On Friday 28th September, Leeds City Council prevented us holding our planned meeting in Leeds Civic Hall with an eleventh hour cancellation. The meeting, organised by Woman’s Place UK in conjunction with local women from Leeds, was arranged to provide a space for women to discuss proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act and how they might affect women. You can read our guidance on completing the consultation here.
The council has issued a statement saying that it was not made aware that the booking was for Woman’s Place UK. This is completely untrue. When we booked the venue in July, we informed the council who the booking was for, the nature of our events and of the issues we have had at previous venues, including the bomb threat prior to our Hastings meeting. They accepted the booking, and additional arrangements were made with security and catering to ensure ticket holders would be able to attend in safety.
In the interim period between booking the venue and the meeting, local organisers remained in contact with Leeds Civic Hall to confirm that the booking and sponsorship was still in place. The council was given every opportunity to research Woman’s Place UK in the time between the booking and the day of the event. No concerns were raised. We are confident that we did everything we could to comply with the terms of booking Leeds Civic Hall and we have acted in good faith throughout.
The late cancellation of the booking made it very hard for us to find an alternative venue. A number of attendees, determined not to be silenced, gathered on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall where they made their voices heard with colourful banners, ribbons and impromptu speeches before finding a warm welcome at a nearby pub where an off-the-cuff meeting was held. Understandably many ticket-holders decided not to risk attendance given the cancellation. Speakers were filmed and these will be available on our website for those who missed out.
Statements made by council members on social media following the cancellation made it abundantly clear that the true reason for the cancellation was the nature of the meeting itself and the topics that we wished to discuss. We have received no formal, written cancellation or explanation. By cancelling our booking hours before the meeting was due to start, the council deliberately breached our rights to freedom of expression and assembly – rights which the council are by law bound to uphold and protect.
We intend to take the matter further.
3rd October 2018