I wasn’t going to post again until we were on the road – but this is fucking shocking:
For weeks, the Duke Of York’s Cinema in Brighton has been advertising a free screening (on March 17) of a locally-made political documentary film, On The Verge, about a long-running protest against a Sussex arms manufacturer. A few days ago, shortly before the screening, Brighton & Hove Council environmental health officer Martin New phoned up the cinema and said that because the film was uncertificated, the screening would have to be cancelled, or the council would revoke the cinema’s licence.
But we’re not talking some dodgy film club in a bar here, the Duke Of York’s is the longest continuously running cinema in the UK, owned by the Picturehouse chain and absolutely central to indie movie-going in Sussex. Down here, it’s an institution. And of course, they regularly do uncertificated screenings (with far more ‘adult’ content than a doc about some protestors) without any problems or criticism from anyone in the council.
Allegedly, cinema managers even offered to add a home-made ’18+ only’ certificate to the film to keep the screening on – but this was turned down. The screening was cancelled! They showed the film twice upstairs in a local pub instead, until that was stopped too, allegedly by some kind of threat.
It turns out, Brighton & Hove Council were put up to it by Sussex Police, who phoned them about the screening. At first, local cop Chief Inspector Taylor told the Argus newspaper that the Police “played no part in the controversial cancellation” but they were soon forced to admit this was not true, when Green Party councillor Keith Taylor spilled the beans that the phonecall did take place. Pathetically, then Police blamed it on a “junior officer based out of town” to get their CI off the possibility of being seen as a shameful fucking liar in the local paper.
Even more ominously, in the few days since, threatening Police phonecalls have popped up all over the UK, as the film tours around community centres, church halls and arthouse cinemas. As I type this, they’ve tried to ban it in Oxford and Bath (where it only survived by moving venue to a Quaker Meeting House), succeeded in banning it in Southampton.
I didn’t get to see On The Verge but obviously, as a doc, it’s not going to have much blood, gore or hardcore sex in it. The reason no-budget indie filmmakers can’t get a certificate is the sheer cost of applying (over £1000), which is why – in reality – places like the Duke Of York’s ARE perfectly within their rights to screen uncertificated films in many circumstances, including if they’re shown for free or to members.
Got to wonder what exactly is in this movie, that Sussex Police want rid of so desperately they’d mobilise their colleagues across the UK and make a mockery of freedom of speech.
Got to wonder what exactly is going on in Brighton Council that, over and over again, they try to stifle and control local culture. From April 11th, you can’t give people flyers outside a gig without applying and paying for permission.