On Tyneside Cinema (part 2)

I realise there’s been a lot of things going on to distract us, but it’s time I did the follow-up to the Tyneside Cinema scandal I promised once we had an outcome. Just when everybody seemed convinced the report into allegations of sexual harassment would be a whitewash, the report came out – and it was bad enough to prompt the chief executive and chair of the trustees to resign. An action plan has also been drawn up with the Board of Trustees have adopted. This hasn’t settled every dispute – I will outline those shortly – but, crucially, Save Tyneside Cinema have changed their stance from hostile and confrontational, to working with the cinema for the best outcome.

The outcome for Tyneside Cinema is in my view the right outcome, with some give or take on a few details. But … are we learning all the right lessons? The arts industry was supposed to put an end to sort of behaviour this four years ago when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, and the theatre and film industries drew up plans to make sure this wouldn’t happen again. And yet it has. It’s not just one bad apple either; around the same time there was a pretty bad scandal breaking about a Scottish ballet school. How is this still happening years after the entire performing arts industry vowed to put an end to it?

The answer I gave last time – the one I felt I could safely say at the time without danger of prejudicing the outcome – is that we got complacent. We collectively behaved like the job was done as Weinstein faded from the news. In particular we assumed that arts organisations forming better codes of conduct would do the job – an assumption that, in hindsight, now looks dreadfully naive. Now I can say a lot more about what this culture of complacency is and who should be doing better. And not everyone’s going to like this, because a lot of these people who are falling short have so far avoided any real scrutiny.

Here we go. Brace yourself.

What we know now

Before indulging in any finger-pointing, it’s worth doing a factual update. I won’t do a full recap here, but you can read it on my previous post; alternatively, you can go to Save Tyneside Cinema for a much more comprehensive account. The condensed version is that a single employee claimed on social media that she was raped by another member of staff, and when she went to management this wasn’t taken seriously; this snowballed with other allegations and a letter from 140 current and former staff, and it eventually picked up the attention of the local media. Tyneside Cinema’s response to start with wasn’t great: at first they gave a statement that came across as empty platitudes, and they only announced a review after – so it appears – their principal funder the BFI applied pressure they couldn’t ignore. By this point, there was so little faith in the process the expectations of a fair review were about nil.

But … we judged prematurely. The report wasn’t a whitewash; it was pretty damning in the end. It’s not clear what the motives were: it might have been that the evidence coming out was just too great to gloss over; or it might have been that the BFI kept too close an eye on things to allow a cover-up. Or, let’s be fair, perhaps our suspicions were misplaced, and Turning Moment was truly independent and impartial from the outset. Whatever the reason, it was enough to make the leadership quit.

There are a couple important things to note here. The report accuses Tyneside Cinema of negligence and incompetence, but it stops short of the most serious charge a deliberate cover-up, stating instead they did not find clear evidence of this. This needs treating with caution, because in the past there have been occasions where wrongdoers have been allowed to leave quietly in exchange for not having their misdeeds exposed to the world, but so far this conclusion has not been disputed. (If I find out anything like this happened, that will be a different matter, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it.) The report also has an immediate recommendation that “Appropriate action should be taken against some individuals”, suggesting that there is evidence against at least some of the perpetrators. Beyond that, I don’t want to speculate over individual cases, suffice to say that I would expect anyone proven guilty to face the consequences, up to and including prison.

Not everything has been settled. It didn’t help that there was a redundancy exercise going at the same time. With so many other arts venues sadly having to do similar things, this was probably inevitable; but in terms of laws on victimisation, if you’re selecting employees for redundancy the same time that employees are coming forward with allegations, I’d say you are treading on very thin ice. The salary offered for the new Chief Executive was also controversial. One point I will make for the defence here is that the new interim post of Chief Executive was bound to be a poison chalice – few people would envy taking responsibility for this task. This, plus the fact that you need someone with the experience to clean up this mess, could mean you need to pay extra to find someone who both can and will do it. But £90k? That’s massively in excess of any executive director or artistic director I’ve seen advertised. Combine this with the redundancy exercise for lack of money and I don’t blame people for not giving the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, there’s related issues of discrimination and casual work. With discrimination, it’s not clear from the complaints or report exactly what the extent or nature of this was, but hopefully this will be tackled alongside the harassment. Casual work, however, is the harder one. There is no excuse for discrimination, bullying or harassment, but there are excuses for temporary and zero-hours contracts, especially in the arts where most organisations run on a shoestring. However, the absence of job security makes it much harder to speak out and fosters precisely the mess Tyneside Cinema is trying to get out of.

On the whole, however, it looks like things are moving in the right direction. Save Tyneside Cinema has switched from out-and-out confrontation to working with the cinemas and holding it to its word, with long-term focus shifting towards employment rights, both at Tyneside and other cinemas. The new CEO seems pretty serious about putting things right. It’s far too early to claim job done – after all, claiming job done in the general arts industry was partly responsible for this mess in the first place – but for once, there are reasons to be optimistic that things will get better.

What this tells us

But that’s enough of that. Tyneside Cinema is in the process of belatedly getting its house in order. I’m not interested in pursuing Holli Keeble and Lucy Armstrong any further – they were in denial, they paid the price, and I don’t kick artists (or arts venue managers) when they’re down. I hope this is the beginning of the end of a sorry chapter for arts in the north-east.

However, we still have the industry-wide culture of complacency that has beset the post-Weinstein performing arts world. I firmly believe Tyneside Cinema could have been fixed had there been more vigilance. This is not a criticism of the staff who came forwards for not speaking sooner – I don’t seen what else they could have done. But other people could have done more, and didn’t. And, so far, I see little sign that this latest scandal will make people behave differently in future.

To be absolutely clear: I am not claiming to be a spokesperson for the victims or staff or anyone else: these views are mine alone. Here are the observations I have about why the wider arts industry, and society in general, fails people such as the victims of Tyneside Cinema.

1. Workers in the arts are uniquely vulnerable.

This one I think everyone already knows, but it’s worth stating on the record.

Quite a lot has been made of the casual contacts at Tyneside Cinema, with good reason: it puts you in a weak position to make complaints. Punishing someone for making a complaint – even one that is not upheld – is victimisation, and completely illegal. In theory. In practice, this is a lot harder to enforce for casual workers. If you respond to a complaint by reducing hours, terminating work, or anything else permitted in the contract, you can give any excuse you like and it’s hard to prove it was really payback. That applies to any workplace with casual contracts.

But there is a second reason which specifically affects the performing arts, which is that so many people want to work in this field. Serial abusers depend on people not coming forwards, and without the job satisfaction of a place like Tyneside Cinema, they have less to bargain with. It’s an oversimplification, but the cliched threat of “You’ll never work in the arts again!” is a more powerful deterrent than “You’ll never work in fast food again!” The fact that it’s an arthouse cinema in the midst of a scandal, and not Odeon or Cineworld, is something I don’t believe to be a coincidence.

Better job security would help; whether that’s achievable for front of house staff is another question. As for actors, dream on. There may be little we can do here, but acknowledging this problem might spur us on to doing something about the other issues.

2. The halo effect applies to venues as well as people.

Most of the scandals that have come to light so far have involved multiple cases of abuse from a single perpetrator. But what do Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Jimmy Savile are all these other abusers have in common? There were all massively respected in their fields. It wasn’t all down to lawyers and intimidation; some people didn’t want to know; other people weren’t prepared to spoil beloved artistic legacies. That is the halo effect in action.

Well, we now know you don’t need a godfather-figure for a culture of abuse. The reputation of the venue is enough. As we saw on the news, a lot of the people who came forwards said they didn’t go public earlier was because they loved the cinema. Even if you don’t care for the people in charge, the possibility of closure – and with it the end of a community and a jewel in the north-east crown – is bound to be a deterrent. If so, we’ve ended up with the worst of both worlds: the abuse continued unchecked, and in the end maximum possible reputational damage was inflicted anyway.

I know my own position: I want justice done whatever the cost. I don’t want this to result in the end of an arts venue, but if that’s the price of justice, so be it. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that; I can’t be sure I’d have said the same if I’d been employed there. But I guess the lesson we’ve learned is that it doesn’t pay to stay quiet and hope a venue changes its ways. In the meantime, take the halo effect into account before you say “Why didn’t you speak out before?”

3. Serious questions need asking about works socials.

As well as the halo effect, there’s one final ingredient to Tyneside Cinema. I hate to be a killjoy, but social events with work colleagues are easy targets for inappropriate behaviour. The formal customs of the workplace don’t apply, and alcohol makes the job a lot easier. And, in the interests of balance (and not wishing to sound like the sex police), it’s fine to have workplace relationships and workplace socials are a valid way to begin them. Unfortunately, that’s a grey area easily exploited by the predators.

Now, one might argue that workplace socials are optional and no-one’s forced to go if they don’t like it. But reality isn’t so simple. Workplace socials are opportunities to build relations with other staff and give a good impression with managers. It might just be possible to separate work from play in a place like Tyneside Cinema, but as for actors and most theatre creatives … not a chance. Lots of networking and job-seeking takes place in social settings, and the Edinburgh Fringe is a month-long networking/social event. So many of the normal safeguards don’t apply to the arts.

I like the Royal Court’s Code of Behaviour, but I do think this didn’t give enough attention to social settings. In their defence, their own research had only a small number of cases linked to works socials, but I now suspect the real reason for the low reporting is under-reporting from people who think that predatory behaviour in social settings doesn’t count. The current code says: “The current code says “Recognise the blurred boundaries between work and social spaces. Don’t exploit them.” I quite agree – it hits the nail the nail on the head – but clearly some people need it spelling out. It’s going to be a difficult conversation for what is and isn’t acceptable, but who said this conversation was going to be easy?

4. Confidentiality is a convenient shield from accountability.

The next two are personal bugbears of mine. One thing I took issue to with Tyneside Cinema’s original (now disastrous) statement is – after all the hollow platitudes of taking welfare seriously – that they’re are unable to discuss the individual case. I’ve heard this excuse used countless times when there’s a stench in the air. The reason for silence is confidentiality/sensitivity/GDPR/etc. – that’s bullshit, and they know it. 90% of the time, the only two parties are employee and employer, and the employee has clearly waived confidentiality by going public. There’s nothing to stop the employer doing the same if there’s nothing to hide.

In fairness, Tyneside Cinema’s situation was a little more complicated. Many of these complaints were employee versus employee disputes, where both employees would have to waive confidentiality to let it out into the open. But that doesn’t excuse everything. At the very least, they could have given us a better explanation for the parts of the complaint specifically against the Cinema, such as whether it’s true they interviewed someone about a rape complaint in a public bar, and if so why. Who is confidentiality protecting apart from management?

The best defence for this I can think of is that if a case might go to court, you probably want to be careful what you say in public. But that’s a weak argument for all sorts of reasons. The legal recourse is massively stacked in the employer’s favour; any reluctance so say something that might be incriminating is, to me, an admission that you don’t have a watertight case. What’s more, after the ridiculously short 90-day window to file a legal complaint, employees have no legal resource at all – so the argument that you’re protecting yourself from possible legal action is worthless.

Tyneside Cinema didn’t get away with this excuse because they’d made too many enemies, but nine times out of ten, a boilerplate platitude and a mention of confidentiality is all it takes for the public to accept a shitty employer’s non-explanation. It’s time we stopped accepting this at face value.

5. Corporate gaslighting is a thing.

This is my big personal bugbear though. (It’s also the reason why I get very protective when workplaces abuse their power.) I’ll refrain from a blow-by-blow account of my experiences because I don’t want to make this about myself, but there is one bit I do need to share. Apart from deflecting criticism from any real scrutiny, there is another reason why bad employers love using the phrase “We take our workers’ welfare very seriously”: it is in their interests to make the complainants themselves believe this.

I don’t expect anyone who’s not been on the receiving end to fully understand this, but the problem with current employment protections is that it underestimates how resourceful management is at doing what it likes with no real repercussions. They only need vague policy and procedures which their HR team can selectively interpret to mean whatever they like. The only thing they need to worry about is getting challenged in court – and this is where the tactic of what I call “corporate gaslighting” come in. Everybody closes ranks. Whether the intention is to get a wrongdoer off the hook, or blame you for something you don’t deserve, they all collude to give the verdict they want. At every stage, people you respected and trusted show you how fair and reasonable they’re being. And eventually … you start to believe the same. You think, maybe you are as unreasonable and disrespectful and incompentent as they say you are.

The effect is only temporary. Once you leave, and the gaslighting stops, and you have time to think it over, and people who you ask tell you what they think of it, eventually you realise what they did to you. But they only have to make you feel this way for 90 days – that is the time limit to filing a complaint with an employment tribunal. After that, they get off scot-free. In my own aftermath, I was in no position to something like that, and this was for a relatively minor case of evading disability legislation to justify jumped capability proceedings. I dread to think what state someone would be after the entire management chain closed ranks and insinuated a sexual assault victim was the one out of line.

I might be unfair on Tyneside Cinema here – all we know is that they hid behind a boilerplate statement of valuing workers’ welfare, we don’t know how ruthlessly that was pushed behind the scenes. But I’m in no mood to give the benefit of the doubt. Whenever you see a workplace using platitudes of welfare as a substitute for addressing allegations, you should always treat that as a massive red flag.

6. We need to decide what trustees are for.

This is a minor issue compared to everything else, but we really need to decide once and for all what we expect of trustees of arts organisations. Either they can be cheerleaders for the venue, or they can be an overseeing body. Cheerleaders can get stuck in the running of the venue, overseers can adjudicate fairly on matters such as bullying or financial irregularities or poor management. But they cannot be both cheerleaders and overseers. If trustees have already been involved in decisions that brought the venue into disrepute, anything they do in response will be clouded by self-justification of what they’re done so far. The Tyneside Cinema trustees got very badly burned here – thanks original response with the chair of trustees’ names attached, it’s no wonder trust in the subsequent review plummeted to zero.

It might be worth considering a model similar to the BBC Trust: people who operate on a strictly hand-off basis so that when the back stops with them they do do so fairly. Or maybe trustees can carry on as they are but have a clearly independent sub-group who deal with complaints. Neither of these solutions is going to solve everything, though, because there’s a far bigger problem.

7. Arts venues cannot be trusted to police themselves.

If there’s one bit of the Royal Court’s Code of Practice I didn’t agree with, it was the implicit idea that it was all down to venues managing their own practices. That assumption, I think, was foolish in hindsight. You only have to look at the balance of power at the Old Vic under Kevin Spacey. He was a phenomenal asset as artistic director, massively respected, and when allegations surfaced people didn’t want to know. Are we really supposed to believe he’d have been stopped in his tracks if only there was a more robust system of reporting? The aftermath wasn’t terribly satisfactory either: the investigating report conveniently put 100% of the blame on Spacey and 0% of the blame on management or trustees, who apparently all had no idea this was going on.

I’m afraid my default assumption of arts organisations is that they prefer tidiness to justice. Without access to a mind-reading device I cannot be sure, but “tidiness” means prioritising reputational management over doing the right thing. Sometime the two may coincide and a proven wrongdoer gets just desserts, but the motive might be little more than damage limitation. Alternatively, reputational management might skip real justice completely. It could mean not looking too hard into allegations, paying off perpetrators to leave quietly, or sacking an easy scapegoat whilst leaving the real culprits in post.

Even if we assume good faith, there are times it’s impossible to make a fair decision. It doesn’t matter whatever the decision-maker is the manager, a fully-independent board of trustees, or an external adjudicator commissioned by the organisation – when the future of the of venue is at stake, impartiality is fatally compromised. Even when damning verdicts are delivered, as we the case for Tyneside Cinema, we have no way of knowing if the really incriminating details have been left out.

This is not good enough. Serious complaints against senior managers need to go higher. For theatres, UK Theatre (or SOLT in London) would be a good go to. For arthouse cinemas, I guess it’s BFI. The Arts Council is also an option, although it’s not clear where commercial venues would fit into that. I’m open to other suggestions. All I know it that self-policing has been proven woefully inadequate.

8. Whistleblowers need somewhere to go.

For the record, there is nothing I know about Tyneside Cinema that I’m not telling you. The first I heard of it was when it went public. However, I’m not try to claim a moral high ground here; I’m honestly not sure what I’d have done if I’d suspected something was going on. Go public? Without some pretty solid evidence, I’d be on the losing end of a lawsuit. Confront the wrongdoer privately? Next to useless, I could expect another boilerplate statement. Attempt to probe information? Maybe, but that carries the risk of the perpetrator working out who’s spoken to you in confidence. All I can think is that if I ever did pick up on a pattern of allegations, I’d go to one of the local papers and let them decide if there’s enough evidence to go public. However: I have the luxury of not facing reprisals in my job. The employees of Tyneside Cinema didn’t. What were they supposed to do?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this isn’t right. If most of the staff stayed quiet and kept their heads down until silence was no longer an option, I don’t blame them. People who suspect something is going on should have somewhere to register their suspicions. An individual allegation may be nothing to go on, but multiple people getting in touch might enable someone to piece together a pattern of abuse. This is nothing radical: we already have similar procedures in place for teachers through the DBS. For pity’s sake, we even have dedicated hotlines for financial and legal misconduct. How does it make any sense that there’s nowhere to report sexual misconduct?

In my opinion, the original mistake was the assumption that reporting and safeguarding is only needed for children and vulnerable adults. In performing arts, everybody is a vulnerable adult at some point. An obvious problem? Whoever sets this up is going to have a nightmare on their hands. Act on too little evidence and you’ll be sued to high heaven; fail to act when sitting on enough evidence, and the continued abuse is on you. That, I suspect, is why efforts have gone into the less risky area of support services for victims. But we’ve passed the buck long enough. One of the rare bits of good news to emerge from this mess is that support for whistleblowers is finally being taken seriously. It’s time to grasp the nettle and do whatever it takes. No-one should have to keep information like this to themselves.

9. Other local venues must clearly show whose side they’re on.

The last two things on my list aren’t going to be popular, but someone has to say this.

The penultimate item on this list goes back to the original complaint. In the opening sentence of original complaint was: “Probably burning all my bridges with local arts institutions here …” The complaint itself was unequivocally about Tyneside Cinema, but she seems to think complaining about one local arts institution get you ostracised by all. And, judging by their lack of response to the whole saga, I’m beginning to wonder too.

I won’t spell out employment law in detail here, but there are two practices potentially in play. I’ve already spoken about victimisation. The other practice, blacklisting goes one step further, where other employers also refuse to hire people who made a complaint against one. Like victimisation, this is 100% illegal, but for both practices it’s difficult to enforce. I have no idea whether the controversial redundancy exercise was an excuse to get rid of the ringleaders, but I don’t see what was in place to stop them doing that if they wanted to. Neither does there seem to be any means to stop other venues refusing to hire the complainers. If you suspect your failure to get a job is down to being badmouthed for standing up for your rights, how can you prove it?

Now, I have no evidence that the any of Theatre Royal, Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Dance City, Baltic, Sage or Seven Stores would engage in this behaviour – but I also have no evidence they wouldn’t. And lack of proof either way isn’t good enough any more. There is a strong culture of mutual support, and at least some people think this mutual support means closing ranks when someone makes a complaint against one. Even if this isn’t true, the perception alone is bound to stop people complaining, if that’s what they think is the fate of boat-rockers. If this perception is wrong – and I have never wanted something proven wrong more than I do now – it’s up to these venues to say so. No-one can do this for them.

And there is no longer any excuse for staying quiet. As we saw last year, the whole cultural sector can be very vocal about an issue when it wants to be. I can understand why a terrible event can prompt a reaction, but I don’t see how something that happened four thousand miles away prompts a month of very public proclamations and soul-searching, and yet something that happens on their doorstep gets barely a peep of protest. (The closest thing I’ve found to a response is an incidental mention July removing Tyneside Cinema from the list of signatories denouncing racism – after that, nothing. That is pretty feeble.) And whilst I never thought for a second that any arts venue in Newcastle is indifferent to racism, I’m honestly not sure I can say the same about abuse of staff.

The least Live Theatre, Northern Stage and everyone else owes the victims is a statement making it clear that not only do they oppose what happened on Tyneside Cinema’s watch, but also that victims should have nothing to fear from speaking out. State in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances would you refuse someone a job at your venue to someone who complaint about another. The best time to say this was five years ago – who knows, maybe people would have been less afraid to speak out if you had – but the next best time to say this is now. As long you stay silent, and the perception lingers that you look after your own, you are part of the problem.

10. The local arts media does too much cheerleading and not enough scrutiny

I’m reluctant to do this last one. Being a sort-of local arts journalist myself, I do not wish to get into fights with the local arts media. I’m content to let them write their way and I write my way. But, hey, I’ve just had a go at the local arts venues for not standing up to one of their own, I can’t exactly hold off here. My long-standing gripe with most of the local arts media is that it behaves too much like the PR wings of the major venues. Usually this means uncritical support of artists programmed by major venues and little or no publicity for everyone else. I’m not interested in that right now – if that’s the way you want to champion north-east culture, so be it. When the local arts media stays quiet about the worst scandal to hit north-east culture in years, however, that’s taking loyalty too far.

Not all the local media has been silent. BBC North East did excellent work uncovering evidence against Tyneside Cinema; the Evening Chronicle has been pretty good too. But for the publications that specifically cover north-east arts, I’ve not seen any mention. I’ll let of the publications that specifically cover theatre on the grounds that Tyneside Cinema isn’t a theatre, but publications that have promoted Tyneside Cinema before don’t have that excuse. Especially The Crack. Their social media and editorials are highly politicised; again, that’s their choice. But if you go on a moral crusade putting the world to right, when something this bad happens at a venue you promote you can’t just shrug and say it’s none of your business.

And, unfortunately, there’s form here. Remember Pantogate? There was red flags over treatment of workers before the run started, but most of the local media uncritically swallowed the PR from Times Square Panto and reviewed the panto like nothing had happened. Now, to be fair, when the shit really hit the fan and there was a walkout over actors not being paid, that’s when some the local media started some proper investigating; in the end the Chronicle did some good coverage, but I can’t help thinking Pantodrome would have cleaned up its act a lot earlier if the media had asked questions earlier.

I’m going to refrain from telling other publications what they should have done. To really make a difference, someone would have needed to speak out months or years before it went all came out. For all I know, maybe everybody at The Crack and NARC was just as much in the dark as I was; or maybe they’d heard stuff but didn’t have enough evidence to act on it. But the fact remains they showed little interest in covering this after it came to light. (I really hope I have missed something here – maybe there’s an editorial in the print edition I don’t know about – But I did a pretty good search of both website and social media and found nothing.) At the moment, it seems the local arts media would rather do what’s easy than what’s right.

It’s time for the arts media to be open about when it stops talking about art and starts questioning the ethics of artists and arts venues. I realise this isn’t what we want to do – we are arts writers, not investigative journalists – but there’s no getting round this fact: abusers in the arts get away with it because they use the reputation of themselves or their venue as a shield, and that reputation is created by people like us. Whether you like it or not, there are only two ways to go: be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Closing remarks

I haven’t enjoyed writing writing these articles. I should have got these out a lot sooner, but writing about sensitive issues and running it past people takes time. I would much rather have stayed out of this, but given my feelings about inaction amounting to complicity, I couldn’t justify this to myself.

Hopefully, this will be the last time I write about the Tyneside Cinema scandal. I’m confident the new management will change things for the better – they don’t have the baggage of defending their own decisions – and with both Save Tyneside Cinema and BFI keeping an eye on things very closely, there is little room to backpedal even if they wanted to. There is still the issue of casual employment, which is a much wider debate, but it looks like the culture of abuse at Tyneside Cinema will be ended once and for all. We absolutely must not be complacent, but I we can allow ourselves to be optimistic.

However, Tyneside Cinema did not operate in a vacuum. It is part of a wider covering other arts venues, media and society in general, at both a local and national level. This culture fed into Tyneside’s toxic culture, and you can’t turn round and say they have nothing to do with each other. Some things are difficult to avoid, such as works socials and temporary jobs, but there are many other things that could be reformed: how easily employers dodge employment law, the absence of support for whistleblowers, misguided solidarity between local venues and local arts media to the level where no-one asks questions, and a woefully naive assumption that arts venues should be trusted to keep their houses in order. Had any or all of the structural problems been resolved in the post-Weinstein fallout, this might have been ended a lot earlier.

But unlike the Weinstein aftermath, the culture of complacency is worse this time round. The only organisation that showed any sign of living up to its responsibilities was BFI, and for that I’m grateful – had they not stepped in, I honestly think it could have been business as usual when the venue re-opened. But apart from BFI, everybody who’s anybody is behaving like nothing happened. Perhaps they think it’s nothing to do with them. But it is. They gave Tyneside Cinema prestige, and that same prestige was used by abusers to evade justice. People appear to be scared of coming forwards because they fear speaking out against one venue gets them blacklisted by all. They have to take some responsibility here.

The one defence I can give to the cultural sector is that it appears (and I really really hope I am right about this) no-one had any idea what was going on at the time; and once things became known, they didn’t feel the need to intervene because events were running their course without their help. But we’ve had two scandals in three years now, so who’s to say there won’t be a third? We’ve have more than enough wake-up calls now, and if the same structural problems are still here if and when a third scandal breaks, it’ll be on all of us.

The Tyneside Cinema saga may now be a closed chapter, but I do not want to be back here writing about another scandal. And I especially do not want to be asking why all the things that contributed to the last scandal are still going on. Please don’t waste this chance to learn the right lessons.

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