Tyneside Cinema launch review into abuse allegations

Joe Molander reports on the Tyneside Cinema's response to recent allegations

Joe Molander
2nd July 2020
Image: Conor Lawless on Flickr
The Board of Trustees for Tyneside Cinema have announced an independent review into recent accusations of mishandling workplace harassment and sexual abuse allegations. The announcement comes after current and former employees voiced concerns about the organisation on social media.

In a statement, the Board of Trustees recognises that “very real concerns have been raised over recent days on social media”.

As such, the Board “have agreed to immediately commission an independent, wide ranging review of all the issues which have been raised”. The statement explains “we want this investigation to be rigorous and to look into our culture and practices”.

It adds “we want to ensure that everyone, including past and present employees, have a chance to contribute fully to this review”. The Board also insists it wants “to see things improve, and to move forward”.

In a press release, Tyneside said the review "will be conducted by a high-level independent consultant with extensive experience of similar investigations". Tyneside promise "the review will be concluded within 6 weeks and the Board has committed to publish and act upon the recommendations made".

The announcement follows a statement signed by over 200 employees and former employees of Tyneside Cinema. The Tyneside Staff Statement was released following claims of workplace harassment and sexual abuse and condemns how the Cinema handled these claims.

The staff statement outlines six proposals for changes to HR “policy and practice”. These include sexual assault and consent training for staff, an end to zero-hours contracts and a “full strategic review” of HR practices and staff diversity.

The staff statement explains “We are dismayed by the accounts of how complaints of this kind have been dealt with by the organisation. Until these issues are addressed, Tyneside Cinema will remain a workplace that is neither safe nor inclusive”.

A former employee who came forward about a workplace sexual assault allegation agreed to speak to the Courier. When asked about the likelihood of the proposals outlined in the staff statement being taken on-board, she said "I'm hopeful".

"I think, with the incredible collective strength the employees and former employees have shown, that the Board really have no choice but to listen and act accordingly," she explained. She also discussed "major issues in the arts sector" in general.

"Racist, ableist, heteronormative and classist structures are the norm. In my opinion there is an urgent need for a dismantling of these cultures across all arts organisations."

"This needs a three-pronged approach: the public/audiences must demand it; the funders must enforce it and the organisations themselves must embody it."

The staff statement was itself a response to an earlier statement from Tyneside Cinema.

The initial statement was written by Tyneside Cinema’s CEO, Holli Keeble, and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Lucy Armstrong. In the statement, Keeble and Armstrong insist “we take the safety and wellbeing of our team at Tyneside Cinema very seriously”.

They explain “a clear set of policies” are in place to investigate all reported incidents. They also emphasise a commitment to ensuring “any issues within the workplace are dealt with promptly, fairly and with due care”.

The statement only appeared on Twitter, where the allegations surfaced. Though the statement from the Board of Trustees also appeared on Tyneside Cinema’s Instagram and Facebook pages, the initial statement did not.

Comedian Bethany Black called the initial statement “a statement that says 'we’ve seen the accusations' and nothing more”.

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: Conor Lawless on Flickr

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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