Tricycle theatre: the apology

Chairman Jonathan Levy says the Tricycle should not have demanded that the UK Jewish Film Festival drop its Israeli sponsorship


The Tricycle Theatre made headlines in 2014, at the height of the crisis in Gaza, when it requested that the UK Jewish Film Festival return the £1,400 of funding it received from the Israeli embassy, to be replaced with the same amount from the Tricycle in lieu.

It was the wrong decision to have taken but the intention was for the Tricycle to maintain its political neutrality at a time of great national and international political tension.

When the UKJFF withdrew from the Tricycle in response, many in the Jewish community felt let down by the decision the theatre had taken, believing it to be conducting a cultural boycott and taking an antisemitic stance. Neither were ever intended.

Many saw the Tricycle’s actions as being directly critical of Israel. Very sadly, this alienated part of the Jewish community, with whom the Tricycle has always held a close, long-standing and much-valued relationship. They felt that the decision was out of keeping with what they had come to expect from the Tricycle — both with respect to its core values and its long history of engagement with the community.

As the misunderstandings grew, the Tricycle acknowledged their action was a mistake, and all of us involved with the theatre are sorry for our initial decision and its unintended consequences.

Recognising the decision was inflammatory, the very thing it had sought to avoid, the Tricycle reversed it, acknowledging this publicly by way of a joint statement with the UKJFF in August 2014. In the statement, the Tricycle and the UKJFF expressed their desire to work together again, to rebuild their relationship, and restore trust with a view to once again holding joint events at the Tricycle.

Now that several months have passed, it feels appropriate to look for ways to rebuild that mutual trust still more widely. We want to start by publicly sharing the subsequent apology that the Tricycle sent to the chair of UKJFF last October. This was signed both by myself, as chair of the board, and by the artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham.

In it, the Tricycle said: “We and the board appreciate your shared commitment to restore confidence and trust between our organisations. We also recognise and confirm our own ongoing commitment to continue to do this with the wider Jewish community. We appreciate that you have noted our apology for the hurt and distress caused.
“As you know, our decision was intended to avoid the Tricycle Theatre taking, or being perceived to be taking, a political position. With the benefit of hindsight, we accept that we were mistaken and our decision was clearly not perceived as intended. We recognise and apologise for this. Our offer and desire to support you and the UKJFF remains strong, and we would very much like to have the opportunity to rebuild that trust and confidence for the future.”

Since then the Tricycle has written to UKJFF to ask that we start a conversation with a view to planning future events to be hosted at the Tricycle.

Tricycle trustees and staff have met rabbis, politicians, leaders of the community, UKJFF trustees, artists and others, and are again working with MUJU (Muslim Jewish Theatre Company) to consolidate trust and confidence across communities. We hope those of the Jewish community who have felt in any way hurt by the events of last summer will want to support this initiative and also feel able to return and enjoy all that the Tricycle has to offer.

The Tricycle would like to reaffirm for our wider community its core values: the Tricycle’s vision has been and remains to create space for all communities — to bring together unheard voices into the mainstream and present high quality and innovative work which provokes debate and emotionally engages its audience.

The board and management are unanimously committed to serving multiple communities, and being open to all voices as the only such cultural space in the borough of Brent — which is our partner and funder in such an endeavour.

We remain wholly committed to our long-standing relationship with the Jewish community, as a key group within these communities and hope very much that we can come together with all our communities to support this institution.

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