Palestine Solidarity Campaign told it can't host exhibition in museum over 'community tensions' fears

Group hears its aims and objectives ‘could be polarising during a time of unrest’
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A campaign group has been told it can’t currently hold an exhibition in a museum over concerns it could increase “community tensions”.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) says it had planned an “exhibition of Palestinian culture” in April and May at Peterborough Museum, before being told this was no longer permitted.

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The group says it was offered the space in August last year after putting on a two-week festival in the city, but the offer was rescinded on 31st January.

Peterborough Museum is run by a subsidiary of a council-owned companyPeterborough Museum is run by a subsidiary of a council-owned company
Peterborough Museum is run by a subsidiary of a council-owned company

PSC chair Vanessa Poole asked why the exhibition was unable to go ahead at a Peterborough City Council (PCC) meeting this week.

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Deputy leader Cllr John Howard (Peterborough First, Hargate and Hempsted) responded that the exhibition was in fact postponed, which was “not an easy decision to take”.

“After careful consideration, we felt it was proportionate and necessary to minimise any increase in community tensions,” he continued.

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“As an organisation, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is a campaign group whose publicised aims and objectives could be polarising during a time of unrest. To host an event from our premises may call into account council impartiality and lead to an unforeseen community impact.”

Peterborough Museum is operated by a subsidiary of Peterborough Limited, itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of the council.

After raising her question at the council meeting, Ms Poole said that PSC is “committed to contribute to community cohesion”.

“Over the years, we’ve participated in many events, none of which have caused problems for our community,” she added.

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“Peterborough has a long and proud history of embracing multiculturalism and not excluding anyone. It’s ironic that we’re being excluded for fear of maybe hurting other communities, who have never – and some of whom have been to our events – expressed a problem.”

Cllr Howard said that the council is “fully motivated to support all communities affected by this terrible conflict”, referring to the most recent unrest in Gaza and Israel which began last year.

"Events that, prior to the conflict, would have little impact now need to be carefully considered as they may inadvertently lead to local tensions," he said.

But he also also invited PSC to engage with him, council officers and the museum team as plans for a celebration of Middle Eastern culture in Peterborough progress.

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“The museum team is still very keen to host a broader programme of events to promote Palestinian and wider Middle Eastern culture,” he said.

“The Palestinian and Middle Eastern communities will be invited to be part of a new approach to community programming at the museum. It is early days and it really would be good to have your input into that.”

PSC says its aim is to “campaign for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for peace and justice for everyone living in the region”.

As well as holding festivals and exhibitions, it organises protests, pickets and boycotts as well as government lobbying.

It is a national organisation with local branches.