Should a ballet dancer be allowed to be a member of the BNP?

Convener(s): Stella Duffy

Participants: at the most approx. 40 people, including : Mark Price, Louisa, Simon Bedford, Eleanor Lloyd, Adam Bennett, Sally Marie, Vicki Ireland, Lucy PW, Lian Bell, Darren Abrahams, Dan Vistar, Mary O’Connor 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Well, yes, she should, but …

This was a discussion of questions and concern, much more than answers … here are some of the questions.

- What right do we have to say she can’t be in a company (or anyone else), because of their politics?

- Is it counter-productive to getting rid of the BNP to protest against them? Doesn’t it just give them more publicity?

- The ballet dancer is a woman working in a multi-cultural company, with a mixed race boyfriend : it’s reductionist just to label her racist.

- Who is speaking now for the white working class? Traditionally left, the white working class no longer see themselves in Labour/New Labour. This is one of the reasons for the rise of the BNP among them.

- Is it ok to sometimes be a little bit fascist and take away freedom of speech (eg from a BNP member we don’t want to hear from?!)

- is it a given that all BNP policies are indefensible?

- a publicly-funded company has an obligation to be non party-political. Does this extend to the members of that company? To say she can’t speak her approval of the BNP is as bad as to say only one side of the argument?

- on the day, the theatre created between the BNP and anti-BNP people, IN the auditorium was electric, possibly more interesting than what was on stage.

- what if she had been a CEO or a director/writer, would that make a difference to whether or not we think it’s ok for her to speak her views?

- Vivien Duffield was reported as having not wanted black dancers in the ballet, because they were a ‘wrong’ shape. An ex-dancer spoke of ballet being a fascist form anyway. Corps. Body fascism.

- someone at RoH reported as having said (of training potential women technicians) “We wouldn’t ever employ a women. They’d get bullied.” Talk of crew at several major venues, in the past, having regularly been right wing, mainly men …

- stopping the protesters is denying freedom of speech for people denying freedom of speech!

- is it true can’t get funding for party political work?

- is it political suicide for a dancer to vote BNP as she won’t get work later? (dancer said no, dance is so apolitical it doesn’t matter)

- can art respond? Can there be a ballet that responds to a BNP ballet dancer?

Is it ok for other dancers to refuse to work with a BNP member?

- where are the political ballets? Is language really so much subtler and that’s why verbal work has traditionally addressed politics more than ballet?

And then it became a bit more about immigration :

Are we in a philistine/right-wing country after years of Tories and New Labour?

What if the immigrants coming here are more right wing than us?

Can we have open immigration?

Open immigration is a left wing thing/a right wing thing.

MUST WE limit immigration? What if we didn’t?

The phenomenon of second generation immigrants being anti-immigration.

London is getting richer. Is it? Or are the rich getting richer and the poor getting even more disenfranchised?

Theatre workers operate in free market, collaborating/competing.

The grassroots dialogue, in working class/poorer communities is between New Labour and BNP – and BNP is getting out there, this has scared Labour and THAT’s why we’re hearing so much about BNP. (are they not really that strong then?)

Then back to the ballet dancer and the BNP …

  • should the protesters have protested at all, given it gave more air time to BNP? YES! Almost everyone agreed would rather hear what they have to say and know what we’re dealing with than not. Though a great deal of feeling don’t like it, conflicting feelings etc …
  • are there not bigger bastions of right wing to attack than BNP?
  • Shouting down the dancer limits the opportunity for change. She might change her mind. She could engage in a dialogue – as we all can – we can all talk about the subject and that can make change. A personal example of change from white right wing perspective was given, and Roy from the Archers was cited. Racists can change!!