not give you a right to restrict other people's behaviour.

This decesion should have been referred to full council so all councillors had a chance to debate it, rather than the handful appointed to the committee. If the Pictue House is going to prohibit certain lawful acts then it should have a clear policy agreed in advance, and not just determine things on the hoof like this. There needed to be much more debate and public discussion before a decesion was made.

From Mary Krell

Sunday, 30 June 2013

I would just like to say that, as a professional woman who has supported the cinema and who paid full price to attend the burlesque festival, this decision (as mentioned above) sets a dangerous precedent and seems more than just a little inappropriate.

I find popular media (including some things regularly shown in town) to be far more offensive to me as a woman than anything I witnessed at the burlesque festival.

If the decision to refuse use of the Picture House stands I shall cancel my membership (as will others in my household) and I shall encourage others to do so.

Film is an art. Burlesque is an art form. You need like neither to believe that it is not the role of a town council to censor either.

From Robert Collins

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Here are two local people who have built a spectacular, creative, distinctive local business from the ground up. In the face of a crippling recession and everything bad that has happened to Hebden Bridge in the past year, here's a vibrant and colourful success story.

What does their home town do? Kick them hard in the teeth. How sad.


From Graham Barker

Sunday, 30 June 2013

This is indeed a shabby decision that needs looking at again. It's a depressing reminder of the days of Mary Whitehouse, Watch Committees and other busybodies intent on forcing moral sweaters on the majority of us who felt perfectly OK in our moral shirt-sleeves.

At the very least the Picture House Committee could have sent a friendlier letter to the Burlesque Festival. It wouldn't have killed them to write: 'Sorry, it's not for us but good luck with it anyway.' Instead, it comes across as pompous and almost self-delusional. It states: 'Burlesque arouses strong feelings'. Does it really? Among most people it probably arouses no feelings at all either way. And for those who actively don't like it, the remedy has already been pointed out by others: just stay away.

We're told elsewhere that 'offending a significant portion of Hebden Royd was not acceptable', and that 'many people in the community will be uncomfortable about it'. Where's the evidence to back up either assertion? In particular, where's the evidence that the interests of those who object outweigh the interests of those who want the event to go ahead?

There's also the small matter that the Picture House needs to pay its way. The decision should have been primarily a commercial and not moral one. (If they want to be that po-faced, the town council can always cover itself by issuing a disclaimer.) If an event is legal and its organisers are solvent, there should be a prejudice in favour of its going ahead unless there is a strong counter argument - for example, a real possibility that Picture House staff will be at risk or that there will be a breach of the peace. As far as I can see, there is no valid counter argument at all here.

From Leon Hampson

Monday, 1 July 2013

In a completely unrelated event the guerilla bed makers of Hebden Bridge have been at it again, stringing another bed sheet across Hebden Water. This time daubing "NOW THAT'S MORE LIKE IT!" under the current Hebden Bridge Arts Festival's promotional banner.

Is this turning into a storm in D-Cup? And, is this reader entirely wrong in his supposition that what lies behind the Picture House Committee's decision is more intellectual snobbery than genuine concern for the soul's of its righteous inhabitants? What passes for 'high' art in Hebden Bridge, it would seem, is not that which would aspire to reach a wider audience in a larger, more (or, not, as it would now seem) accommodating venue in 2014.

I would challenge the members of the Picture House Committee to give further appraisal of their decision, and question whether it had been informed by having actually attended a Burlesque event. The minutes from the meeting are not available as yet, so this can not be discerned.

In their (unconfirmed) statement, 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…" Pity about that one, the horse had already bolted after the Burlesque Festival closed its doors on the 2013 gala event at the Town Hall back in May. Or, had they forgotten that one? A call has gone out to the performers to retrieve their garments which are current bestrewn between the lampposts along Bridge Gate. Oh, sorry, my friend has just corrected me. They were for the Arts Festival.


From Duncan Watson

Monday, 1 July 2013

I am the current Chair of the Friends of the Picture House Committee and one of two representatives from the Friends who are invited to attend the Hebden Royd Town Council Picture House (HRTCPH) Committee meetings. The Friends' representatives do not have voting rights but are asked to represent the views of the Friends' Committee and the Friends as a whole. I was one of the two Friends representatives at the meeting last week when the hosting of a burlesque night at the Picture House was considered.

As Cllr Press notes above the views of the Friends' Committee on this issue were mixed with some support for the proposal, some ambivalence and some opposition, we presented these views to the HRTCPH Committee, and I hope as such we presented the views of the Friends more widely that the Friends Committee seek to represent at the HRTCPH Committee meetings.

My personal view was that it would not have been appropriate to host a burlesque night at the Picture House; I add below some reasons for my taking that stance and some thoughts on the decision process itself. All the following is my view and explicitly not intended to represent the views of the Friends' Committee nor the Friends of the Picture House more widely.

Cllr Press spoke eloquently and passionately about the issue at the meeting and defended the position that the HRTCPH Committee ought to not endorse the proposal for the burlesque night to be held at the Picture House. However, it would not be accurate to claim that this was a one person decision, there was much discussion of the issue by those present and all who spoke both for and against the proposal did so with equal passion; there was a consequently insightful and thorough discussion followed by a free vote on the issue from the five Councillors present. A majority voted for the Picture House not to be used for the proposed burlesque event.

The HRTCPH Committee has been granted delegated powers to, inter alia, decide on the day to day management and programming. This decision falls within its delegated powers and consequently it would not be appropriate for this to be taken back to full Council for further discussion and it would be certainly detrimental to effective governance of the Picture House were the HRTCPH Committee's decision to be overruled by full Council on this matter. It is important that the HRTCPH Committee has its delegated powers not just in name but in substance to, if decisions it makes are undermined by full Council then it robs the committee of its legitimacy and risks alienating those Councillors, Friends, and HRTC and Picture House staff who work hard on that committee to make its good governance a success.

There were a number of reasons why it would not have been appropriate to host the proposed event, and some of these have been reflected in some of the posts above so I may repeat a little:

Stating that a burlesque event does not lead or contribute to the objectification of women (or indeed men - I omit this parenthetical remark in the ensuing but take it as tacit) is not sufficient to make this true. Neither is the intention of the organisers of a burlesque event to not lead or contribute to the objectification of women sufficient to make this the case. There is a clear sense in which women are being objectified by some potential, and probably actual, audience members at burlesque events and this alone provides grounds for approaching the hosting of such an event at a community owned asset such as the Picture House with caution.

There is a risk of the event being exploitative of the performers and it is not clear how this can be adequately safeguarded against even with the best intentions of the organisers. There is the well rehearsed debate around the freedom of the choice of the performers to take part in the event and all such points made in favour of a burlesque event not being exploitative because of this consideration extend equally to stripping, lap-dancing and prostitution. This is not to equate burlesque with any of these (though certain aspects of it are on a spectrum with stripping at the very least) but merely to demonstrate that if you are happy that freedom of choice is enough to safeguard against exploitation from burlesque events there are, prima facie, grounds for you also thinking that it is enough to safeguard against exploitation in these other arenas too. To the extent that you believe freedom of choice is not sufficient in those arenas to safeguard against exploitation you ought also to consider why it would be sufficient for burlesque.

This is not a debate about censorship as some have tried to brand it - to censor something is to seek to deny it a voice. HRTCPH Committee are not seeking to deny the burlesque festival a voice rather they are taking a stand against associating themselves with something that they consider to be felt by many to be demeaning to women. If the EDL were refused permission to hold a rally at the cinema because HRTCPH Committee did not wish to be associated with a group considered by many to be intolerant of racial equality those who have framed the burlesque debate in terms of censorship would be unlikely to similarly frame the debate about the EDL rally. (For clarity this is not to seek to equate burlesque and the EDL.)

It was my impression that the HRTCPH Committee were well aware of the strong opinions that surround the debate on burlesque and the ensuing fallout from the decision they made. In many respects the easy decision for them to make would have been to endorse the event, grant it permission to be held at the Picture House and to bring in the much needed significant revenue that the event would be sadly likely to generate. I commend the HRTCPH Committee for not taking that easy decision.

From Joanne Mitchinson

Monday, 1 July 2013

Councils are not allowed to veto entertainment or premises licences based on moral grounds, I am surprised that they are allowed to veto a venue hire based on moral grounds. The council ought to be aware of the possibility of being judicially reviewed on the grounds of making an unreasonable decision as a public body.

I agree with the poster above, that you can't take burlesque out of context. As a society, we have broadly decided, based on certain types of (loudly vocalised) feminist ideas, that women being openly sexual and/or showing their bodies, in ways that might be attractive to the male gaze, is against gender equality. So obviously burlesque is going to be interpreted this way by people who think this way.

But it is a choice to decide to see women who use sexuality and their bodies as against equality. It is not intrinsically so. It depends on the paradigm (way of thinking) you have decided to adopt. There is a large number of people in the UK who see burlesque as challenging ideas about how women should behave and use their bodies. These women are unruly, creative, entrepreneurial, strong and unashamed of their sexuality, refusing to allow the male gaze to dictate how they behave or express themselves. And this is just as right, just as valid, as any other way of viewing burlesque. It is not appropriate for a council to make decisions based on opinions about women's bodies and exploitation, however well-meaning the intent.


From Cllr James Baker

Monday, 1 July 2013

There are licencing laws to govern what can be shown where, Cllr Scorer. The legal system in place for regulating live events that fairly balances people's freedom to put on events with the impact on local communities. People applying for licenses are able to put their case and objectors can too. If the Picture House is properly licenced for live theatre such as a Burlesque festival I don't see what the problem is.

I have a few questions, perhaps the Chair of the committee can answer them:

  • Did the Burlesque festival have a chance to address the Picture House committee?
  • Why was a managerial decesion referred to the Picture House committee?
  • If the chair knew it would be controversial why wasn't it referred to full council so all councillors got a chance to debate the matter?
  • What policy determined this decision? If there isn't one, will one now be developed to determine future decisions?
  • Have the Labour group come to a collective view on banning Burlesque from the Picture House?


From Rick Savage

Monday, 1 July 2013

I am proud to say Heidi is my girlfriend. I think the whole community far and wide should get behind her and Hebden Burlesque Festival.

Here's why:

It was only 18 months ago when I attended my first burlesque event. Before I attended with Heidi I held the belief that burlesque was much like a lap dancing venues where there were women who had no clothes on at all and would be deliberately sexually provocative!! Yes I have been to a lap dancing club before and on the one occasion. What I quickly learnt within the first 5 minutes of the burlesque show in Leeds was it was not extremely sexual.

Over a period of 18 months I have been to a number of shows, have gotten to know over 30 different performers and have spoke to many of performers on a one to one basis. I love to know what makes people tick. So I asked them why they do it?

These were the reasons:

1. Gives me a chance to be creative and mix with some of the most creative, wonderful, dynamic people on the planet.

2. I want to spread my love for old style metal to the nation in a way that captures the audience's attention and hopefully thoroughly entertains them whilst doing something that I love.

3. To express my inner creativity using my body.

4. It's creative, fun, uplifting and inspiring.

5. Burlesque for me personally is about being in a safe place where I can express myself creatively. I am choreographer, costumer, joke writer and director. It's about entertaining the audiences and having fun. It's raw. It's vibrant. And there is no other art form like it for an open two-way relationship with the audience.

Initially, I was surprised by their responses and when the performers get to know you they give complete honesty. I have never heard of any performer female or male say "to turn the people on and to arouse them sexually" and I have never heard any performer say they do it for the cash, because most performers pay more in travel and costumes than they ever make in money. Time and time again I hear them say "because I love it" or "I love the people that come".

I believe Cllr Susan Press is uneducated on this matter and so is the rest of the committee who voted against the festival staging an event at the picture house. They quite clearly have never been to a burlesque event. First, they are not full of seedy old men perving away at the performers. The customers that come to these events do not cause trouble or cause fights, they come for the best comedy, the best live entertainment and the best burlesque. In the majority of audiences that I have seen most of the people attending have been women (70%). Approximate 2000 people have attended Heidi's events over the past 12 months and many of these people have come from our local community.

As a smoker, I tend to stand outside and chat with the customers and also ask what they think and get different answers, but most who have never been before say its "harmless fun and good entertainment", or like me they say "I thought it was going to be like a strip joint but it wasn't"….My advice to Cllr Press is before making a decision like this is come along to a show and I am sure you will come away with a new appreciation for this fun, amazing art form. I will personally chaperone you.

Cllr Press states that she "knew this would be a contentious issue" so she asked the other labour party members and the leader of the Liberals for their opinion. This is not really democratic. Why not ask a wider cross section of the community? This would have been truly democratic. I for one personally due to this issue will not vote for a Labour Town Councillor again. My reason is no local or national government should censor events.

Last week, I was at the Picture House to see Daniel Kitson and it was a fantastic night, however I am sure many local people would not have approved of some of the things he said and could have taken it as offensive. We have freedoms and some of these have been eroded by the Picture House committee this week.

I can understand the Picture House looking into this carefully. If I was the custodian of the Picture House I would look at things very carefully. The Dewsbury Town Hall hosted Burlesque events and 700 people attended. How many complained? Just the 1 and this must have been a big issue to the locals because on the comment on the newspaper advert only 5 responded.(Huddersfield Examiner). Another Council has taken the plunge too this time it is Exeter City Council and finally even Calderdale are progressive.

Burlesque is not for everyone but there is definitely a strong market for the art form, both locally and nationally. I suspect most people will not have strong opinions either way and may just say "I have never been or would go but I can see no harm – Let it be!" Others may see it as offensive and these opinions must still be respected but should they mean that the local Council should now censor an event? I say whole heartedly NO.

Rick (Mr BT)

From Simon Hayles

Monday, 1 July 2013

I agree that this sets a seriously bad precedent. If it's legal and commercially viable I'd say there was a duty to accept the booking. What's the alternative - an empty house?

If you find burlesque offensive or uncomfortable - don't go, but don't deny others the chance to do so!

From Tess Bolton

Monday, 1 July 2013

Having been to many Burlesque performances I am surprised to hear people argue that it objectifies women. I know women who have gained a new and, yes, empowered, relationship with their bodies through this amazing, creative, cabaret art. The audiences have mostly comprised of women at these events too, and have been encouraging and supportive of those taking the stage. Mostly I have just laughed my a** off...it's very entertaining to watch, you should try it, if you haven't.

I have been to the Picture House and have seen films which have disturbed and upset me and have truly objectified women. Will films now be banned if they have such 'unsuitable' content? Or will the people of this community be allowed to choose for themselves whether or not to go and see something?

I am quite able to make choices about what I go to see.

It seems very simple to me that the decision not to allow this festival to make use of this venue is flawed and based more on prejudice than actual experience of burlesque. It should be reversed and we should be supporting this amazing festival.

From Jason Elliott

Monday, 1 July 2013

I am disappointed by the decision on the Picture House Committee to reject the application by the Burlesque Festival on the grounds of their own personal opinions and tastes.

This does not seem to have been done objectively in any way, considering that the event contributes quite substantially to the economics of the town (due to 75% of the audience coming from out of the area) and, in this case, would be putting a lot of money into HRTC coffers too. In addition, they raised over £700 for charity.

Personally, I admit that burlesque is not my cup of tea, I'm just not really that interested, but to suggest that in some way it is a threat to society seems extraordinary.

If this had gone ahead, to say that "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" seems hypocritical. This would imply that HRTC is happy to be associated with films that have plenty of gratuitous violence and uses of the "n word", like Pulp Fiction, or films that could be reasonably said to objectify women, like the James Bond movies.

Perhaps whoever in the committee said "many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality" could explain why 86% of ticket buyers at the last Burlesque Festival were female...

As I said, I am not particularly interested in Burlesque, and would be unlikely to attend the event, but I am reminded of the famous Martin Niemöller poem:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

From Sarah Long

Monday, 1 July 2013

(to copy what I'll be emailing to relevant bodies)

I am writing to express my dismay at the decision to deny permission for the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival to host a Gala performance at the Hebden Bridge Picture House - and more than that, my extreme unease at the implications of the reasoning given for this decision.
I had been intending to write for some time since the debate arose around the use of the Town Hall for this year's festival, it seems the voices of criticism have been rather quicker off the mark, or perhaps just in positions of influence.

While I appreciate that (like any art form or act) Burlesque may not be to everyone's taste, I personally rejoiced to see the festival launched last year, and have enjoyed several shows locally. As a "larger" lady, who suffers from poor self image, depression and anxiety - I have found it imensely reassuring and encouraging to see women of all shapes and sizes expressing themselves with confidence and support, proving you don't have to be a size zero to be sexy, and strong. Similarly, those male performers I have seen are seldom the "typical" chiselled images of masculinity the mainstream media forces down our throats and pours pressure on young people to emulate. People from all sections of society, people of different sizes, ethnicity, sexual orientation, from wherever they are on the gender spectrum - take part in, enjoy and are enriched by Burlesque.

The human body is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor is sex. We are beautiful creatures and sexuality is a defining part of our natures - whether we consider ourselves deeply sexual beings, or completely asexual. Sexuality doesn't just mean the sexual act. Whether you laugh at bawdy jokes, enjoy dressing in particular types of clothing or flirting with your friends or colleagues - or not - is all part of how we as human beings express our sexual natures. For some people, perhaps that begins and ends at the bedroom door, and is all very serious. It's certainly not for me. And I would hate for someone who feels like that to assume that I wear lipstick or a corset because of "the Patriarchy". I do it because it makes me feel good.

Given that Burlesque is not illegal, and that people are quite able to make a decision not to purchase a ticket and attend something they find offensive or distasteful (much as I do if I decide not to go see films where thirty year old Action Men and Barbies are inexplicably still in the American school system and dressing provocatively, before being brutally raped and murdered - because it's alright, they're not really 13.) - I find it massively troubling that someone is acting as guardian of my moral sensibilities by refusing to "be associated" with the Burlesque Festival. Much as I thought the makeshift "Middle-class pole dancing" banner which was erected earlier in the year was patronising (especially as I saw a man straightening it out) - I fully support those people's right to express their opinion and protest if they feel that strongly. I would support their right to picket outside the performance if that's the best thing they had to do with their evening.

But for a public body to feel it has the right to say that it denies a local business permission to carry out legal activities on its premises, and in the current economic climate, refuses the revenue that the performance would bring in - because some people don't like the idea of it, I find outrageous. Not to mention the risk of losing income to the town as a whole if the festival is unable to go ahead, not to mention the insult to two formidable local business women and their colleagues by the implicit disapproval of the way they choose to make a living. Or the slight against many people in Hebden Royd who attend and enjoy Burlesque.

The Picture House has shown (and I hope will continue to show) many films with scenes or depictions which some may find uncomfortable, or distasteful. The only selection process I would expect them to go on would be - is it legal (obviously), do we think there is an audience here, will it make us any money. Anything beyond that, based on morality or taste - can be nothing but subjective and is bordering on censorship. No - in fact is censorship. How it can be ok to show The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and have people in the audience coming dressed as characters (looking spookily like Burlesque performers) - or indeed a film about Burlesque, but not actual real life people performing dance, comedy, and yes, some more alluring pieces - I just fail to understand.

Other more qualified people will probably object to the lazy association of Burlesque with an increase in sexual violence or letcherous behaviour outside the venue. However, what I will say is that if you take that argument to its conclusion, then you are saying that the bad behaviour of men is not their own fault, but that of whatever it was that aroused them - i.e. "she was asking for it" if she wore a short skirt. It's nonsense, we're human beings, not animals, and if people don't know how to control themselves it is not the fault of Burlesque.

I urge you to reconsider and allow the performance to take place. Let people make their own choice whether to watch or not, and do not deny people who find this art form enriching the right to see strong, sensual, and diverse role models. Overcoming oppression is not about stopping someone have power over you, but about taking that power back, and having a choice about what you do with it. Including the choice to take your clothes off if that's what you want to do with your body.

From Jason Elliott

Monday, 1 July 2013

I was curious as to what was actually discussed so I've just gone on to the hebdenroyd.org.uk website to look at the minutes of the Picture House Committee meeting about this subject.

It appears that the last minuted meeting was on April 30th 2012.

Is it now the case that these meetings have been private and unminuted for the last 14 months? If so why, when they were recorded between June 2011 and April 2012? What has changed?

If they haven't met since April last year, why does it say the next meeting is "28th May 2012 at 7.30pm in the Greenwood Room" yet there are no published minutes of this, nor anything since, at least on the HRTC website? Did it not happen?

If it is the case that the Committee is well informed before making decisions, why, in that last recorded meeting, do they refer to the Hebden Bridge Jazz Festival when the event in question was the Blues Festival? (This is akin to calling an Irish person English.)

If one of the Committee members could enlighten me that would be appreciated. I did phone HRTC to try and find out if I was looking in the wrong place this morning but the call just rang out.

Sadly, it seems that some of the original concerns raised on this forum when then subject of "our cinema" (funded by our Council Tax to Calderdale) becoming "our cinema" was discussed seem disturbingly accurate.

Update: Since I wrote this post this morning, I have spoken to officers of HRTC and they were looking into why the minutes haven't been added since April 2012 and working to rectify that, so maybe they will be there now. (See Picture House Minutes 2012-2013)

I was also informed that the minutes of the meeting in question will remain secret until after the full Council meeting on Wednesday 10th July.

The public are allowed in of course, but will need to be there by 7.30 as representations by the public are made at the beginning of the session.

From Mabel W

Monday, 1 July 2013

I first saw a burlesque show about 6 years ago and admit I had mixed feelings about it beforehand. I was very happy to have my mind put at rest after an evening of watching some of the funniest, most engaging and clever performances I'd ever experienced.

I've been lucky enough to work on some burlesque shows (in a non-dancing capacity) and the performers I met were just fantastic people. It's a real shame that the Picture House has taken this decision.

A couple of years back I went to see the film "The Antichrist" by Lars von Trier there, in which a woman is depicted giving herself a clitorectomy with a large pair of shears. I made my own personal decision that I probably wouldn't bother with any films by that director again, as I was quite bothered by the film. But I would not have expected the Picture House not to show it on the basis that some people might be offended.......

From Mary Krell

Monday, 1 July 2013

I would just like to reiterate that this sets a shocking and dangerous (if even legal) precedent.

The Picture House committee seems to suggest that the objectification of women is the core reason that the event in question should be denied access to the venue.

I would like to remind the committee that most (if not all) of their films objectify women in some way. If the committee would like me to present my case citing references from any particular school of film theory I am more than happy to do so. I believe the case could be made for every movie I have seen or considered seeing there in the past year (including some of the, "family friendly" films).

Until the Picture House stops showing films that objectify women (not to mention those that make fun of other unsavoury acts such as murder and unkindness), there is no basis for the decision that has been made.

I am happy, if required, to speak to any (even every) film shown at the Picture House as I cannot see any that are entirely free from presenting some form of objectification.

Audiences choose what to see at the cinema. Whey can they not be trusted in this instance?

Frankly shocked and furious.
Soon-to-be-former member/supporter of the picture house.
M. Krell

From Cllr James Baker

Monday, 1 July 2013

Duncan comments that

"Stating that a burlesque event does not lead or contribute to the objectification of women (or indeed men - I omit this parenthetical remark in the ensuing but take it as tacit) is not sufficient to make this true."

I agree but conversely stating it does contribute to the objectification of women or men doesn't make it true either. You actually have to prove with evidence that this is the case. The onerous is on those enforcing the ban to do this.

The Town Council is at risk of infringing the article 8 rights to a private life and article 10 freedom of expression under the 1998 Human Rights Act as guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights.

I would also like to make clear my motion will seek to set future policy at the Picture House rather than reverse a decision which will need to be rescinded by the committee.

From Sarah F

Monday, 1 July 2013

So Duncan Watson and Susan Press, have you seen the picture circulating on social media today regarding the woman dancing in a gold bikini in the square in Hebden Bridge yesterday? Which took place under a banner of underwear as part of the arts festival? Which I also believe is funded by the very same town council. This of course was conducted in a public arena, so if anyone was offended by such actions, they had no choice whether or not to see it, yet you say burlesque is offensive and demeaning and you won't be associated with it?!!
Your hypocrisy stinks!!

From Sam R

Monday, 1 July 2013

I notice Macbeth is playing this month. Arguably Shakespeare's most misogynistic play. Is no one going to speak up against this?

From Paul Clarke

Monday, 1 July 2013

I can't decide what is the most depressing: Mr Baker's feeble attempts to turn Burlesquegate into a party political issue or Jason Elliott's crass decision to quote the words of a priest murdered by the Nazis in the defence of burlesque. Ye gods.....

I was saddened to see the inexperienced Mr Baker attempt to smear Cllr Press in his initial rant. Yet again he clearly hadn't checked his facts that his own group leader had been consulted on the possible decision not to take the booking and had agreed at that time after discussions with Cllr Press that it was the most sensible course of action. I hope Mr Baker will now have the humility and good grace to apologise for that ill considered outburst. I'm saddened Cllr Hodgins has been browbeaten into changing his mind.

In his very sensible contribution, Duncan from the Friends group has pointed out that Cllr Press was just one voice in the debate and the committee as a whole took a vote using their delegated powers. For me it is the entirely the right decision.

One of the great strengths of Hebweb's discussion board is it often proves a useful barometer of what the town is thinking. Heidi Bang Tidy (sic), her boyfriend and her allies would have you believe that everyone in town supports burlesque which involves stripping and it is now clear that they don't. In fact there is significant opposition to the hosting of this event in a publicly owned space,

I have a huge amount of sympathy for the councillors involved in this decision. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They are damned if they take the booking because some of us think it is inappropriate to have strippers perform and damned if they don't because of vested interests and ideologically driven free speech advocates.

I'm old enough to remember The Chippendales who were at the rubbish end of burlesque /stripping, Would we be OK accepting a booking from a promoter interested in putting on that sort of show?

I think the whole "but there are going to be male strippers at this event" argument is completely bogus. I wouldn't presume to know what women think about being objectified but hairless buffed up males are not what being an older, slightly overweight male is all about. Men can be objectified too. I wonder how many of these non buffed, 'ordinary' males are doing sensual dance or just being cheeky /cuddly in a post modern as they strip off.

Another bogus point is about the sort of films being shown. It is worth remembering the Picture House is first and foremost in the business of showing films and that every film that is shown has been censored by the British Board of Film Classifcation. They use clear criteria that set out the age the film is appropriate for and there is now a little box that tells you exactly what to expect in terms swearing, violence etc. The alternative of no censorship and total freedom would be uncut versions of Driller Killer, snuff movies and hardcore porn which I'm sure Mr Baker and his friends would want to see banned from the Picture House.

Mr Baker is in danger of being the political version of the boy who cried wolf, but he does make one good point in that the council needs to develop a policy that sets out as clearly as possible the criteria for future bookings thus avoiding future smearing of councillors. On that we agree.

On another note can Mr Baker confirm if he believes that Zoo/Nuts etc should be freely available in supermarkets where children can see half naked women as they queue as I think we can all agree those perfectly legal products absolutely objectify women unless the headline Boobs is post modern in some way that escapes me.

From Sarah C

Monday, 1 July 2013

Wow! This is creating a lot of discussion – which is brilliant! As I've stated before, when I shared the 'middle-class pole dancing' banner photo on social media it was because I was glad to see that some assumptions and issues were being debated publicly. And I am glad to see that most of the debate is not resorting to personal insults, on the whole.

It seems like a lot of people are getting very hot under the collar about this, with people threatening to withdraw their support from the Picture House if the decision not to rent the venue out to the organisers of the burlesque festival is maintained. That is a shame. I certainly wouldn't do that if the venue was/is hired to them, just as I haven't boycotted Hebden Bridge Town Hall or the Trades Club despite them being used to host some burlesque events in the past. Naturally I choose to avoid events/films that are not to my taste but that is not the issue here.

I am not advocating that burlesque be criminalised, or banned from the town, I am just supporting what must have been a difficult decision made with the best of intentions. If people don't like how their councillors or representatives vote on an issue then surely they can contact them to let them know how they feel and would like them to vote, and ultimately decide to not re-elect them.

Just to answer a couple of points made by others on here: Cllr Baker seems to be defending 'lads mags' in the same breath as burlesque:

"...who then use it as an excuse to attack, prohibit and ban things like lads mags or Burlesque..."

Which publications does Cllr Baker include in his 'lads mags' classification? Do they carry pictures of either naked or semi-naked or scantily dressed women in their pages, whether posed in sexualised positions or otherwise? If they do then I'm sorry to be the one to inform you of this, but this is objectification! Objectification is looking at women as sexual objects. Are you really looking at the images of women in these publications and thinking about their skills sets, their qualifications, their journey or struggle, their lives at all? Honestly?

I can see there is mileage in arguing that burlesque may be empowering for women, but trying to defend 'lads mags' using that same argument is quite worrying!

I don't believe, nor have I stated, that burlesque is the cause of objectification but there are many people who, like me, feel that in our prevailing culture some aspects of burlesque, like so many images in the media, cannot help but add to the burden of objectification, despite all the undoubtedly excellent intentions of the strong, feisty, bodacious, empowered and talented performers who take part.

Just for those that doubt the harmful effects of objectification, there is plenty of evidence, that objectification and sexualisation of women is linked to inequality and violence against women.

I have included only two references here (there are plenty more out there), the first is a research paper, the second a report:

Of Animals and Objects - Men's Implicit Dehumanization of Women and Likelihood of Sexual Aggression by Laurie A. Rudman and Kris Mescher Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin June 1, 2012 38: 734-746

"...the research demonstrates that men who implicitly dehumanize women (as objects) are also likely to sexually victimize them."

OBJECT (2009): 'Joining up the Dots': Why urgent action is needed to tackle the sexualisation of women and girls in the media and popular culture.

This reviews the links between sex object culture and discrimination, inequality and violence against women.

"... a large body of evidence demonstrates the connection between the sexualisation of women in the media and popular culture with violence against women."

"The argument that the sexualisation of women and girls in the media and popular culture has no wider societal effect is seriously unsustainable. It is clear that daily exposure to sexist portrayals of women and girls is linked to a variety of harms and creates a 'conducive context' for violence against women."

If you want to find out more, here is a link to OBJECT's website:

From Mary Krell

Monday, 1 July 2013

I would just like to refer to Sarah C. above (and this will be my last post as I plan to now write to the council and attend their meeting).

Objectification of women is a serious issue and a wide number of films presented at the Picture House do just that.

To use this thread or the proposal of this event to suggest censorship is a valid course of action is just wrong.

Please! Let's be honest. This is an act of censorship. If people really cared about the objectification of women they'd have attacked the Picture House, The Arts Festival, The media or any number of organisations prior to this.

Legal activities should not be censored. If the law is something one finds offensive then one should seek to change the law.

From Graham Barker

Monday, 1 July 2013

Paul Clarke asks re The Chippendales: 'Would we be OK accepting a booking from a promoter interested in putting on that sort of show?' For his information, The Chippendales did a gig (billed as 'The Ultimate Girls [sic] Night Out') at council-owned Bedworth Civic Hall in 2011. So presumably yes.

From Jason Elliott

Monday, 1 July 2013

You can't let the facts get in the way of good smear when leaping to the defence of an ideological colleague can you Paul Clarke.

For the record, Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller died on the 6th of March, 1984. Not, apparently, murdered by the Nazis, but in his bed aged 92.

Good effort though. Some people will have believed you.

However, I still reckon that the majority of people will have understood my comments as intended, in that, whilst not a fan of burlesque, I believe there is a principle at stake here, and one that is worth speaking up for.

From Sarah F

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Yes it is great that things are open up to debate Sarah C, but when ignorant and prejudiced views and poor analogies are used to try and subjugate a community, forcing your views on what is and isn't art and equating a style of performance with violence against Women, it's a very depressing state of affairs.

Not everyone can agree and like the same things, but to say somebody can't enjoy something which for you Paul Clarke; is a perfectly legal and legitimate art form and not to be equated with hardcore porn or snuff films! It reeks of oppression. I suppose you don't have a problem with burlesque, as long as it's not in your neighbourhood?

You made a comment above Sarah C, about people being afraid to speak up because it's not "politically correct" to do so. You could have very easily interchanged the word burlesque for racial equality or homosexuality and very similar comments probably have been said by bigoted individuals. I quote -

"Once burlesque is accepted as mainstream in this way, apparently endorsed by the establishment, it makes people question their feelings about it. Many people have said to me words to the effect of, "I don't feel comfortable about burlesque, but because it is so 'mainstream' and apparently 'politically correct' if I express my sentiments, people will think I'm narrow minded, a killjoy, anti-liberal, neo-puritanical, uptight, etc."
Consequently, the apparent civic endorsement of something that is still contentious stops people expressing their opinions."

I wonder if you would have said this to Martin Luther King back in the sixties when racial equality was still a "contentious" issue?

From Vicky S

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I am genuinely saddened by the decision for the Hebdon Bridge Picture House not to host the Burlesque festival. I have had a wonderful time at burlesque nights at the Picture House with my female friends.

Burlesque is legal. It is someone's choice whether they purchase a ticket and go and see it.

The Picture house shows 18 certificate films (that may offend people) and the Rocky Horror Show (that may offend people). The joy of freedom of expression, is that people can choose whether to purchase a ticket and see these shows. I don't feel it is appropriate to censor people's freedom to watch what they choose to. Showing burlesque is no more 'offensive' than showing an 18 certificate film.

Sadly, by making this decision the Picture House has lost all of my future custom and the council has lost all of my respect. I hope the Burlesque festival goes ahead in another venue and I wish the organisers a lot of success.

From Leon Hampson

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Paul Clark's astute (and somewhat acerbic) observations have highlighted, for this reader at least, what is the very crux of this argument. It is not one of rights to expression or censorship but essentially one of taste.

Which one of its detractors have actually attended a modern Burlesque event, since the Chippendales appeared around these parts, that is?

Perhaps they would have noticed that the irony, creativity and parody which many performers use in their acts often challenges and questions the gender and sexual stereotypes which are so demeaning to us all. The fact that their performances involve removing items of clothing is more to the point.

Events present a variety of performances from a variety of performers who do not conform to the body images that the said "prevailing culture" (see below) portray to the detriment of both men and women alike. And, it is those performers who knowingly play on these stereotypes, often using humour, present a very different, very positive and very healthy view of human sexuality and body image.

Perhaps they would have also noticed that there are performers working in the more traditional veins of cabaret and yes, stripping. This revival genre is equally as valid in today's art form, drawing on a rich and varied theatrical tradition to present uniquely creative and aesthetic performances.

If you aren't entertained by these art forms, fair enough.

The shenanigans of the local council (as so rightly pointed out by Mr Clark) seem to this reader to be putting up a smokescreen for themselves and others for making a false argument against the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival.

Modern Burlesque draws on the essentially working class or 'lower' art forms of Vaudeville, Music Hall and Cabaret. Right now it's in vogue (and, yes it probably does contain elements of Post-modernism). It's populist, bawdy and rude. And, it's downright funny. And, we don't want that around here, now do we?

An answer was left blowing in the wind above Hebden Water yesterday: "That's more like it!". Popular opinion often has its own way of finding a voice. And, it seems Burlesque isn't all that popular after all in Hebden Bridge. It's too rude, too funny and too distasteful.

I'm pleased that the Festival's detractors have put their opinions down on the HebWeb. However, the Committee's decision was wrongly made, in this reader's opinion (note 'wrongly made' - not 'wrong', well, yes, it was wrong). Such a 'contentious' issue - and lets face it, it's going to be 'contentious' in Hebden Bridge: where else would someone string a bed sheet across the water in protest? - should be discussed more widely and openly and not left to such a small committee to decide. And, certainly not left to politicians (well, not on their own).

I disagree with Sarah C's comment earlier. There may be many people who "…feel that in our prevailing culture some aspects of burlesque, like so many images in the media, cannot help but add to the burden of objectification…", however, it's no excuse for censoring, muting or otherwise misapprehending the very, very hard work that the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival is putting into countering, challenging and altering some of those very, very wrongly held perceptions.

Why not go along to an event and make up your own mind, perhaps at the Picture House? See you there, then?

From Seamstress Sugar

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I don't feel like I need to add any more to the arguments for burlesque, as many of them have been covered brilliantly, the history, culture and freedom is so important to so many people.

I am fully aware that many do object to burlesque, often unfortunately because it is not understood and can carry some very ill-informed stereotypes, and on the other hand because of the way we have been brought up, prudishness surrounding "private things" like bathing, nudity, sex and bathroom use is a very Victorian invention- there are churches all around the uk, and the world, where there are carvings of sex, nudity and even defecation depicted around the walls, because every day life was celebrated, and there is even a church in, I believe, Yorkshire where there are stone carvings in the decor depicting the bishop being caught with a young boy (this was something we had to study at university in history of art studies). So if you travel further back than our uncomfortable around bits grandparents, burlesque would be far more censored, less sexual, and less rude than every day life!

I don't think burlesque should be forced down the throats of people who don't agree, but those who love it shouldn't have the ill-informed rumours shoved down their throats either, and should be allowed to express themselves by performing and attending shows, everything was kept indoors apart from the word only banner, so I see no reason why the festival can't exist in it's chosen venues, especially when the benefits for the town far outweigh the negatives.

And in wanting a bigger venue, the fantastic organisers are simply keeping it inside and out of the eyes of those who don;t want to see it, whilst further increasing tourism and town economy benefits.

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I'm reminded now of a letter I wrote back in 2011 to the Hebden Bridge Times concerning the Picture House :

"My vision for the cinema is one where staff, elected representatives from the friends group and councillors all have a real say, meaning everyone has to have a vote on decisions.

Labour, who hold a slim majority of on the council, have loaded the committee that makes decisions about the Picture House with their own councillors. This means an important asset is fast becoming a pet project for the small handful of councillors who want to play at becoming cinema managers.

A genuinely inclusive cross-party group with a fair balance of councilors and co-opted members from the community would be a better governance structure for the cinema."

I can't help but feel somewhat vindicated given the problems the current structure has caused. I wonder if more people had a say in how the cinema was run whether this ban would have gone ahead?

Sarah C, I'm not defending the content of lads' mags as something desirable. They fall into the large category of things I find distasteful of but tolerate as the price of living in a free society.

Or in other words:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

From Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Jason, you are correct and my apologies for that, but I still think quoting those words is OTT as we still have free speech in this country as evidenced by this fascinating thread.

In fairness i would have challenged other Cllrs of any party if they were targeting individuals as this is a collective decision. It is patently unfair to single out one person.

Graham, that council was wrong to take that booking...simple.

From Jak Laschka

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

*What a delightful kerrfuffle.

I'm very much enjoying the demeaning to women approach to the ban. Well done for putting the two women who organise the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival in their place. It's very important that in the fight to achieve equality for women that those same two women have freedom of choice denied them by both male and female councillors.

See, it's fair, both women and men have told those two women what to do.

It could be argued the other way round that to achieve equality they could have been allowed to run the festival so long as ONLY MEN performed burlesque. An total ban on female burlesque performers and only allowing men to perform it would be an excellent way to rebalance male/female equality, just so long as the women aren't in anyway demeaning themselves but men are.

You might have to ban women from the all male burlesque show though as they might come across as sexually avilable if they cheer for male acts like British Heart. Remember, if you want equality for women then all women must not do something that could be seen as sexualising women by the conservative side of society (although it appears tht the Conservatives in this case are from Labour and the Liberal (sic) Democrats - you really don't have any choices come polling day anymore except for possibly voting in a male or a female candidate).

Although I marvel at the politically motivated asinine judgement of needing a ban on equality issue I can't help but feel sympathy for the female promoters and the female performers who will all lose out on an opportunity to progress their careers, earn a living and enjoy equality through freedom of self-expression.

In closing I do hope that the two female promoters garner enough support to put the female councillors (and the male ones) playing the equality card firmly in their place, fair is after all fair.

*read in an ironic fashion, I'm not some kind of anti-choice fascist.

From Stephen Curry

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

We can argue until the cows come home whether Burlesque objectifies women or emancipates them. But this, as other have pointed out, is really about censorship and also I think about standards of those in public office. One small group of people have made no secret have that they do not want Burlesque in the town. Interestingly most, if not all of that group seem to be Labour Councillors or supporters. It is unclear if it is local Labour party policy, so lets assume they have strong personal views about Burlesque as private citizens and organised themselves to oppose it. And of course in a democracy most of us would defend their right as individuals to hold those views and express them.

However, the councillor code of conduct means it is a duty in council or committees for councillors to declare an interest if a subject comes before them that they could have undue influence over, this is to avoid personal bias where they have strong personal views. We are told this topic was discussed because the committee “knew it was a contentious issue”. I would suggest that of course the labour members knew this because they were actually the ones who chose to make it a contentious issue. (The lost minutes might throw light on how this topic was introduced?)

I believe that in this case the the chair of the Picture House committee should have taken herself out of the vote and any other members who held such strong personal views. The fact that they appear to have chosen to approve this censorship based on their personal views and without understanding the levels of public feeling either way, is probably an issue for a standards committee. It may even be an action where resignations are apropriate.

Perhaps the most practical way to deal with this now, would be for the full council to change the members of the Picture House committee for those without such strong personal bias and allow the new members to review the appropriateness, if not legality, of this decision?

From John Smithson

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

What surprises me about this whole issue is the dominant role councilors play in the running of the picture house. Reading through the minutes of the Picture House Committee I’m struck by the number of executive decision made by the committee. Decisions that in most commercial organisations would be made by the manager responsible for that area working to an agreed business plan.

The Picture House annual report provides little comfort, reading more like ‘we just got through the year and made a little surplus’ rather than reporting on performance against an agreed business plan. It seems the Picture House has succumbed to that well know English tradition of amateurism

The current argument over the banning of certain types of performances at the Picture House is the result of the absence of agreed policies on acceptable external bookings. The council should stick to two criteria: is it legal, does make sense commercially. You will find that your electorate will not appreciate you making moral or taste decisions on their behalf.

From Eleanor Land

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I do wish our political representatives would concentrate on the serious issues which affect our everyday lives. Instead of which they spend their time trying to score narrow political victories on subjects like this which most people aren't interested in. If people enjoy parading around in skimpy clothing and other people want to watch them, that is up to them. I don't agree with large banners advertising these events because I don't want to have to explain to my young grandchildren what the event is about.

From Mick Piggott

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

'I do wish our political representatives would concentrate on the serious issues which affect our everyday lives. Instead of which they spend their time trying to score narrow political victories on subjects like this which most people aren't interested in. If people enjoy parading around in skimpy clothing and other people want to watch them, that is up to them.'

Well said, Eleanor Land. Can we now have some discussion on what should be done about the truly important matters in our society, like the deliberate infliction of poverty and the general suffering being imposed by mean-spirited, petty-minded government policies? So what about the demonisation of welfare recipients and immigrants? Come on people, there are some really serious issues to argue over!

From David Telford

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Like many others burlesque is not particually my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I don't think my personal preferences should dictate ho others choose to spend their time. As the whole event was financed externally, the proof of the pudding is very much in the fact people were willing to attend. Furthermore, if the Picture House has space in it's programme, given the way the Picture House is financed, I'd say it's obliged to accept all bookings in order to deliver value to the council tax payers.

Political nuances should not be a factor in how the local picture house operates and the fact the local council have blocked the event, it's the thin end of the wedge and exactly why local councils should not be running the Picture House, it should be private enterprise.

From Dave R

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Only in Hebden Bridge would you see not only councillors involved in such a trivial debate, but also such a huge outpouring of pro and anti feminist /exploitation of women arguments around what constitutes art.

Incidentally, the Labour moral stance were equally prudish several years ago in refusing to hold a 'Dare to Bare' charity fashion show in the Trades Club. Presumably scantily clad models in pretty lingerie were just as offensive as the feathers and face painted burlesque performers?

Interestingly, that event was relocated the following year......to the cinema.

You couldn't make it up could you?

From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

'Graham, that council was wrong to take that booking...simple'

Paul - shall I let them know, or would you prefer to do it?

From Keeley Z

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

If the picture house can show material in which there is full penetrative sex, testicles being squashed and female circumcision and call it art, why can they not stage a burlesque event which does none of these things?

Burlesque is an art form. It is beautiful, elegant, graceful on one level. Comical, entertaining, tongue in cheek the next. Burlesque is cabaret at its best. Why? Because in burlesque you have dancers, comedians, singers, magicians, whip performances, musicians... Basically a full array of anmazing talent that would make Simon Cowell and his BGT judges give a standing ovation to! In fact I have seen things on BGT that disgust me. I gave never, repeat never seen anything that disgusts me at a burlesque event.

I wonder if your decision to ban some if the most talented people you will ever meet from performing at the picture house is a fear of people that aren't exactly like you being there. If that is the case, I pity you. We are meant to encourage acceptance and diversity not veto it.

The revenue generated in May for local businesses was huge. Think of the revenue that will be generated next year. You will be doing yourselves and the community a massive disservice if ypu continue to block this perfectly reasonable request.

From Glorian Gray

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Wonderful debate!

Let's all remember that as well as the debate about censorship of art (which is bad), we are all actually fighting on the same same side; for equal rights for women, albeit a bit misguidedly in some cases. We are just having a right barney about the best way to do it.

A few points I want to address:

Duncan Watson: "There is a risk of the event being exploitative of the performers and it is not clear how this can be adequately safeguarded against even with the best intentions of the organisers."

As much as we appreciate that you seem to be trying to look out for our "potential and probably actual" objectification, you could not be more wrong. Burlesque is not sex work, it is not sexual entertainment, it is theatre. This is not my opinion, it is currently a fact that in the UK, burlesque is not classified or licensed or regulated as either of these things, as it does not fit the legislative criteria to be either of these things.

Burlesque performers create an artistic piece, apply for shows, perform on a stage, and are paid for their work with a previously agreed fee. They are performers, like in any acting company or pantomime or musical. In order to make the statement about safeguarding valid, you would have to give a working definition of what you feel constitutes "exploitation" and submit these operationally defined concerns to the organisers, giving them a time frame to come back with how they are indeed safeguarding against said concerns, after which a group of council, and police (given the fears about exploitation and safeguarding) would assess the response, make recommendations, and eventually make a decision based on all this.

Paul Clarke: "I think the whole "but there are going to be male strippers at this event" argument is completely bogus. I wouldn't presume to know what women think about being objectified but hairless buffed up males are not what being an older, slightly overweight male is all about."

Burlesque proudly and actively represents all body types, abilities, disabilities, ethnicities and sexual orientations. This counts for the men involved too. We have everything from pretty skinny blokes to balding, overweight men in their 40s and 50s. And yes, both doing some striptease along with the singing, dancing, magic, acting, mime, and puppetry in their acts.

Re: Sarah C: "Objectification is looking at women as sexual objects. in our prevailing culture some aspects of burlesque, like so many images in the media, cannot help but add to the burden of objectification, despite all the undoubtedly excellent intentions of the strong, feisty, bodacious, empowered and talented performers who take part."

I can see Sarah's point on a lot of this and some great points made. Would just like to reply this. The reason burlesque feels it is challenging the idea of "being looked at" is that, when onstage, burlesque performers look back. They talk back, they sing back, they take the mick out of the audience, they break the fourth wall, they challenge the usual dymanic where audience looks and performer is looked at. Burlesque, when done properly, is a shared joke.

So it is a creative performance with a sexual /sensual element, which turns itself on its head and destabilises the notion of "being looked at", because first it invites you to look, then it talks to you, challenges you, unnerves you a little bit (cos the women aren't supposed to talk right? They are supposed to be ashamed of not being covered up, right? Stripping is for back alleys and seedy dives cos an openly sexual woman is bad, right?" etc etc).

I totally agree that art is not all about the intentions of the artist, it is an interactive, interpretive thing. No-one cannot guarantee that no man or woman will objectify a performer on a stage - in any genre. But when that performer turns round to you, looks you in the eye, challenges your gaze, challenges what you think you are looking at, and entertains you with cleverness and creativity, especially when he or she is over 25, overweight, balding, disabled (which many many burlesquers are), then it is a statement against objectification and hegemonic ideas re: feminism.

That is what burlesque is trying to do, and it definitely succeeds a lot of the time for those watching and participating (but not so much who are looking in from the outside, just seeing the photos, the posters, the mainstream representations which get it so wrong, because they are not exposed to the full experience or ethos that you get when you understand the genre).

I will say that one of the things I love about burlesque is that it's inclusive to people who are new to any kind of performance - but this does mean that there is a lot of explorative performance, some is not (yet) of a high or informed standard because people are learning, so we don't always get it right. Burlesque performers, like everyone else, grew up in this culture, and we struggle with the same ingrained ideas about women and sexuality as does everyone else. We try constantly to challenge and reinvent these ideas, but sometimes we get it wrong. But we can't penalise performers for learning, nor a performance art because it doesn't get it right 100% of the time.xx

Eleanor Land: "I don't agree with large banners advertising these events because I don't want to have to explain to my young grandchildren what the event is about."

If they ask, the answer would be - burlesque is a type of performance art that is a bit rude, makes naughty jokes, is a bit funny and it's for grownups. Just like what you would say if there was a banner up for Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle or The Rocky Horror show - which I think played Hebden a while back?

From Eleanor Land

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Glorian Gray. Thank you for lecture on how to speak to my grandchildren, my point is I should not have to explain anything to them with regard to burlesque. I believe children should be allowed to be children, not have some people's prediliction for burlesque thrust upon them via a large banner.

I don't believe burlesque fans should be prevented from enjoying their "art", but I think they should consider others when advertising it.

From Sophie Walker

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Thanks to many eloquent people, most of the points I'd like to make have already been made.

However, I wish to express my disgust at the hypocracy shown by the Hebden Royd council, they promote Hebden Bridge as a town of acceptance, understanding and tolerance, so it has come as quite a shock to learn that they have become self appointed censors.

As a local council tax payer am I to prepare myself for the council to come & check what I am watching on the television, reading or looking at on the internet?

I am presuming that neither the library or the local book shops stock copies of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and that the Picture House will no longer be showing films such as 'The Rocky Horror Show'

We are grown ups and more than qualified to make decisions for ourselves.

From Tamsin C

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I was out in Hebden on the night of the Burlesque Festival and had the misfortune to sit at a table next to a group of men who were going on to the festival. The way they were talking about women was vile. I felt unsafe in my home town. I am very glad the council are not supporting something which encourages this kind of behaviour.

From Janine B

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Since when did someone decide for me what I can and cannot watch? My boyfriend and I went to last year's festival and really enjoyed it. I did not at anytime think it was demeaning to women or explicit. I moved to this town because it accepted people's views, ideas, ambitions and creativity. But today I'm very disappointed with this decision

From Jonathan Timbers

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

I agree with Mick and Eleanor. This debate is generating more heat than light, and it is an irony that Cllr Baker cites human rights, particularly ECHR Art 8 (respect for private and family life) when he supports the bedroom tax, which has a much more fundamental impact on the integrity of the person than refusing to take a booking ever could.

Notwithstanding this, there is clearly a need for the town council to develop a booking policy which takes account (as the town council is required to do by law) of equality issues, and more importantly allows it to decline bookings on equality grounds. In developing the policy, I hope we can start off with common ground. 

Live events pose the greatest difficulty because films come pre-vetted and appropriately labelled. However, no one, I hope, would wish to deny the town council the discretion to turn down an act which we understood on reasonable authority made derogatory references to gay, lesbian or transgender people. The right to free speech is, after all, a qualified and not an absolute right. And once cannot fully exercise a right if it detracts from the rights of others. Perhaps the policy could also be a positive one, so the town council could actively seek to put on live acts which challenge stereotypes and ‘speak truth unto power’.

As I have followed this debate, I have welcomed the respectful contributions of those involved in Burlesque. Burlesque poses a particular problem because on the one hand most (though not all) women involved in Burlesque argue it is liberating, and, on the other hand, other intelligent and liberal women express great unease and believe it is regressive, particularly at a time when women are only just throwing off the shackles of perception that they are primarily physical creatures, defined by their bodies and reproductive functions.

Whilst I recognise that for some Burlesque can have a therapeutic value, I still view it as stripping albeit on a continuum which is someway off lapdancing, particularly in its less commercial forms, with nice costumes and funny bits. So far, the debate has consisted of expressions of concern about objectification and declarations of the warm and supportive nature of Burlesque. What we haven’t discussed are the reservations about  Burlesque which are emerging from places where the scene is more highly developed, like London and Vancouver.
In Vancouver, Burlesque has a highly developed commercial strand. The dilemmas are expressed in detail (with some revealing photos) in the Vacouver Observer:

This mainstream strand is more interested in titillating audiences than making statements, and its representatives are generally white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and the otherwise conventionally attractive.

Don’t ask me what ‘cis-gendered means’ No idea. But the message is that mainstream Burlesque is much more like stripping than it is like gender-role-defying cabaret. Do the organisers agree with this description of commercial Burlesque and how do they differ? And how, more importantly, will they keep differing?

Reservations about the London scene were expressed in May 2012. in Time Out. It said the scene in London was dominated by ‘cheesecake Burlesque’: bland and mediocre, more about the costumes and appealing to outdated stereotypes than expressions of creativity. Is that what we can expect in Hebden Bridge? In which case, does it deserve the profile it is seeking? Again, what quality assurance can we expect?

This youtube sequence contains 20 acts from the London Burlesque festival. Most are tacky but there is an interesting one called ‘The Lesbian’, which I suppose conforms to the idea of challenging stereotypes, except its depiction of ‘the lesbian’ is hopelessly out-of-date (even most bigots have moved on from that stereotype) and the moment of liberation comes when she waggles her pink knickers at the audience. I get the idea behind it. I don’t dislike it, but I feel the stripping is an ‘add on’, but I guess it’s also the point of it. It would be reassuring to know that we can expect better than this.

Finally, there is the much quoted article by Laurie Penny, a former Burlesque artist, who presents a very vivid picture of how Burlesque can degenerate swiftly into all the things it claims not to be. I’d be interested to hear the views of the organisers about this article, and I’d advise everyone else to read it carefully, and think on.

I suppose my basic question to the organisers is, given what we know about Burlesque from other developed scenes, why should we in Hebden Bridge be proud to host a festival here? Because if we can’t be proud of it, why should we want to hold one? And if we hold one, how do we stop it degenerating into striptease with light entertainment?

From Robert Collins

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Jonathan Timbers wants the council to be empowered to ban acts on "Equality grounds" when it chooses.

On that basis, will they also be banning the annual blues festival? To coin a phrase, it's a right sausage-fest. (And quite a lot of those old blues song lyrics are about sex or devil-worship aren't they?)

From Sarah F

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Jonathan Timbers, if we were to follow suit and ban and censor everything that the critics found fault with and wrote about in 'Time Out' magazine we would have no form of art or entertainment left. No theatre, no film, no music, no literature. What a sorry World that would be to live in, don't you agree?

I also notice that not one of the objectors here have dared to answer my earlier post about the woman dancing for the Arts Festival in a gold bikini and the double standards and hypocrisy this displays. Maybe you would care to share your thoughts on this?

From Cllr James Baker

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Thank you for engaging with a more thoughtful piece Cllr Timbers. However, with respect the question is not 'why should we be proud of the festival and wish to hold it' but rather 'on what grounds can a council exclude a legal, suitably licensed event from hiring a municipal venue.'

The debate around the moral, social, and cultural impact of Burlesque is an interesting one but the fact remains public bodies shouldn't discriminate against people on the basis that they hold an option that many people feel an event is derogatory to women. At the very least a public body would need to substantiate this claim with an evidence based policy otherwise it is just a belief and subjective moral judgements.

The performers have an article 10 right to freedom of expression. So why is a sub-committee of the Town Council which has no agreed policy on this matter infringing that right by banning a lawful activity from its premises? I would ask you for a moment to caste aside instrumental reasoning and your instincts to defend your collegue, and consider this question with an open mind using your knowledge of Human Rights legeslation.

I hope some of the more reasonable members with knowledge of the law and those who stem from artistic tradition will see sense on this matter. There is no shame in reconsidering what has obviously been a difficult decision to make.

I don't see what the bedroom tax has to do with Burlesque. You are the second Labour Councillor mention it in relation to this debate.

From Sarah C

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

This seems a bit superfluous after Jonathan's post above, but if you type 'burlesque festival' into Google Images plenty of pictures come up that appear to conform to sexist stereotypes, portraying women as sex objects. I guess context is everything.

From Sarah F

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sarah C, it is not only superfluous but a wildly frivolous attempt to discredit the festival based on biased views. If you are going to play the Google game at least do it correctly and type in 'Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival' and I think you'll find a completely different set of images appear. Featuring a wonderful mixture of performers, musicians, designers and creative artists. Oh and lots of lovely cakes too!

From Eleanor Land

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I think people may have mentioned the Bedroom Tax because it may have more impact on ordinary people's lives than the Burlesque Festival. By the way, Councillor Baker, may I refer you to your instruction sheet from Tory Central Office? I'm sure they would prefer you to refer to it as the Spare Room Subsidy.

From Sarah F

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Jonathan Timbers, I take great umbrage at being told to read an article by a “journalist” who has never been a burlesque artist. If you had actually read down to the bottom of the said article, you would realise that this journalist was forced legally to amend statements made in the article which were untrue. Also I can quote someone who worked with her in the very same troupe that she discusses:

“This annoys me. I was [very peripherally] involved with the Burlesque show mentioned in this article.

"If I remember rightly the writer of this piece rather wanted to be a part of the show, it fitted with her image of herself as 'extremely liberated' and she actually became a large part of [muscled in on] the show's creative team and suggested how it was run. No big nasty man came and forced her to take her clothes off, she thought it was cool and tried to take it over. The reason she didn't like it in the end was because she realised that in truth she was far too inhibited to be a successful performer in this genre.

"The show also featured male burlesque, cabaret singing and dancing - it was pretty tame - though its goal was to subvert the normal genre. It was produced by students so it was pretty terrible artistically, in fact it was rubbish. But that's not the point.

"I'm all for using past experiences to create articles and bending the truth a little to make a point. But this is journalism of the worst kind, lying, backstabbing and standing on a very wobbly soapbox.

"Worst of all, she criticises a genre of performance which has created many female producers, entrepreneurs, and performers who this writer would probably wet herself to be friends with.
Poorly done. Immoral journalism.”

Now I’m all for using articles to back up an argument, but at least use one which hasn't been discredited. But hey, who am I to let the truth get in the way of a great story?!

From Nicolette Lafonseca

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.


This is a poem that has been added to and adapted over the years

Then they came for the burlesque performers
and I said nothing because I was not a burlesque performer
(Nicolette Lafonseca-Hargreaves)

Historically actors were persecuted and treated as the lowest in society. Chaucer was banned and now we teach his works in schools. artists would have to pay prostitutes to pose nude. Complete nudes were never hung in the national gallery.

These things have changed with time and as our acceptance and understanding has grown. People were jailed for being homosexual as society said homosexuality would lead to sexual depravity and the fall of morality. Homosexuals were banned from teaching our children as the right wing claimed this would lead to a generation of sexually confused and morally corrupted children.

I am happy that these things do not exist in our society anymore. This is not a question of personal taste this is a question of freedom in a free society for a legal art form. There are many groups and films and comedians that I find offensive but I would prefer to live in a society that allows free expression that live in a totalitarian state. Trust me I have worked in countries that do not have our freedom and it is a slippery slope.

Yes the festival has and can perform in other venues, but it is not the place of the place of the Hebden Royd council to pass moral censorship in council building over an art form that is legal.

From Graham Barker

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

In response to Jonathan and others:

Let’s accept that burlesque divides opinion among the minority of people who don’t regard it with indifference. What we should not accept is Picture House committee decisions based on prejudice, ideology and hearsay rather than evidence.

Nor should we accept from the committee and its supporters the implied slur on a small organisation trying to bring much-needed business to Hebden Bridge. Why go to the ends of the earth - Vancouver anyway - to find ‘facts’ to justify a local decision? Why not just sit down with the organisers in Hebden Bridge and reach a compromise based on assurances that this one event on one day won’t breach any equality guidelines?

In business everything is negotiable, but part of the problem seems to be that the Picture House committee doesn’t regard business as important. That bodes ill for the viability of the Picture House. Nor does it say much for the committee’s willingness to give anyone except itself a fair hearing. Stephen Curry’s questions about standards in public office are relevant here; they urgently need addressing.

From Dave Gee

Thursday, 4 July 2013

It's simple if you want to run the Picture House and its booking policy become a member of the Town Council and the relevant committee, end of!

I think since taking on the venue from Calderdale, a fantastic job has been done. There will always be difficult and controversial decisions, and the people who take on this voluntary role should be encouraged and supported. Seems to me having just read all of this thread a sensible decision, on the side of caution has been taken and if you disagree face the electorate and put your view forward in that arena! Good luck.

From Louise Daniel

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Is this a joke? How on earth did the council decide that watching sexually explicit films is more 'appropriate' than Burlesque dancing? Many many people enjoy Burlesque dancing all over the country and choose to do it of their own free will. It is harmless, creative fun and is in no way sexist or exploitative. Even if it did objectify women, women choose to do it. It is their choice. It is not lap dancing or stripping! Please let them get on with it. Councillors should not take the moral high ground, they do not have a monopoly on morality and ethics. Sounds like 1984 to me. Lighten up, get a grip! Reverse this ridiculous, laughable decision.

From Eli F

Thursday, 4 July 2013

It seems to me that this carry on is absolutely not about censorship and more about people not liking the word no. You're not being censored. You're just on the other side of someone's argument. Can you not see?

With all the dramatic talk of censorship, it seems to have been lost that very strong and valid reasons and very clear reasons have been given as to why it's felt inappropriate and sexist to have such events on council property. These reasons don't seem to me very difficult to understand.
When people disagree, this is not censorship. This is people in disagreement.

You are not being censored. Someone is saying no to you.

Well, good on you Duncan Watson and the rest of you for your awesome reply /statement, and for saying no.

From Roweena M

Thursday, 4 July 2013

How frustrating that something that boosts the towns economy and provides harmless entertainment should be being vetoed by the grand total of what was that- 5 people?

Why not turn it out to the town of Hebden for the vote? Then we can see if it will significantly offend a large number of people, as was suggested.

Surely the Picture House would benefit from the extra income also?

Regarding one of the reasons given, objectification of women: I'm a dancer (clothed), and sometimes people look at me in a way that could be considered objectification. Should we ban dance events? Maybe we should ban women from wearing clothes that might 'objectify' them. Hell, lets ban women from going out in public! Help, I'm being objectified!

People have the choice not to objectify women in any scenario. By stating that burlesque is objectifying women, that's exactly what you do. By stating it's an art form, involving talent, costuming, creativity, comedy, and so forth you acknowledge the performers as people rather than focusing on their bodies.

Burlesque is not sleazy - and the more it's seen in public venues the more apparent this will become.

And, for reference, men do burlesque too - boylesque!

From Eleanor Land

Thursday, 4 July 2013

I note in HB Times that Councillor Battye has been falling over herself to get involved in this debate. Strange that we have had a deafening silence from her with regard to the Welfare Cuts, which impact her constituents far more. Obviously she thinks this is safer territory for Tory enablers.

From G Golden

Thursday, 4 July 2013

I for one am offended by the piece by Susan Press in today's HB times.

She makes no sound argument and seeks to associate burlesque, a legal art form with informed willing participation, with prostitution, lap dancing and the overt sexualisation of children.

This is because she has no legitimate argument that cannot be countered easily.

"Merely saying a burlesque event does not contribute to the objectification of women does not make it so at an event where some of the audience would- to be frank- be there purely for the purposes of sexual titillation"

This is weak argument to prevent an economically sound event, is this now about thought control? As much as does not make it so, it does not make it not so (If your still with me). We show films and plays and who knows what goes on in the mind of people, thankfully we don't.

All the evidence points to be burlesque being a healthy expression and performance loved by those involved. It is paid for with a ticket as play and the cast are not doing anything for money (at this level one assumes) and cannot be compared with prostitution.

They just can't see beyond their own ideals.

From Annie Conboy

Thursday, 4 July 2013

It seems that the sub committee had a lively debate about hiring out the venue to the Burlesque Festival in 2014 (as explained above). I now look forward to many equally lively debates about the films screened at the Picture House as I am offended by the levels of violence in the following films: The Ice Man; World War Z; The East; Pacific Rim etc etc. Our community should be protected from exposure to such graphic images in the cinema in the same way as it is being protected from attending a Burlesque show there.

I will declare an interest though. I attended this year's Burlesque Festival and had a fun night out with my female friends. This was only marred by the two inebriated men (not paying customers) hanging around outside the venue trying various very bad chat-up lines and rather off colour comments when their offers were declined. The objectification of women is far more of an issue when men are able to make salacious comments in public with less attention to their behaviour than that discussed about paying customers going to see a show. Perhaps there should be a debate about the state of Hebden Bridge's streets after the pubs empty if there is a sub-committee responsible for this. Or where, when & how, the objectification of women really begins.

I am also a local business owner who has lived in and around the town for many years. Hurray for anyone who is working hard to bring business into the area because we will all benefit. A bigger venue means more people into the area using local services. What can possibly be wrong with that? I have never experienced Hebden Bridge as being prudish, narrow-minded or judgmental. It's such a shame that a town that has a reputation for being open to all has had this image dented.

From Ali M

Thursday, 4 July 2013

'Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no" is a philosophy I have supported all my life.

However, a Burlesque show is about sending out confusing messages and undermining that philosophy. It is intended to provoke a sexual reaction, to tease. If it weren't, why are the women dressed as they are?

Women are still being blamed for being victims of sexual violence - wearing sexually provocative clothes is often still seen as contributory negligence. I would fight for the right of anyone to wear anything, anywhere and remain safe.

I have absolutely no objection to women choosing to go to burlesque classes if it helps them feel better about themselves, and walk about the streets in their outfits afterward.

But it is disingenuous of burlesque performers to state their acts are not about sexuality, when at the same time they claim that burlesque empowers them - enabling them to express themselves using their bodies, learning to appreciate their own sexuality etc.

I find it sad that so many women, after a century of feminism, cannot feel proud and powerful in their own bodies without the need to dress up (or down) and perform in public.

And it is not true that only men can objectify women's bodies - witness the reaction of some of the women attending these events. Sexual violence is not the prerogative of the straight community - it exists in the LGBT community too.

We elect the Town Councillors every 4 years to make decisions for us - that is devolved democracy. They are not banning burlesque: as Eli F says, they have just made a decision that some people don't like.
And to echo Dave Gee - if you don't like the decisions they make, there is nothing to stop you standing for council yourself.

I applaud HRTC PHC and particularly Councillor Press for taking the stance they have.

From Dave Boardman

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Last year the Hebden Bridge Picture House showed a film starring Meryl Streep which implied Margaret Thatcher was an acceptable human being. If we can accept that . . .

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ali you are right we elect Town Councillors and people will have a chance to decide again whether they want people who will choose what we can see in our Picture House or not.

Local authorities and Town Councillors also have to make decisions within the law, and with reference to the Human Rights Act. I've been told the Clerk is currently seeking legal advice on this matter, and their might be a second motion now being submitted (I presume by a Labour Councillor) that seeks to establish a sub-committee to fully examine the legal implications and create a policy. This rather implies the Human Rights Act wasn't considered when this decision was made. That certainly opens up the potential of a judicial review.

The following is taken from Liberties website:

"In Handyside v UK (1976) the ECHR stated that freedom of expression constituted one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and development of every person. It also made clear that Article 10 applied not only to information or ideas that are favourable and inoffensive but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or a sector of the population."

Yes Burlesque may shock or offend but the performers still have an artistic right to expression, so long as they don't break any laws. The Picture House is not a private business, it's municipal building and performers pay their precept to. Why should they be discriminated against because some other people don't like what they do?

A Burlesque show would be covered under the license of the venue, unlike say a strip club that would need a license as a sexual entertainment venue. The licensing laws are in place to regulate activity and balance the rights of people against infringements of others right. I don't see that a local authority prohibiting an event which holds the correct license on moral grounds is on. The process behind the ban was not at all fair or impartial like a licensing hearing would be.

Interestingly by stating that the performers can't hire the venue because their art is demeaning to women an argument can be made they have been indirectly discriminated against under the equalities act. The reason being if they had been an all-male troupe their wouldn't be a question about them being demeaning to women. In this instance the very fact they are women means they now can't choose to perform their art.

From Dave Gee

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Picture House is primarily a cinema, it shows films, ones that have been through The Picture House is primarily a cinema, it shows films, ones that have been through BBFC scrutiny as has been pointed out. It also has a few other events, presumably on a commercial basis to raise a bit of income and provide some other forms of entertainment. This does not mean it is open 365 days a year for any event or promoter to hire. If your commercial approach is rejected surely that's just tough?

Still think given the divided opinions on this issue the Committee were right.

Janet Battye and the Lib Dems should be keeping quiet on this matter, I read with some disgust that due to increase tuition fees, lack of grants for students several millions of pounds are pouring into University coffers from students now working in the growing sex industry! What a society we have become!

From Alex McDonald

Friday, 5 July 2013

I am truly stunned that in this day and age some people are still so narrow minded and judgemental.

I have been having burlesque lessons for 5 weeks now and I absolutely love it. It is fun and fabulous and makes me feel great. It helps me to meet new people, keeps me active and gives me more confidence.

Far more women watch it than men so people who see it as demeaning simply do not understand it.

With all the real heartache in the world it is pathetic that people can focus so much hatred on something so harmless. Your priorities are all wrong. Live and let live. If you don't like it don't watch it but don't try to stop those who love it from enjoying it.

From Annie Conboy

Friday, 5 July 2013

Yes, Dave Gee, what a society we have become!

It's perfectly ok to hang underwear all around the town but not to wear it on the stage at the Picture House? It's perfectly ok for a woman to parade in a gold bikini in the public square but not on the stage of the Picture House? It's ok to show extreme violence, nudity & sex on the white screen (because someone somewhere has said it's ok to do so) in the Picture House but not for men & women to dance, sing, tell jokes or make people laugh from the stage of the Picture House if they do so hall or fully naked? What should I tell my child about the public display of underwear as apparently she is not to be allowed to see the word Burlesque on a sign?

I have watched this thread & in all the stuff thrown at the Burlesque performers not one reply has answered the hypocrisy of the above. Loads & loads of justification for bigotry, censorship & NIMBYism, plus all the political points being dragged in. Even the debate about objectification & feminism rather seems to miss the point. The whole point to changing the perception of women & thus their status as half of the human race is that women get to choose for themselves! Not for some women to tell other women what it is appropriate to wear, do, say or be - a real step back into the Dark Ages. Patriarchy shouldn't be replaced with matriarchy!

At the heart of the matter is a publicly owned venue where a few people decided to become censors. Not, as someone suggested, that the committee had said No so everyone should go away & forget it ever happened. That refusal was based on myth, misconception & moral knee jerking. It deserves to be challenged if only to establish the right of the wider community to debate these decisions.

The committee also based their decision on a suggestion that many people found burlesque demeaning to women. How many people? When was the research conducted? By whom? What questions where asked? If they had evidence of this then they should have published it in response to the concerns of the organisers & supporters (who did not get a chance to speak about their show). Perhaps the fact that no 'evidence' has been forthcoming says it all. Had they produced it, however, our community would have had to face a sad fact - bigotry is alive & well & thriving in Hebden Bridge!

From Dave R

Friday, 5 July 2013

Despite the lengthy arguments (why do people think more words suggests more brain power?), the issue has quite clearly been pointed out as a group of people not liking to have their 'art' criticised as being less worthy than others.

I personally find the insular arguments quite tedious.

Could this be an issue in which we agree to disagree and put it to bed?
I am sure there are more important issues to debate.

From Eleanor Land

Friday, 5 July 2013

I find it amazing that I am being branded a hypocrite because I dare to express a view about the advertising of a Burlesque Festival. The point about the knickers festooning the town is pathetic. My grandchildren have seen washing on a line before, they don't however know anything about burlesque, and I certainly won't be telling them about it until I believe they are old enough to understand.

From Cllr Christine Davenport

Date Friday, 5 July 2013

I was a member of Lib Dem's when the future of the Picture House came to our attention. Remembering the threat to the future of the Picture House in 1998, I jumped to the chance to join the committee. We looked into the viability of the Picture House, carried out structural surveys, public consultation and many other time consuming investigations into the possible of transfer to Hebden Royd.

Our town Clark worked endless hours with the staff of the Picture House and Calderdale. It wasn't just a building, the Picture House replaced the Electric Theatre that was where the memorial garden is now. It was a piece of history at risk of dying along with people's jobs at stake. One of the few independent venues left in the country.

I remember taking my children to the Saturday morning kids club £4.50 each included a film, drink and crisps. Every Saturday, it would more or less be some child's birthday, the children would be brought up on stage and the audience would sing happy birthday to them.

My oldest daughter, now 33, was a regular volunteer for Saturday mornings. I watched many a school panto/show at the picture house. It was and still is, the biggest venue in Hebden Bridge for events. It was never just film screenings. Live shows, Stand ups, theatre groups, even the odd public discussion went on in the Picture House, not forgetting the filming of Fanny and Elvis. We always knew something big was happening at the Picture House. The town would be heaving during the day. Visitors flocked into the town making a full day of it. The Carlton Hotel was still thriving at that time. The Civic (Now The Crown Hotel) was still a hotel with a public bar. We had two fish shops that opened extra, and on a saturday night - Crown Street and The White Lion Fisheries.

The meeting to decide the future of the Picture House was the night when I was finally outcasted from the Lib Dem's. I was only a seat filler, I never expected to be re elected, so I never felt part of the party. I dared to do the unthinkable. I voted with Labour to take over the running of the Picture House, securing my outcasting by daring to go against the party decision. I tell you, I didn't need to be told I was in trouble. I felt the atmosphere change amongst my party at the time. I mimicked a noose around my neck and gestured that I had just hung myself. A few months later I walked the floor to Labour followed by Cllr Nader Fekri. Oh I took some stick for doing that, but I believed in my action to save the Picture House and I still stand by that today.

At the last Picture House meeting I again went against my party to vote for the festival. (Oh dear 3 strikes and your out, thats 2, I have 1 left!)

The committee could end up banning dancers from wearing body stockings, ban productions or films such as Chicago, Rocky Horror Show and the like. In fact, any production that shows scantily clad woman.

Adverts of M&S models wearing new season undies grace our TV screens before the watershed. Dancing on ice scanty clad female skaters. And, how many woman look at the ads of the athletic body of David Beckham that adorned the buses and advertisement boards and think "phaw" Whoops, I've just demeaned men!

I believe the council should work together once the decision is final, but I also feel that this decision needs a full and fair representation. I will fully cooperate with whatever decision is reached after the full council's final decision.

Hebden Royd Town Council.
Together we are Strong.
Together we are One.

Having attended burlesque shows before and have never seen dancers strip to a naked body on display. They work skilfully with those feathers and it is a very graceful art. The first time I watched a show, I spent the evening fascinated with the choreography. Yes I've been to see male strippers with my workmates too. After the show, we turned back into boring woman talking about the wonderful things our young children did that day and the activities we were planning for a family weekend. We were not sex starved animals wanting to pounce on our men with filled up lust.

You see, I'm a down to earth resident of Hebden Bridge. Ok, I was born in Keighley but it's where you call home that matters, not where your born. I worked for minimal pay, enjoy down to earth people for company and I dare to have my own views that are not dictated by others. I know who I am and what I believe in. What others think about me is none of my business. Others are entitled to their opinion as I am to mine. I never allowed my 4 girls to wear skimpy short skirts and tops as seen by young girls today and my 2 boys were taught that no means no, no matter how much they read the signals. They were brought up with morals and freedom of choice.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 5 July 2013

Thanks for your contribution Christine, your independent thought is a credit to you. Just a point of correction though the Lib Dem group voted in favor of taking over the Picture House. The vote that upset some of us was the vote about whether to include the option of taking on the Picture House as a consortium with local people.

From Graham Barker

Friday, 5 July 2013

It's interesting to note what's on at the Calderdale-owned Halifax Victoria Theatre later this very month: Miss Nightingale: The Burlesque Musical. I'm not planning to go, but if anyone feels like buying me a ticket...

From Tony Wright

Saturday, 6 July 2013

A very strange decision for the Town council to refuse access the picture house as venue for the Burlesque Festival.

And well done Christine for your independent stance.

I suggest to the organisers' that they forget Calderdale altogether and take a look over to Airedale. I am more than happy to help them find a good venue in Keighley, a town which has a tradition of tolerance and diversity.

I know a Burlesque festival would go down a storm here.

Cllr Tony Wright, Events Chair, Keighley TC

From Andrew H

Saturday, 6 July 2013

John Cooper Clarke played at the Picture House last Sunday, 30th June, as part of the "Arts Festival".

One of the poems he read out was "Evidently Chickentown", look it up on Youtube, but be careful, it may offend!

He didn't say 'bloody' either, he used the 'F' word.

I bought a ticket and thoroughly enjoyed the gig.

Make your own mind up as to whether double standards are being employed.

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Cllr Davenport is actually one of the councillors who had a vote on this matter so it is a shame that in what has been top flight debate her contribution was the weakest so far. Wimsey and a trip down memory lane don't constitute an argument.

She says 'I know what I believe' but I am none the wiser why she voted for the burlesque event. Chip shops used to stay open later which is something I didn't know before. BTW . . . other people have good old fashioned Yorkshire common sense too.

As for Tony Wright's shameless opportunism calling Keighley 'a town which has a tradition of tolerance and diversity.' This can't be the same Keighley Council who called in the police to clear the public gallery at their meeting when voters had the cheek to film the proceedings of their own council. Not that tolerant there Tony?

It is also worth noting that your front page headline 'hundreds sign burlesque petition' could also read 'hundreds don't sign burlesque petition.'

I wonder if one way to resolve this debate with some dignity is for HRTC to develop a policy for PH bookings and then for the Burlesque crowd to resubmit their application. If it falls within the guidelines the booking is taken and we can move on. Maybe the burlesque gang need to consult Miss Compromise.

From Reg Slater

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I've read these posts up to now as an amused but impartial observer, but I couldn't help but laugh when I read Graham Barker's observation that the Calderdale council owned Halifax Victoria Theatre is putting on a musical this month featuring burlesque.

I never would have thought that Halifax is more liberal than Hebden Bridge

This highlights how ridiculous the banning order at the Picture House is. The council can't have it both ways - if burlesque is acceptable at a council venue in Halifax, it must also be in Hebden Bridge - or vice versa.

Can we now expect the Victoria Theatre musical to be banned ?

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I was in the cinema tonight and in the interval what should come out of the speakers but the can-can.

Is somebody having a laugh?

From Mary Krell

Monday, 8 July 2013

Paul Clarke suggests developing a booking policy and that gets to the core of the problem.

I would like to respectfully point out that, if the building remains a cinema then a booking policy is deeply problematic. Such a policy must either take into account films shown (which would effectively grant the council the power to censor films) or it would seem ineffective if even legal. So a policy would, as I mentioned ages ago, be the thin end of a wedge which truly could be called censorship.

A booking policy for a cinema is something that I have rarely seen for those very reasons (though if someone would like to share some I'd be keen to seem them).

From Cllr James Baker

Monday, 8 July 2013

The fact that there isn't a booking policy demonstrates the arbitrary nature by which this event was banned from the venue. Why was this particular show discussed by the committee but not other live acts? As it has been pointed out all sorts of live comedy acts could do or say things some people might find offensive or objectifying to women.

My motion on Wednesday sets out to create an Equal access policy whereby anyone can book this community venue regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or policy beliefs so long as they have the correct licence and their act is lawful.

Calderdale Council as the licensing authority has the duty and responsibility to ensure acts and shows have the correct licence. Our Town Council should be getting on with being a Town Council and focusing on things that matter like my proposal to take on an apprentice rather than trying to act as the local censor.

From Peter Read

Monday, 8 July 2013

Weren't the vast majority on here in favour of the so called Naked Rambler a while back? Make your minds up!

From Jack Hughes

Monday, 8 July 2013

I notice that on July 13th, the Town Hall is hosting a gig by the band 'Ultramagneric MC's', probably best known for the song 'Smack My Bitch Up' (as sampled by 'The Prodigy').

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I think we need some clarification from the Chair of the Picture House committee as to why she has emailed people saying the Friends of the Picture House are backing the ban.

That certainly isn't what the official committee minutes say, and an email received by friends of the Picture House from their management committee quite clearly says they were of divided opinion:

"We would like to have consulted with you, the members of the FOPH, on how we should have represented your views on this matter to the councillors, but unfortunately our Management Committee representatives only received the agenda on the Friday before the Monday meeting, which we felt was too late to have adequate time to consult with you. Therefore, in the time available, we had a quick internal discussion amongst the committee members. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was division, with some supportive of the application, some ambivalent, and some in favour of refusal. Our representatives at the Management Committee meeting reported this division to the councillors."

If the Chair has misrepresented the views of the friends group to strengthen her argument then it raises questions as to whether she is suitable for this position.

From Cllr Susan Press

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Picture House Committee took this decision not on 'moral grounds' as has been suggested or because we wanted to ban burlesque but because we felt that the event was not appropriate in a community-owned building and because we recognised that opinion was sharply divided between those who see it as an ' empowering ' artform and those who view its elements of striptease and sexual titillation with some concern.

The decision was supported not only by Labour councillors but by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and individual members of Friends Of The Picture House, volunteers whose support is valued and whose opinion had to be taken into account. Their representatives at the meeting confirmed some members were opposed, some ambivalent and some in favour.

For clarity, the Festival has not been 'banned 'from Hebden Bridge. It was staged at the Town Hall earlier this year and the Town Hall (which is not owned by the Town Council) is happy to stage it again.

We knew when we made the decision we were damned if we did and damned if we didn't. Democratically elected councillors sometimes have to make decisions which are difficult and which cannot please everyone.

Tomorrow's Council meeting will discuss the issue and I hope the Council will choose to work together to work out clear guidelines for the Picture House which take into account (as they are required to by law) equality issues as well as other legal and licensing matters which need looking at carefully to ensure such conflicts do not arise again.

Susan Press, Chair of Picture House Committee

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cllr Press, I have some sympathy for having to make difficult decisions, but you miss the point of community buildings - that they should be available for the whole community.

A Council can’t decide to preclude some people who are part of our community from hiring it because some other people don’t think it’s appropriate or have strong views about what they do. Going down that path leads to those who are outspoken or moralistic controlling what others can or can't do.

Communities have to be tolerant of others who may do things that we don’t like or approve of. So long as they are not actually hurting someone we should live and let live.

I’m glad you now acknowledge now that the Friends of the Picture House did not support the decision but represented the difference of opinion among their membership. That’s quite different from what you said in your email to Labour members (who you asked to forward onto other people). Will you at least apologize for previously misrepresenting the Friends of the Picture House' views? :

“Dear Comrade

You will probably have seen the controversy over the Town Council decision not to stage next year’s Burlesque Festival at the Picture House.
In the past week, Labour Town Councillors have come under vicious attack for that decision and faced often abusive and inaccurate allegations on the Hebweb and elsewhere online.

We took our decision not because we are ‘moral guardians’ or because we wanted to ban burlesque per se but because we felt that sexual entertainment of this kind was not appropriate in a community-owned building and because we knew opinion in the community was sharply divided and that for many – particularly women – burlesque represents the sexual objectification of women in an unacceptable way.

The decision was supported not only by Labour councillors but the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Coun Tony Hodgins and Friends Of The Picture House.

Next Wednesday July 10, the issue is on the agenda at the Town Council meeting 7.30pm at the Town Hall. We will face a barrage of lobbying from supporters of the Festival who are supporting a ‘no censorship’ resolution from Lib Dem James Baker which sets out to undermine the Picture House Committee and of course the Labour Group.”

I believe the only guidelines for hiring the Picture House should be to check that those hiring it have the appropriate license for their show and there is no reason to believe they will be using the venue to commit a criminal act (e.g. hate speech, public order offense). That is what the equal access policy that I am proposing seeks to do. I really don’t think there is any legal way a Council can restrict appropriately licensed acts from hiring a community venue. To do so would I believe be discriminatory.

If the Council does acknowledge there is a need to create guidelines that have considered the law then I don’t think it’s also tenable to uphold a ban on this group. The law and the licensing situation should have been considered before they were banned from hiring the venue.

I hope you will have the grace to acknowledge the public outcry and that the committee will rescind the decision, or at least give the Burlesque festival organisers a right to appeal. Then we can get on with being a Town Council and doing things like delivering an apprentice, or a neighborhood plan.

I appreciate that some people would have been upset if the show had taken place in the Picture House, and that you may have received some criticism whatever the decision. However the point of principle remains that one aspect of the community don’t have a right to prevent them hiring a community venue. If people object to a show they are free to protest or lobby government to change the licensing laws so Burlesque would require an adult entertainment license.

From Mary K

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

While I appreciate Cllr Press defending her decision. It is clear from messages on her own twitter feed dating 04 May, 2013 that she had a strong personal opinion about Burlesque and had even communicated with the council as such.

Any discussion she led and any she may lead on the matter frankly, should be disallowed based on personal interest. That is clearly covered under the Seven Principles of Public Life.

I won't address the issues of censorship or morality again (as it has been done so effectively above).

From Sarah F

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Well I'm glad you've made an appearance on here again Cllr Susan Press! It's just a shame you're reiterating the same comments you made before...

Although your leaked email to Labour supporters gave more of an insight into how you really stand on such matters. So you finally admit that your decision did not follow guidelines or laws on equality then? And once and for all, are you going to answer my question on the lady in the gold bikini, as I note on here that I'm not the only one you've ignored regarding this pertinent question!

From Glorian Gray

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

"The Picture House Committee took this decision not on 'moral grounds' as has been suggested"

Unfortunately, incorrectly labeling burlesque as sexual entertainment, despite the fact no council in the UK seeks to regulate it as such as it does not fit the criteria for sexual entertainment as laid out in the Policing and Crime Act), and calling burlesque "demeaning" does suggest a moral judgement.

"We knew when we made the decision we were damned if we did and damned if we didn't. Democratically elected councillors sometimes have to make decisions which are difficult and which cannot please everyone."

The 2012 Festival was very successful, with a large number of local supporters, bringing trade to Hebden Bridge and raising money for charity. The fact that you chose to heed a small number of protests, rather than this, also suggests a moral judgement.

"Tomorrow's Council meeting will discuss the issue and I hope the Council will choose to work together to work out clear guidelines for the Picture House which take into account (as they are required to by law) equality issues."

What about the discriminatory impact of trying to regulate on false grounds and prevent the only art form in the UK that is almost entirely run by and enacted by women, for women? I hope the council will be considering that gender equality issue too?

I applaud any effort to stand up for women's rights, and it saddens me greatly that burlesque is being attacked through such misunderstanding of its message and cultural context. Burlesque straddles boundaries- that is why it is controversial. It upholds gender norms and then reclaims, challenges and alters them. Burlesque provides a creative outlet, a livelihood, an art form, for hundreds of women in the UK. In attacking this, without having researched the theatrical theory, ever having attended a show, is really damaging.

From Stephen Curry

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

If the decision was not on 'moral grounds' but because it was 'not appropriate' in a community-owned building, then on what grounds was it not appropriate? Legal? Nope!...Economic? Nope!... Dangerous? Nope!... Policy grounds? Nope!... Political Grounds? N.. Humm? Maybe? Personal taste of some councillors? N...Humm? Probably!

Was the decision really such a struggle to make? Who are they kidding? It was probably made in the pub weeks before “by consensus”.

The chair says:
“Because I knew this was a contentious issue I consulted all Labour Town Councillors and the leader of the Lib Dems Tony Hodgins. He agreed with the consensus view the Festival was 'inappropriate' “. (Cllr Hodgins apparently denies this?)

It seems the Town Council had no complaints about the event at the new Town Hall in May. This despite claims by some councillors that the council is associated in the public mind with the venue.

It also seems the Town Hall (venue) only had one letter of complaint to deal with....Ahem!, anyone above want to be honest and own up to making that complaint and raising this as a “contentious issue”?

Cllr Davenport, a bit of a story, but well done for being honest and standing your ground against party pressures. Not sure you'll get a third strike though Christine!

The council meeting should break out in a rash of integrity and find a way to rescind this dubious decision.

From Gary W

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A few years ago when i was General Manager of the Trades Club, we had a Burlesque event which proved very successful. I don't recall us receiving any formal complaints and the club was full. That Labour councillors, Labour councillors, should be scuttling round issuing banning notices to a genuine historic music hall art form that has its roots firmly in the working class is ignorant and depressing.

The cinema belongs to all of us, not just the prudes who feel that sexuality and cheeky comic naughtiness has no place in council owned buildings. Are our town council so rich that they can afford to take these moral over financial decisions?

From John Smithson

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Of all the issues I'd expect our local councillors to be involved in, deciding which acts to allow to perform at the cinema does not even figure on a distant horizon.

Let's get the politicians out of this moral censorship; establish booking criteria for the cinema and then leave it to the cinema manager to implement. As I see it the criteria should be : is it legal and does it make commercial sense.

A note to our councillors: it will be difficult to vote for any of you if you continue to act as moral guardians determining what can and cannot be seen and done in our cinema.

From Paul Clarke

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

I went along to the full council meeting meeting which was held in packed Waterfront Hall due to the burlesque event being on the agenda.

I'm glad to see it was a passionate debate full of powerful contributions from members of our communities who spoke from both sides of the debate.

The supporters of allowing the burlesque event to be held in the Picture House spoke well as did those of us uncomfortable with the event.

Afterwards one of the speakers said that the speakers were listened to in a 'respectful' way and I couldn't agree more.

Despite the passions involved it was a civilised debate that was also informed and raised some serious points.

People often moan about our councillors but after the public section finished there were some equally powerful and informed debate on the various resolutions.

I was proud that we could come together and talk about gender and equality issues with such insight.

It made me very, very proud to live in Hebden.

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Thank you Paul, you were far more reasonable in person then when behind a keyboard!

I argued my socks of for a liberal Equal Access policy to this community resource, and disappointed it was defeated as a motion.

If I am on the committee that the Council is now establishing to consider a new policy then I will continue to try and ensure this policy is as liberal as possible.

I hope now we have agreed to create a policy there will be cross-party agreement to rescind the original decision so it can be re-examined under the new policy. I hope the Chair of the committee is happy with that way forward and we can then move on from this issue onto other important matters.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Perhaps it is worth starting from a position of unity here hard though that may be to find, and assume that all those who are for or against burlesque in this debate are against the sexual exploitation /objectification of women. It is, after all, one of the great evils of our society.

A helpful question in this context might be do Burlesque shows in some way perpetuate this evil (whether the performers or audience intend to or not) or are the shows a progressive force in overcoming it – part of the solution or part of the problem?

For my money (which the Burlesque business is not going to get its hands on) the answer is the latter. However Burlesque supporters dress it up (pun intended) these shows are basically about getting your kit off, or nearly off, for money. It might well be done “artistically” (and apparently it takes a lot of creativity, skill and practice) – but that doesn’t make it progressive.

Burlesque doesn’t challenge women’s oppression or sexual exploitation or subvert it – it accommodates and panders to it. What I wonder does it say to men attending the shows – that women with “normal” bodies can shake their nipple tassels too? What does it tell men about what women think, what they have to say, what they have to contribute, what they want to challenge, what their aspirations are as women - what they want to change? Does it raise the status of women in the eyes of men – does it challenge their preconceptions about their sexuality and the way they treat women in their daily work and home lives? Does it heck.

And just what does it do for women – apart from those taking part or those watching? I have no problem with Burlesque dancers enjoying what they do, I recognise the make a personal choice, I’m genuinely glad they feel empowered or gain body confidence or realise and release their creative talents – and if other women want to pay to watch it that’s fine. But what voice does it give the masses of ordinary women up to their necks in the daily grind of crappy part time jobs and an unequal share of the child care and domestic work? What does it say to victims of routine domestic violence –what does it say to our young women caught up in sexual exploitation? What does it empower them to do?

As for Hebden Royd Picture House management committee – they had a decision to make. Did they want to be associated with a Burlesque show? Right or wrong, it seems to me they took a reasoned, considered and democratic view. Nothing was banned nothing was supressed. Did each of the participants take their own views about Burlesque, moral or otherwise into the discussion? Of course they did –why on earth shouldn’t they? Their crime, it seems, is to have taken a decision in what they believe to be in the best interests of the community they serve. The problem really is that the Burlesque “community” and their supporters don’t like it - and some local politicians can’t contain their feeding frenzy at the political expense, they hope, of others.

That’s fair enough. Protest, complain, boycott the picture house, whatever. But the tirade of abuse and vilification that the Cllrs, especially Sue Press have received (someone by the way who has fought injustice and women’s oppression all her life –more I would hazard that can be said for many of the Burlesque protestors) appals me frankly and actually I think it has become quite oppressive.

To simply label people as bigots and so forth because they have concerns about Burlesque or even because they are opposed to it is disgraceful. To argue that you can’t take a position on Burlesque until you have been to a show is arrogant self- conceited nonsense (and makes no sense alongside a claim that we need to have some sort of town wide referendum on the decision).

To equate being denied a booking with the oppression of the Nazis and the outcome for the performers to that of holocaust victims is as ridiculous as it is offensive (first Hebden Royd can for the part time strippers with carry on names and then they came for me?). To assume that anyone who dares speak against Burlesque must be a sexual prude or a philistine in need of enlightenment is, is it not, simply the kind of prejudice they claim to be against?

I started with the question of unity didn’t I? I look forward to seeing a Burlesque contingent on the next demonstration I attend – perhaps for women’s rights. If that happens, I promise I will go to a show.

From Susan Quick

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Well we hit BBC Look North again Wednesday night. As well as the debate about Burlesque and an interview with Councillor Susan Press, there was a beautful photo of Heptonstall. Here's the link. (Just over 16 minutes into the programme)

Not having yet seen Burlesque, I don't know whether I like it or not. But I do disagree with banning it. I worked as a waitress in a topless bar in New York in 1979. The dancers included a single mum and an art school student. There's no student grant or benefits system in the US. So if you have to dance topless to feed your baby or to pay your way thru art school..... Women who dance burlesque are not doing in to survive in a capitalist system.

At last Monday's public meeting of the Hebden Bridge Partnership at the Town Hall, the reprsentative of faith groups invited the Burlesque Festival to perform across the road from the cinema at the Baptist church. If they are welcome in a house of God, please would Councillor Press and others get off your high horses.

From Alan McDonald

Thursday, 11 July 2013

As a Todmorden resident I voted against the takeover of the Picture House by the Hebden Royd Council. I thought its use as an asset for people beyond Hebden Bridge would be better protected by Calderdale Council.

Now I find the local councillors have voted against burlesque in the venue. To me the issue of principle there has been terribly muddied. Some will be for and some against burlesque on the grounds of gender politics. So what? The issue isn't whether burlesque is politically ok, but whether it's ok for local politicians to censor what happens in the Picture House.

Fortified by the burlesque decision, I trust that councillors will be keeping a vigilant eye in future on the movies shown. In my youth 'Straw dogs' and 'Clockwork orange' were effectively stopped from wide circulation by the activities of just a few censorious public guardians.

Meanwhile, have the burlesque organisers considered the Todmorden Hippodrome? Great venue, saw a new opera there last week. Blimey, there were even performers from Hebden Bridge in it.

From Lucy F

Thursday, 11 July 2013

It does astound me how many people think it is a form of sexual provocation for men. If you had been to a Burlesque show you would know the majority of the audience are women and most men will be there with their partners. It is comedy, dance and art all in one. It empowers women in a way that we don't all have to look like they do in the magazines and on the telly to feel good about our bodies, we are all different and beautiful in our own right. The women that perform Burlesque are amazing and deserve respect for what they do. It's not just women that perform, also men, comedy acts, musicians, an all round variety performance.

Would the Picture House and Council refuse a heavy metal bands request to perform due to mis-informed beliefs that their music is evil and promotes violence and killing as some people think of this genre of music.
The decision does seem to have been made on personal beliefs/views of the committee and ill informed ones at that.

From M Krell

Thursday, 11 July 2013

I would only like to say to Mr. A. Keep that (and this is my personal response, as I spoke directly to this at the meeting).

Public officials can expect to face scrutiny for decisions taken in a democratic society, especially when (a) the issues are contentious, (b) the decisions taken appear to be based on unsubstantiated facts (I note no documents proving evidence of consultation were provided by any of the Labour party and I am sorry but, "someone stopped me in the co-op" does not outweigh dozens of letters and more than a thousand signatures) and (c) those decisions are, as Cllr Press herself noted, unpopular ones.

My complaint (and I made it clearly at the meeting) is that I believe Cllr Press contravened the Nolan principles (expected to be upheld by all public officials in this country and outlined in the Calderdale Council code of conduct).

It is not a personal grudge when one exercises free speech to question the actions of an elected official who can be seen to be acting in a way that many find contradictory to agreed standards of public life.

It is the right of citizens, even the responsibility, to speak up in such a case, comrade.

Respectfully but deeply seriously,

From Gary W

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Alan, are you against women wearing make-up too? As that may well contribute to objectification if you follow the dodgy logic of your arguments. What about male actors or pop stars 'getting there kit off' in films and music videos? What about women showing cleavages or wearing very short tight skirts? Here's an idea for you, if you don't like it don't go along. I think the women Burlesque performers will know far more about the reality and experience of sexual inequality than you or I.

From Dave R

Thursday, 11 July 2013

As we cannot escape this topic now the media have got hold of it, I had wondered what else there is to say. I find Alan Keeps stance one I can relate to.

I too am not a prude. I too would not bother to attend a striptease show however arty it may be.

I did think 'each to their own' but, the outpouring of opinions on here clearly shows that not everyone agrees.

I have a mother, a wife, daughters and grand-daughters, so I do get involved in the odd feminist debate. What I find interesting is that each of my female relatives disagrees /disapproves call it what you like, of the burlesque event.

My mother says it is like the old music hall with smut.

My wife says it disempowers women because whatever they think/say, most blokes are ogling and hoping that a feather 'slips' whilst pretending to be real unpredjudiced bloke types.

My daughter says as working busy mum who has all on cleaning her make up for bed, if anyone thinks she has time to glue tassles to her nipples and dance to express her individuality and lack of opression, they must be a) barmy or b) have too much time on their hands.

My grandaughter thinks the ladies are pretty (like the pantomine person - The Dame!)

Me? Well to be honest, I still think its all too much fuss and I would rather get back onto a debate that affects more than a few militant fandango dancers

From Eleanor Land

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The problem with this subject is that it is going round and round in circles, with people who are adamantly for burlesque and a few who are not. I think it is time for some people to agree to differ.

My personal opinion is that I am not interested in burlesque, my view has been formed because I don't like the gender issues. I am from an era when women had to put up with low level sexual harassment in the work place, and also outside the workplace. Therefore I do not find it entertaining. I have never seen burlesque on stage and I have no wish to see it either. I looked on HB Times website and saw a short film from the burlesque festival. This confirmed my belief that this art form is definitely not for me.

If other people wish to watch or take part, I have no wish to stop them doing so.

I agree with other posters that the Picture House committee should agree a booking strategy and stick to it.

Perhaps then our politicians could stop their petty squabbling and point scoring and get on with the serious issues facing us at the moment.

From Glorian Gray

Thursday, 11 July 2013

"Burlesque supporters dress it up (pun intended) these shows are basically about getting your kit off, or nearly off, for money. It might well be done “artistically” (and apparently it takes a lot of creativity, skill and practice) – but that doesn’t make it progressive. "

Answer me this if you will, because it constantly puzzles me; in an art form that optionally may involve striptease to non-nudity or another costume, and also has song, dance, acting, mime, comedy, circus, and all the variety under the sun, why do people become so fixated be the striptease only? It is not the only element, nor necessarily the predominant one. So this fixation must be about something else- a viewpoint on sexuality or women's sexuality? Can you help me out with that?

As for progressive- the current academic research around burlesque has a consensus that burlesque can be progressive but only to a small degree- it "tweaks" gender role norms. However, if an art form is not progressive, does that mean it has to be banned? Does it necessarily mean it is regressive? Or perhaps it does when all the participants and audience are women? We all have to remember that burlesque is first and foremost, light entertainment.

"Does it raise the status of women in the eyes of men – does it challenge their preconceptions about their sexuality and the way they treat women in their daily work and home lives? Does it heck."

All the women burlesque performers I have met (hundreds over 6 years) are intelligent and strong creatives. You have to be, to be a successful performer and businessperson. Any man faced with this either leaves in horror or discomfort, or changes his perceptions (assuming he had such dubious ones to begin with).

"And just what does it do for women – apart from those taking part or those watching? what voice does it give the masses of ordinary women up to their necks in the daily grind of crappy part time jobs and an unequal share of the child care and domestic work? What does it empower them to do?"

You seem to have the wrong end of the stick here - burlesque performers are ordinary women. We have kids, struggle to pay rent and bills, clean the cat litter, do the laundry, watch telly. So we are very much able to answer the question about "what it does for ordinary women". Not only does it give us a job we love, it strengthens us to deal with the daily grind, because we have this strong creative outlet and amazing support network. It gives opportunity and interest in life.

It helps us be strong in the face of sexism and all life's problems, because we know we are good at our art, we have that outlet, we build businesses from it. It gives us self knowledge and self respect. Learning stage craft helps us understand ourselves and our bodies so that we come to love and enjoy who we are, both physically and mentally. 6 years ago, if some guy on the street said "nice tits" to me, I would either ignore it or (worse) giggle. Now, through the confidence I have gained as a performer and businesswoman, I challenge such comments. And for those not involved, who don’t have the full picture and hence the wrong idea - perhaps some kind of educational action is needed to address this, a community Q&A or something?

I am working on some ideas with some of the opposition from the meeting, taking into account their concerns. So that is what burlesque does for ordinary women and what it empowers females to do.

"As for Hebden Royd Picture House management committee – they had a decision to make. Did they want to be associated with a Burlesque show? Right or wrong, it seems to me they took a reasoned, considered and democratic view."

The meeting was OK, but what about the fact that one of the committee members had a proven vested personal interest, and did not stand down from the decision-making? What of the premature and ill-researched accusations that burlesque demeans women? That is a strong insult.

What you have to understand is that a lawful art form has been attacked, viciously, on the basis of misunderstanding. Worse, once the misunderstanding is pointed out, no one listens - not to educated, experienced, intelligent women who know what they are talking about. It just comes back again and again to the same comments, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Also, this is a threat to freedom of speech, to the only women led and owned, woman performed, women-viewed artistic industry in the UK, and is a threat to the livelihood of literally 100s of women. I am sure you can see why the reaction is one of anger and suspicion. It is certainly not unusual for both men and women of a certain mindset, to try and control what women do and how they do it, especially with something that touches on sexuality. The implications of this decision go far beyond just the Picture House.

I felt for Cllr Press at that meeting. That can't have been easy. It wasn't easy for anyone there. But the anger directed at her was in direct response to the unfair, uninformed comments and threats she has made to a lawful artistic industry, and to some very confused and often disrespectful comments she made at the meeting. You can't call people "demeaning to women" and suggest they naively don’t know their own mind or industry, and threaten their businesses and freedom of expression, and expect them not to be angry. We have all had an awful, stressful week with this, both sides, and we should all acknowledge this.

"To argue that you can’t take a position on Burlesque until you have been to a show is arrogant self- conceited nonsense"

How is it arrogant nonsense to suggest that you know and research what you are talking about before you try to ban it from a venue? What a strange thing to say.

"I look forward to seeing a Burlesque contingent on the next demonstration I attend – perhaps for women’s rights. If that happens, I promise I will go to a show."

This just displays more misunderstanding. A large portion of the burlesque community are informed and active feminists and work hard in various arenas for women's rights. Why say this unless you are sure it is the case? It is so insulting to all the burlesque performers, who are also ordinary women, working hard to challenge trans issues, homophobia, the recent midwifery issue, portrayal of women in the media, a girl's right to education (to name but a few campaigns that burlesque performers are currently working on).

From Kez Armitage

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Over a hundred contributions to this debate on Hebweb! That must be some sort of record.

As Oscar Wilde said "There's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about" The oxygen of publicity surrounding the Burlesque Festival will surely mean that the Council will have no option but to rescind the decision of the Picture House Committee, or else turn Hebden Bridge - that bastion of liberal thought, funkiness, freedom and coolness - into a national laughing stock.

The signs at the exit of the town (you know the ones - "That was so Hebden Bridge") would take on a whole new meaning. Hebden Bridge, far from being tolerant and liberal, would be viewed as a tight and mean little town which had lost the plot.

Going back to previous posts, it must be right that a) if it's legal and b) if it doesn't require a public subsidy then it simply must be allowed to go ahead. Why should Hebden Bridge prohibit what Calderdale allows?

Of course it must go ahead! And now, with the national publicity that the Burlesque Festival has received, I predict that any performance at the Picture House will be a sell out. The organisers may well be wise to book a second slot. The Burlesque Festival couldn't have wished for more.

From Paul Clarke

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Can we cut to the chase here - the Burlesque gang have won.

Last night the council agreed to set up a sub committee to create a booking policy for the Picture House.

It was clear one of the motions on the agenda would form the basis of this policy and might even be broader in scope.

It is also crystal clear that if the Burlesque crowd resubmitted their application then it would sail through this policy and they could go ahead.

I did ask Heidi Bang Tidy (sic) if she would to happy to see that process through and she agreed.

Ergo . . . new policy . . . new submission . . . burlesque show.

So I would ask the burlesque crowd to do two things:

  • enjoy your victory but please show a little humility
  • please understand that the original decision was taken by six cllrs not just one. It is reasonable to ask Cllr Press questions as the Chair, which you did, but it is fascinating to me you didn't ask the other cllrs who took the decision to justify their decisions.

I note none of you mentioned that your supporter Cllr Davenport didn't even bother to turn up for the meeting. I also note that Lib Dem Leader Cllr Hodgins who voted against the booking didn't speak in the debate nor did you challenge him at any point. By all means challenge our Cllrs but spread it around a bit more. That's only fair and adds weight to your case.

I know it wasn't the intention of any individual to target an individual cllr, but that is how it came across and it was unpleasant to the outsider. I'm in favour of accountability but not witch hunts.

I'm pleased the council have decided to create a policy and although I remain uncomfortable with stripping in the PH I accept that in a democratic society I can't always have my way.

Just to pick up a few points raised by individuals:

James Baker - I actually thought you let yourself down grandstanding over your request that the PH committee rescind the decision. You were told repeatedly by the Mayor and the Town Clerk why the committee couldn't do it, but you were either playing to the gallery or didn't understand your own rules.

M Krell - I'm afraid your contribution wasn't clear and tumbleweed was blowing round the room. Your point seemed to be a cllr takes a decision based on their prejudices. All our cllrs are elected on a political ticket so they bring those prejudices and then their own life experiences to ALL decisions. Maybe you think we should leave it to Trappist Monks or Nuns who live in closed communities untainted by external views and experiences.

A petition was mentioned but many of those who signed are not local residents and as I pointed that my view as council tax payer my view has slightly more weight than Betsie Bon Bon (sic).

I really enjoyed much of last night's debate and it was a triumph for local democracy as we avoided a slanging match. As I've said before those councillors who did turn up to face the music or could be bothered to speak spoke well and with some authority.

But it is time to move on to close this oversight of not having a policy so the PH committee can avoid a repeat of this issue which ironically has produced a wonderfully informed debate.

From Robert Collins

Friday, 12 July 2013

Paul Clarke obviously wants to have the final word on this thread, with his "cut to the chase" and "enjoy your victory" lines.

But then he can't resist using the rest of his post to get in as much name-calling and point-scoring as he possibly can. I just wanted to call him out on that - it's quite amusing.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 12 July 2013

The point about the petition not being comprised entirely of people from the local parish seems a churlish when we are also faced with 40 letters in support of allowing the festival and one against. There are many rate payers who have signed the petition!

As the policy hasn't yet been created we can't assume that the show would be allowed under it. Cllr Timbers said we needed a policy in order that we could ban people like Frankie Boyle from performing at the Picture House too. So the policy could actually create further restrictions, rather than allow the festival to book the venue. I worry a lot about going down the route of a policy we could end up banning anything mildly controversial.

In order for the festival to be reconsidered under the new policy the original refusal needs to be rescinded. It's only fair given the Council has voted to say a policy is needed that the ban is rescinded in order that they can apply again under the new policy.

Hopefully this can happen with cross-party support so we can all move on from this saga.

From Graham Barker

Friday, 12 July 2013

A word in Paul Clarke’s ear: it might be unwise to state that Cllr Davenport ‘didn't even bother to turn up for the meeting’. Unless you heard her say ‘I can’t be bothered to turn up’, or words to that effect, all you can say with certainty is that she was not present. You’ve already been marked down for inaccuracy on this thread, and this whole sorry saga started off with councillors making assumptions based on no hard evidence. So think on, as we once apparently used to say.

While on the subject of Cllr Davenport, I don’t know her but I appreciated her heartfelt and very personal post on this thread. I know I’m not alone in that opinion. It didn’t deserve the graceless lambasting it got from you. So apart from making sure you get your facts right, you might in future also wish to consider other people’s feelings a little more before letting rip.

From Sophie Walker

Friday, 12 July 2013

In response to Paul Clarke - I was obviously at a different council meeting to you. I don't wish to get into a 'tit for tat' to-ing and fro-ing over who said what, however, I simply can not sit back and let inaccuracies pass un-mentioned.

No-one has 'won'. There was absolutely no indication that a resubmitted application from the burlesque festival would 'sail through'.

I did not think that any one councillor was singled out on Wednesday evening. All questions went through the chair, who asked for a member of the Picture House committee to answer - Cllr Press chose to be the one who replied to each of these.
The only time she was directly questioned was in connection to comments she had previously made in the media.

You can not criticise others for 'target(ing) an individual' or use emotive expressions such as 'witch hunt' and then personally attack James Baker and Mary Krell.

Lastly, just to point out that I am also a local resident and council tax payer - does this mean that my opinion carries as much weight as yours?!

From Paul Clarke

Monday, 15 July 2013

Robert, not looking for last word at all as this will drag on and on and on but just pointing out the real politic of all this now.

Sophie, same meeting, different sides and different interpretation - happens a lot in highly charged meetings.

Graham, I don't think pointing out that Cllr Davenport wasn't there isn't a fact. If you think pointing out her post was long on sentiment and short on substance is a lambasting then you have clearly led a very sheltered life. It is worth remembering you are happy to tear strips off people who don't agree with your worldview in other threads...think on that, as I think you used to say. I do love the word lambasting especially when it is used in its proper context.

As for me suggesting, Heidi, Betsie Bon Bon (sic) et al have won that is going to happen unless the sub-committee completely ignores sentiments expressed at the meeting. It would have to be an act of mind-blowing incompetence for them to produce a policy that would exclude Burlesque so you will get your booking through.

That to me is a victory otherwise known as winning. The other winner is democracy.

From Christine Davenport

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Just to clarify my reasons not to attend the full council meeting in the Waterfront Hall on the 10th. I voted for the Burlesque festival to be held in the Picture House. I strongly agree that as adults, we have the choice to pay to see what we wish to see, well as long as its not illegal. Burlesque isn't.

I spent days thinking over what was best to do regarding attending the meeting. My reason not to attend was simple. If, as a councillor, you do not comply with the group's decision, it becomes an issue for your future within the party. I don't agree with voting for something under duress. We all have the freedom to use our own minds and make our own choices.

As one of the residents who heard the heated discussion outside the Town Hall on the night of the Picture House committee meeting heard say "Christine, you should have voted with the rest of us to refuse" my response was "oh well, that's 2 strikes, 1 more and I'm out then".

Obviously, this lasted longer than the 2 sentences with a 'eck of a lot more thrown at each other. I have since seen most of the passers by and apologised personally for my use of a certain word, but surprisingly they were on the side of my own decision even though a couple would not attend the festival as they remember a form of Burlesque from the days of bunny girls!

I don't vote for what I am told to vote for or even who I vote for. I vote for what I feel is right. I knew that if I attended that meeting, I would have got even more angry with what I still feel was the right decision on my part to support the festival. My choice and my right to vote how I wish.

I have just learned that a member has left one of the parties and gone independent. If this kind of internal party "whip" bullying does not stop, I too will be happy to earn my 3rd strike in a way that will satisfy myself in exposing home truths. There is only so much a person can take before they explode. Respect for my own dignity is more important to me than behaving like an old washer woman with a score to settle.

I was not the only party member not to attend that meeting - there are councillors who regularly don't turn up. Don't make assumptions about why I didn't attend unless you have asked me. Presumption is not fact.

From Astra Jackman

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

I work in this little town around one week in six. I think of it as my home-from-home and whenever I’m back, or about to return, I check the Forum for news and goings-on and to see what I’ve missed in the intervening weeks.

This time I have to say I’m shocked. Really rather shocked! Here are people I know, or else know by acquaintance and conversation, all happily falling out in lumps over issues raised by a dance show that’s just a bit off in the costume department, together with a whole load of barnstorming, railroading, and general procedural hoo-hah. Well I never! They say you should travel to broaden the mind – so here’s what I’ve learned since my last visit:

- This little town, which I regularly applaud for its free spirit, is not as free as it believes itself to be. I thought of it as open, forgiving and youthful, but this week, despite the glorious sunshine, it seems a bit of an aged misogynist curmudgeon.

- The Socialists still hate the Tories, the Tories still hate the Socialists, and the Liberals are still happily hating anyone who’ll listen, but the Socialists are all sounding like the worst sort of privileged NIMBY Tories and I’ve suddenly realised many of my fellow labour-supporting acquaintances are still fighting the battles of twenty years ago, which makes me feel old.

- So what else have I learned? Since I’m now evidently old I must confess to sins of youth. I have, many times, worked as a life model. I also, when times were really hard, taken part in medical trials. Both of these involved the removal of clothing and I got paid for it. Apparently this makes me a sex worker – and all this time I never knew!

- I’ve had crap jobs, and bad relationships, and put up with some really rough times. And so have a good many other women I’ve met over the years. Thanks to Hebweb, I have now learned that never and at no time during these years should I have ever taken time out to take a tap class because it did me no good whatsoever and was not relevant to my downtrodden state. Nor should I or any of my friends have ever saved up our hard-earned pennies to go and see a non-relevant female performer because having a bit of a giggle with our mates wasn’t good for us and admiring the confidence of the albeit gender-relevant performers on stage would in no way improve our own.

All this time I thought it was rather a good thing that a former workmate dumped her lousy thieving boyfriend after a night out with Sarah Millican. And I was so ignorant I had actually approved of my sister calling in at home to see if her guitar was still in the loft after going to see Mamma Mia. Now I know the error of my ways I shall go back to being downtrodden and encourage my fellow women to either remain downtrodden or else to aspire to such a state of oppression safe in the knowledge that there are people in Hebden concerned for our welfare! Apparently we’re unable to fettle for ourselves!

All in all, this has been the most surprising thread – something I never thought to see. So come on, Hebden, leave off your tired armchair battles. Don’t make your enviable social conscience a millstone to wear around your neck, or worse still, an albatross. Go out and get a bit of fresh air and don’t come back until your spirits are revived and restored and you can no longer smell humbug! See you in September!

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 18 July 2013

I don’t really want to get into a dialogue with anyone in particular as I have usually found that entirely unhelpful on these pages - but I would have to respond to Glorian (and in passing to Gary – the answer to whose nonsensical question is no, I don’t have a problem with women wearing make -up or whatever else they want to -something I have argued many many times usually in response to the disgusting “contributory negligence”kind of argument in relation to sexual violence against women)

So, Glorian, I don’t have a “fixation” with striptease and I don’t know why you would try to downplay that element of Burlesque. I am aware that modern Burlesque shows, in harking back to the tradition they come from often have all sorts of other acts. But please don’t tell me it’s “optional” to have some striptease.

Now I haven’t done the research or taken my qualification in Burlesque theory but is there a Burlesque club in the land that doesn’t have some sort of stripping in every show? It is, after all, a business – in fact I would say it’s an industry these days –and I suspect the strippers put more bums on seats than the fire eaters no?

My guess is that the more corporate and upscale show you go to - and there appear to be plenty of them – the more stripping and less “variety” you get. By the way, I also suspect but don’t know, that the bigger the Burlesque organisation is the less likely it is to be run “for women by women”. I wonder who really makes the big bucks out of Burlesque and who dictates its creative and “artistic” direction, men or women –any thoughts/research?

I also wonder how Burlesque performers are treated in some of these clubs and just how empowered some women end up being.

Anyway, perhaps we could conduct a test here in hand- made land (as the Hebden Burlesque festival is “not for profit” anyway) and have the next one without striptease, seeing as it’s optional (perhaps a banner saying “Burlesque – circus, mime, comedy, no stripping” would be good). You would have no problem getting your desired venue but I think you would have a very big problem filling it.

Sex sells, as I think you are aware, and that’s what places such a question mark over Burlesque – how compatible is what happens in Burlesque show with opposing the sexual exploitation/objectification of women regardless of the intention of Burlesque artistes/promoters? It's a question you can't avoid by hiding behind the assertion that it's just "light entertainment" -so was the Benny Hill Show.

I’m disappointed that the current academic research suggests only a “small progressive role” for Burlesque although I am curious to know how one could measure this. Does it mean it should be banned? No. Did I advocate that? Did anyone else? No. But is Burlesque as a whole part of the problem of the sexual exploitation /objectification of women –yes I still believe it is.

One of my points about this concerned what Burlesque says to men. Glorian’s answer to this is that when men are faced with strong, creative Burlesque performers they leave! I didn’t realise that was the objective but I guess I see the logic -when I meet strong, creative women with their clothes on I tend to stick around to hear what the have to say and learn something. If they were shaking their tail feathers at me at the same time I think I would find it off putting too. Either way, it doesn’t sound like a good business plan to me or a very effective way to engage men in the project of stopping them being sexist pigs or even just to learn to respect women. But no matter - apparently, if they don’t run away in horror all men change their perceptions about women and their sexuality for the better anyway. Now that is quite some claim (can it be substantiated at all - seeing as we are so keen on research and that?) and does it suggest that if we could just get all men through a Burlesque show without running off we could crack sexism?!

I also asked what Burlesque does for women apart, I emphasised, from those taking part or watching. Glorian informs us that Burlesque performers are ordinary women themselves and I am sure that is true in very many cases (I do wonder how often Dita Von Tease rakes out the cat litter though) and then provides a now familiar account of how empowering their chosen activity is. Got it - that’s great - no problem. I was talking about the mass of ordinary women though, not the hundreds of Burlesque performers - people like Richard’s daughter for instance. What does Burlesque say to them? Glorian’s response really concerns me. "For those not involved” ( that is one hell of a lot of women Glorian) – “who don’t have the full picture and therefore the wrong idea” (you need to attend Burlesque history and theory classes, coming soon, and then you will have the right idea?) - “some kind of educational action is needed . . . a community Q&A or something”. Glorian , are you serious? Is this just not a little elitist and patronising? (and organisationally vague – I hate that). Is this the offer Burlesque makes to women who are not signed up and perhaps, hard to believe I know, not quite up to taking their clothes off in public?

Glorian describes the meeting that decided not to book Burlesque for the PH as “OK”, which of course it was - as a democratic discussion and decision making process - whatever the outcome. But then one Committee member apparently had a “vested interest”. Glorian refers to Cllr Press I believe. As far as I know, Cllr Press’s vested interest is in doing her best to serve the interests of the community she was elected to serve and to take a stance on women’s oppression, amongst many other issues, which forms part of the political platform she was elected on. I suspect Sue has a dim view of Burlesque but so, not unreasonably, do many women in our town I would think.

An opinion that Burlesque demeans women is just that - I don’t expect Burlesque fans to like it or agree with it but I don’t think it amounts to a vicious attack. I wonder If any of those making the decision had been to a Burlesque show and enjoyed it (and that may be the case) would be seen have a vested interest too? And by the way, being educated, intelligent and informed (which is quite a good description of Cllr Press in my opinion) doesn’t give you immunity from being wrong. Also, “scrutiny” of decisions is fine, as is protesting against them – all part of a healthy democracy - but I do think there has been a degree of entirely unnecessary vilification of Cllr Press in particular and an unhealthy labelling and stereotyping of those who have genuine concerns and questions to ask of Burlesque (especially in many of the comments posted in the petition) which I would have thought Burlesque supporters would instinctively avoid.

Now, perhaps I too have been a little hasty and ill-informed. I am really glad to learn that a large proportion of the Burlesque community are involved in active campaigns to challenge homophobia, girls' rights to education and the portrayal of women in the media etc – all issues I care greatly about. Perhaps Glorian or others could tell us more about this work and other people could join in. I’d certainly love to see the Burlesque community speak up about articles such as this recent one in the S*n - which doesn’t do a lot for the image of Burlesque or for the cause of opposing the sexual exploitation of women especially when you read the comments made by men about it.

Glorian, I don’t think we are going to end up anywhere near agreement on Burlesque – we might do better joining forces against some common enemies?

From H Gregg

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Too many ******* words on this subject!

K.I.S.S. Do people in Hebden Bridge want anyone to tell us what we should (or should not) do?

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 18 July 2013

I agree that the extent of whipping that goes on at Hebden Royd as a parish council is totally over the top. Sometimes you wonder why it's even worth going to meetings when one party has already whipped everyone into supporting a position regardless of the actual debate. It's a shame as there are some very reasonable Labour members who I respect a great deal. These people often don't get their voices heard or have the freedom to vote with what they believe.

The Lib Dems don't have a formal system to whipping people on Hebden Royd as there is no official party group system at the parish council level. Although that's not without problems as social pressure of persuasion is inevitably either intentionally or unintentionally put on people who disagree with everyone else. Group peer pressure happens with all groups as anyone with friends, family or went to school will attest to! I would as someone who supports individualism much rather have strong independently minded colleagues who debated and challenged me than people who just vote with their party all the time. Let's face it the party political system needs to adapt as its so unappealing to most people and that's bad for democracy. A collectivist approach of heavily whipping people with a three strikes and you are out rule is at odds with the sort of modern party I would like to create and belong to.

It's one reason why I think two smaller less political parishes would be a better idea. Bring on the return of a parish for Mytholmroyd, Brealey and Cragg vale.

From Gary W

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Alan, you again engage in exactly the kind of derogatory and judgemental labelling that you accuse others of doing; "but I do think there has been a degree of entirely unnecessary vilification of Cllr Press (and of burlesque performers by you) in particular and an unhealthy labelling and stereotyping (of Burlesque performers by you!)". The question isn't whether burlesque is a force for good or bad; because that surely, is simply a matter of taste and personal judgement. It's whether people like you should be able to prevent others from attending a performance, by supporting a ban on them being allowed to use a particular venue.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 18 July 2013

An unexamined aspect of this thread is the insistence of some men that burlesque demeans women, despite women queuing up to argue eloquently that it doesn’t.

I’m always deeply suspicious of feminism from men. It rarely comes out sounding right, and it has a false ring here. I can imagine those same male voices a century ago, demanding votes for women - but only the right kind of woman. Burlesque dancers need not apply.

From Allen Keep

Friday, 19 July 2013

I think you will find it hard Gary to point out where I have vilified or labelled anyone but I guess that's a judgement call too. You will find it even harder to find where I have advocated banning burlesque.

I would have thought "people like you" (whatever that means) would have supported my right to raise whatever question I like about Burlesque - and the one I consider important (more than what goes on/has gone on in council meetings) - is whether Burlesque has a progressive role or not to play in relation to women's oppression/sexual exploitation. That's because I am against it.

The role of Burlesque in that context is questionable /controversial/complex and you are correct - it is a question of judgement. I am just providing mine. It's called a debate.

From Eleanor Land

Friday, 19 July 2013

I don't believe it. We're now heavily into whipping according to Councillor Baker. Whatever next!

The shennanagans practised by our politicians goes right over the head of the voting public. They are more interested in how to survive austerity. Methinks, as usual, Cllr Baker is trying to score party political points, something quite common amongst some politicians - a case in point being the disgraceful antics over the Health Service during PM Questions this week and carried on by the Health Secretary. Instead of dealing with serious problems, you engage in a game of tit for tat.

When will you realise this is a complete turn off for your voters? Get on with solving problems and stop the blame game.

From James Baker

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sorry if it comes across as point scoring Eleanor. I just get frustrated at the extent to which things are all predetermined in the Trades club before the actual debates at Council.

That doesn't mean I don't have a huge amount of respect for all of the Heben Royd Town Councillors who give a large chunk of their very precious time to serve the community. In return for this they receive no remuneration, and also open themselves up for the type of abuse and vilification all politicians receive these days.

I do take some exception however at being told I should focus on serious problems. The reason being, as anyone who knows me well will testify, I spend a lot of time doing just this. Currently this year I've proposed a whole host of proposals to help engage young people in the parish, put forward the idea of an apprenticeship. I'm also working on the community funding committee, and strategy and review in addition two working parties on a neighborhood plan and the booking policy for the picture house.

From Allen Keep

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cllr Baker failed to add to his list the time he has spent defending this Tory Government's policies and particularly his very active role in trying to persuade, unsuccessfully, Calderdale council to support the Bedroom Tax.

From Eleanor Land

Sunday, 21 July 2013

My point Councillor Baker is that all our politicians should be addressing the serious problems facing us, I wasn't singling you out as being any worse or better.

At the moment these problems are many and varied. How to find growth, finding jobs for our young people who have been abandoned to a life of unemployment, poor pay if they manage to find any work, and large debts if they go into further education. Then we have the disaster that is the Bedroom Tax. The rise in child poverty and the gap between rich and poor.

I think all our politicians could more productively use their time actually doing something about the above, rather than indulging themselves in petty squabbling. The voters may then think it is worth their time bothering to vote for you.

From Kez Armitage

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cllr Baker raises a point of which we should all take note.

So many people in this discussion have criticised politicians for wasting their time on trivia. Their argument is that there are far more important things to worry about than whether a few people want to put on a slightly risque show in our town. Superficially, it's quite an appealing point of view.

There is, of course, so much more to it than that. The bottom line is that it's all about censorship. It's about a small group of people trying to impose their subjective views on the rest of us. It's about that group acting as our moral guardians, as though we were incapable of making our own minds up.

There is no need for the Picture House to come up with guidelines for what is, and isn't acceptable. For goodness' sake, we have enough guidelines at national and local level already. There has been a successful Burlesque event at the Victoria Hall in Halifax quite recently. Would that have been allowed in the Picture House? If not, why do our elected councillors think that, somehow, Hebden Bridge has to be protected from what the rest of Calderdale, or for that matter the rest of the country, is allowed to see?

I've lived in Hebden Bridge for nearly forty years. I've loved its liberal and tolerant attitude to everything and everyone. It makes the place what it is, and what it should continue to be. Petty minded and almost unhealthy censorship has no place in this town. "That was so Hebden Bridge" proclaim the signs at the exit to the town. But sadly what is happening here is not at all "Hebden Bridge".

Shrug it off if you want. It doesn't really matter, does it? Big Brother will make sure we see and hear what's appropriate. What's the problem with that?

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 21 July 2013

To those concerned that we’re fiddling while Rome burns, I respectfully point out the following:

1 The title of this thread is ‘Burlesque Festival’, not ‘Iniquities of the Coalition Government’.

2 Most people in Hebden Bridge are capable of keeping more than one mental ball in the air at a time.

3 This story has become what it is because Labour councillors dropped a serious clanger and still haven’t properly picked it up. They could have won respect by doing so, but preferred to show us their controlling, hectoring, Canutish side. I think many of us are concluding that this really isn’t a good look.

From Cllr James Baker

Monday, 22 July 2013

In which case I agree Eleanor there other important issues. As I've said before the Council could be expediting my proposal for an apprentice, getting on with a neighbourhood plan or doing some more youth work. I would rather be getting on with these things then finding myself having to fight censorship.

I would say though that more people turned up to the council meeting on Burlseque then any other meeting I have been to on Hebden Royd. We had to move to a bigger venue to fit everyone in. The length of this thread is also an indicator of public interest. Who would have thought a story about nuditity, equality and local council bureaucracy would have proved popular.

With regards the 'bedroom tax' which something one or two people keep raising as something we ought to be talking about ill say this. Every Calderdale Council meeting Labour put forward a motion (or two) in protest at some government policy or the other. These debates involve a lot of hot air and gnashing of teeth at the nasty Tories and Liberal Democrats. Inevitably, they end in a letter being sent to a minister from the Council. How effective these letters are and how good a use of time this is people can judge for themselves.

We have a way forward now. Ten Councillors have signed a letter asking that the decesion be rescinded and despite Liberal Democracts preferring to have a simple equal access policy we have agree to work together with Labour to form a cross-party policy. In the end we do get down and work together to find compromises and solutions.

This thread is now closed. (Monday, 22 July 2013) This has been an excellent debate. Many thanks to all those who have taken their time to express their thoughts and feelings so articulately and passionately. I feel we have exhausted the pros and cons of this particular discussion and people are starting to use the thread to stray into other areas.

Feel free to start news threads - Ed

See also

HebWeb News: Town Council vetoes Burlesque Festival from using The Picture House

HebWeb Forum: Middle Class Pole Dancing