Did London's Tricycle Theater Breach Charity Status by Backing Out of Jewish Festival?

Member of local council in London launches investigation into theater that pulled out of hosting U.K. Jewish Film Festival.

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Poster for last year's UK Jewish Film Festival.
Poster for last year's UK Jewish Film Festival.Credit: ukjewishfilm.org

A member of a local council in London has launched an investigation into whether the city's Tricycle Theatre breached its status as a charitable organization by refusing to host a Jewish film festival as long as it continued to be sponsored by the Israeli Embassy, the British Brent & Kilburn Times reported Monday.

The theater, which said its decision was prompted by the Israel-Gaza fighting, receives 198,000 pounds ($118,000) a year in funding from the municipal council responsible for the London borough of Brent, where the theater is located.

"We disagree with artistic discrimination," said Brent Council member John Warren, a Conservative politician who said he would investigate the decision because the theater receives council funding. "I am, with others, looking at whether the Tricycle has in any way breached its charitable status and whether there is any breach in the funding agreement with Brent."

More than 100 people held a rally outside the theater last week to protest its decision.

Warren has called on the head of the council, Muhammed Butt, to publicly state whether or not he agrees with the Tricycle decision.

Butt did not comment directly on the decision, but told the Times the council would continue to fund the Tricycle.

"People have come to the borough escaping conflict abroad, so I cannot be seen to support different viewpoints where there is suffering on both sides, because it wouldn't be fair on these individuals," Butt told the Times.

Local politicians may be wary of alienating Muslim voters, who comprise 18.6 percent of the population of Brent, according to the 2011 census – far more than either the Jewish population of the area or the Muslim proportion nationwide.

As of 2011, Jews comprise 1.4 percent of the population of Brent and half a percent of the overall British population, while Muslims comprise 5 percent of the population across the country.

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