Leading supporters of the Tricycle Theatre have told the Jewish News they will stop funding the institution over its decision to bar the Jewish Film Festival.
The Kilburn facility – which has held screenings for the annual festival for the past eight years – provoked widespread anger after pulling the plug on its involvement in this year’s event when organisers refused to hand back £1,400 of support from the Israeli embassy.
Several donors had said they would review their financial backing but Sir Trevor Chinn has revealed he has now ended his five-year relationship with the theatre, which it is believed saw him contribute a four-figure sum annually.
Sir Trevor, who is also a member of the Jewish Leadership Council’s executive committee, said: “We are as a community under pressure from the boycott movement. We can’t accept boycotts and whenever one comes along we have to fight it”.
He met the Tricycle’s artistic director Indhu Rubasingham, for whom he said he has “huge respect artistically”, two weeks ago after the theatre had informed JFF of its intentions.
Chinn says he made it “absolutely clear” that the theatre would lose support from community members if the move was confirmed.
“The Tricycle is going to lose a lot of audience members and a lot of financial support,” he said, adding that other “substantial supporters” had previously indicated their intention to take the same action as him. “It’s a tragedy because this is a theatre that needs and, in the ordinary course, deserves support.”
Also confirming the withdrawal of their support was Celia Atkin, whose Atkin charitable Foundation supports causes in the fields of the arts, health and poverty relief. She said: “This is a very sad situation. It has made me feel uncomfortable, unwelcome and unable to continue to attend or support the theatre.” Emunah has already cancelled a group ticket booking it had previously made.
Meanwhile, Jewish News understands that several donors have contacted the Charity Commission amid concerns over the Tricycle’s move.
“We have received complaints about the Tricycle Theatre in relation to the UK Jewish Film Festival,” said a Commission spokesperson on Wednesday.
“We are assessing the concerns that these have raised to determine whether there is a regulatory role for us.’’
It comes after a Tory councillor has said he and colleagues are “looking at whether the Tricycle has in any way breached its charitable status and whether there is any breach in the funding agreement with Brent” – a £600,000 grant over three years to fund an outreach programme of education and social inclusion activities.
He told the Jewish News: “The tricycle has stated objectives which it has given to the Charity Commission. I am measuring those objectives against the decision to cancel the Uk Jewish Film Festival. At this stage it is too early to determine the outcome of this piece of work.”
In a letter to council leader Muhammed Butt, John Warren wrote: “We disagree with artistic discrimination, and as such disagree with the Tricycle decision to cancel the Festival.” Cllr Butt responded: “International conflicts are devastating for victims in all sides – and heart breaking for us to witness. But we do not have power or influence in international conflicts.
“We do however have a community leadership role. We represent the whole community and we have the responsibility to support and nurture cohesion.” He added: “We cannot be seen to be supporting views where there is suffering on both sides and where commentary may serve to heighten misunderstanding and divide.”
The Arts Council meanwhile appears to rule out ending their support for the theatre which amounts to more than £750,000 a year. A spokesperson said: “If the question arises as to whether the Arts Council should intervene in funded organisations we consider three things: whether the organisation is in breach of their funding agreement with the Arts Council, whether it is clear that they have broken the law, and whether they are in breach of the regulations monitored and enforced by the Charity Commission.
“In this case we are confident that the Tricycle is not in breach of these tests.”
Meanwhile around 200 people protested the theatre’s decision outside the venue last Thursday, organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Participant Ilana Katz, who is administrator of the North West London Friends of Israel Facebook page, said: “We were there to say loudly that they shouldn’t be boycotting and we’re not going to remain silent.”
Waving Israeli flags, protestors sang the Israeli and British national anthems and some held placards saying ‘Don’t blame London Jews’.
“It’s up to the individual but I personally wouldn’t go to the theatre now and the majority who joined us felt the same,” said Katz.