The British Film Institute (BFI) has asked Newcastle Upon Tyne’s Tyneside Cinema to step back from its leadership role in the Film Hub North network after allegations by former employees of sexual abuse and harassment at the venue emerged over the past week on social media.
The Tyneside board of trustees commissioned an independent review of all the issues raised, which they acknowledge to stretch back a number of years. “We are deeply sorry for the clear hurt that has been expressed and we want to reassure people that we are listening to all those concerns,” said Lucy Armstrong, chair of Tyneside Cinema’s board of trustees.
“We want this investigation to be rigorous and to look into our culture and practices and we want to ensure that everyone, including past and present employees, have a chance to contribute fully to this review.”
However, a letter signed by more than 200 former and current employees rejected the trustees’ reassurances. “We feel strongly that existing training policies, grievance procedures and mechanisms for whistleblowing are not fit for purpose,” the letter stated.
It goes on to demand a full strategic review of HR practices, overseen by independent peers, training for all current staff around sexual assault and consent, a complete review of diversity practices, and a commitment to ending zero-hour contracts.
On Thursday, Ben Luxford, BFI head of U.K. audiences, issued a statement: “As a major funder of Tyneside Cinema we are taking the recent allegations on social media extremely seriously. Our concern is first and foremost with anyone who has experienced abuse, and the bravery it takes to confront abuse and speak out. Nobody should feel unsafe in their workplace, and we expect all our partners to uphold this essential principle, underlined in the guidance and principles we drew up with BAFTA and partners across the industry to tackle and prevent bullying and harassment in the screen industries.”
“In our position as funder, we want to ensure this matter is being dealt with in a sensitive, responsible and timely manner; that any allegations made are fully and thoroughly investigated, and that Tyneside’s duty of care to their employees has been — and continues to be — their priority,” Luxford said.
Luxford continued that the BFI has been “explicitly clear” with Tyneside that it expects a “fully transparent and robust independent enquiry.”
“And 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,” said Luxford. “Until the enquiry is concluded, we have asked Tyneside Cinema to temporarily step back from its role in the leadership of Film Hub North, including current line management responsibilities.”
Tyneside Cinema is a U.K. cultural beacon. Patrons include “Leaving Las Vegas” director Mike Figgis, “Birdman” actor Andrea Riseborough and “Get Carter” filmmaker Mike Hodges.