Tricycle Theatre refuses to host UK Jewish Film Festival over Israeli sponsorship

UK Jewish Film Festival executive director Judy Ironside

UK Jewish Film Festival executive director Judy Ironside

A major London theatre has refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it is sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

The Tricycle Theatre was scheduled to be the main venue for the UKJFF in November, with 26 films due to be screened there as well as six gala events.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, UKJFF executive director Judy Ironside said: “The Tricycle told us that they cannot be associated with a festival which in turn is associated with the UK’s Israel embassy”.

The embassy is a long-standing sponsor of the festival, whose programme includes Jewish-themed films from around the world.

Mrs Ironside described the decision by the theatre, which has hosted the UKJFF for the past eight years, as a “great surprise”.

She said: “That the Tricycle Theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing.

"They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture.”

A further statement from the UKJFF said it had "considered the demands of the theatre to be entirely unacceptable and is now taking its screenings elsewhere".

It added that the festival had received support from the embassy for the past 17 years, "portraying the unmistakable cultural connection between the Jewish people and the state of Israel".

But it stressed that the festival was "entirely apolitical, showcasing perspectives from both sides of the conflict in the Middle East."

Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of the Tricycle, said the Tricycle still wanted to host the festival.

She said: "The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved.

"We offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss of the contribution from the Israeli embassy. We want the festival.

"However, the UKJFF decided it was not willing to decline sponsorship from the Israeli embassy and, to our regret, withdrew the festival from the Tricycle.”

Actress Maureen Lipman expressed dismay at the theatre's decision. She said: "The Tricycle has decided to punish Jewish people in the diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East, and that is quite unacceptable."

Last updated: 9:37am, August 6 2014