The British Film Institute (BFI) has requested the Tyneside Cinema temporarily give up its leadership role at Film Hub North, a network of film organisations. This is until the conclusion of an inquiry into accusations that the Tyneside Cinema mishandled cases of workplace sexual abuse allegations.
In a statement, the BFI’s Head of UK Audiences, Ben Luxford, emphasised the importance of ensuring that Tyneside fulfil their duty of care to employees. The statement explains “we want to ensure this matter is being dealt with in a sensitive, responsible and timely manner”.
Luxford also emphasised the need for an independent inquiry into the accusations. The statement reads “We have been explicitly clear with Tyneside that we expect a fully transparent and robust independent enquiry [sic]”.
The statement continues “if we find any of their processes to have been lacking, we will address that with them as a matter of urgency and take decisive action if necessary”.
BFI statement: Tyneside Cinema pic.twitter.com/ZWotFqmhL2
— BFI (at 🏠) (@BFI) July 2, 2020
In a statement of their own, Tyneside confirmed a six week “wide-ranging review” led by a “high-level independent consultant”. The statement says that the review’s recommendations will be published and acted upon.
The statement from the BFI follows an open letter to Luxford and the BFI’s CEO, Ben Roberts. The letter concerns the BFI’s previous lack of comment on the accusations against Tyneside.
It is currently signed by nearly 250 employees in the film, exhibition and culture sector, and poses questions about the BFI’s role in the inquiry. Specifically, the letter asks “what involvement and oversight the BFI will have in the independent inquiry?”
The letter also asks “how will the BFI ensure that the inquiry is robust, detailed and comprehensive?”
“It seems incomprehensible that the Tyneside Cinema Board can manage their own ‘independent’ investigation without external oversight, given the historical, as well as very recent, mishandling of employee grievances.”
The letter also includes four bullet points for how the BFI can improve the safety of those working in independent cinema. These include making HR support compulsory in all venues which receive BFI funding.
The letter also urges that the BFI ensure mandatory training is put in place for certain members of staff at venues which receive BFI funding. Namely, the staff who handle investigations and reports of “concerning behaviour”.
“Whilst the issues at Tyneside Cinema are hugely problematic and wide-ranging, they are not the only exhibitor or venue where these types of toxic work cultures exist,” the letter cautions.
Film Hub North have insisted they will only begin working with Tyneside again if the inquiry is to the satisfaction of its staff and stakeholders. The organisation has two other cinemas in charge of its leadership, HOME and Showroom Cinema. Film Hub North has announced that both cinemas will assume full “directorate responsibility” for the time being.
In response to a number of reports concerning HR processes and staff welfare at Tyneside Cinema, the BFI has asked Tyneside Cinema to temporarily step back from its leadership role at Film Hub North.
Read the full Hub statement below. pic.twitter.com/KzwfzgbdRb
— Film Hub North (@FilmHubNorth) July 1, 2020
The BFI’s statement follows traction that former and current Tyneside employees gained on social media two weeks ago discussing their experiences of workplace sexual abuse.
In their statement, Film Hub North called to attention the BFI’s bullying and harassment prevention guidelines. Film Hub North encouraged employees in the cinema industry to review the guidelines and read up on “their rights to safety, dignity and respect”.
Readers who are affected by this story can contact the Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland helpline on 0800 035 2794 and Samaritans on 116 123.
Featured Image: Mike Quinn on Geograph
Last modified: 30th July 2020