Harrogate Feminists


Today’s meet-up, and date for the next one
January 22, 2012, 5:57 pm
Filed under: meet-ups | Tags: ,

I really enjoyed our meetup today, even though the attendees were somewhat depleted in number – I suspect they had (quite understandably) been put off by the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere! But on the bright side, we had lots of time to chat, drink tea and eat cake (we had carrot cake and lemon cake), which is clearly a key aspect of any social meet-up!

Also of course we discussed the SEV licence reapplications. Val, who couldn’t make today’s meeting, had done loads of research and drafted a fantastic letter giving her grounds for objecting to the King’s Club licence, and today we added some thoughts of our own. We’ve still got a bit more work to do on the letter itself but we will definitely get it to the council by the deadline on Thursday! We’d encourage individuals and other organisations to send their own objections as well.

We did feel a bit bad about meeting not actually in Harrogate, especially for those among us who don’t drive. But we thought the Sunday meetup was nice – it felt a bit more relaxed than an evening meetup as we didn’t feel so strung out from work, getting the kids to bed, etc. So next time we’re going to go for a weekend daytime, child-friendly meetup again, but this time in the town centre!

So, a date for your diary: Sunday, 26th February, from 10am, at Victus in Harrogate (they serve American pancakes until 11am – yum!). Children welcome.

Sarah



Our chance to object to the renewal of SEV licences for Harrogate’s lap-dancing clubs: reminder!
January 18, 2012, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Members of the public have until 26 January to register any objections to the proposed SEV licence renewals (you don’t have to be a local resident to object, there are no restrictions on where you live) – so, if you feel even half as strongly about this as we do, please think about contacting the council to let them know your views!

The link below gives the details:

http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/Pages/harrogate-6236.aspx



Two Harrogate clubs apply to become Sex Entertainment Venues

Both Wild Cats on Oxford Street and Kings Club on Kings Road have applied to become Sex Entertainment Venues under the newly adopted legislation.  Harrogate Borough Council have invited the public to make comment, and the closing date for this is Thursday 26th January.

We will discuss this at our next meeting on Sunday 22nd January and then make a response to HBC so please email harrogatefeminists@gmail.com if you’d like to come along.



More on lap-dancing

Some people at the last meeting asked for some more information about lap-dancing, so here’s some facts about it.

And here’s the page for OBJECT’s campaign.



The group gets bigger

We met again (with a record number of people in attendance!) to talk about the event A Celebration of Women, and to think about what we want to do next.

Good things about the event were:

  • it had a lovely “buzzy” atmosphere;
  • it was (as far as we know) the only event in Harrogate celebrating International Women’s Day;
  • many of us found it inspirational from a creative point of view;
  • there was lots of networking, with the emphasis being on the people and their skills rather than solely on the products for sale;
  • it was particularly great to have Lesley Dalton and her sugarcraft demo / interactive activity;
  • it was also great to have some relevant charities represented, including Amnesty, the Gambia Schools Trust and Acorn.

Ceramics by Karen Fall

We are keen to run a similar event again next year. Things to think about next time, now that we have more people who can help organise it, include:

  • more extensive publicity in advance, using the networks of people we have built up this time round;
  • more live demonstrations
  • more interactive activities, including those for children (face painting, etc)
  • coffee and cakes if possible

As for what we want to do next – we discussed two complementary types of activity:

  • “activism” (perhaps building on our previous work on licensing of lap-dancing clubs; there were also ideas relating to promoting female role models, especially in traditionally male-dominated activities and occupations) – this would probably be on weeknights, once a month
  • “social” type activities such as book swap, film night, picnic etc. – this would probably be on weekends, again once a month

We also felt that we are starting to outgrow our current meeting venue. So we’re thinking about whether we can find somewhere else to meet that might be more suitable. We’re looking into this one and will post an update as soon as we get it sorted out.



Fantastic result!

The HBC Licencing Committee tonight voted to adopt the new SEV legislation!

What’s more, at the suggestion of Councillor Hawkins, they voted to amend their draft policy to specifically state that one of the licensing objectives is the protection of vulnerable women.

Thanks to all who contributed their views during the consultation period – together we really made a difference!



What sort of tourism does HBC wish to promote?

The consultation period on SEV licencing has officially closed, but we heard that you could submit questions up to 2 days before the date of the meeting – so here is the text of an email we sent them on Tuesday. It was a bit more rushed than our original letter for the formal consultation, but we hope it might have some effect…

Dear Harrogate Borough Council Licencing Committee,
 
With regards to the sexual entertainment venue (SEV) licensing consultation, we wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the policy currently being proposed by Hackney Council, which is amongst a handful of councils proposing a “nil” policy on SEVs licensing. They have produced a leaflet explaining why they feel this policy would be appropriate to their particular borough. One of their reasons is the concerns of Hackney Council about the pressures on its young people “to engage in behaviour that might make them vulnerable to others”, and the potential role of SEVs in adding to these pressures. We feel that the indirect effects of SEVs on young people are under-recognised and this is because the focus of the debate has been largely on the women who work there, which is a rather narrow view of the problem. The presence of SEVs affects the whole town.
 
Harrogate has a long and proud history of tourism, which is a vital part of the local economy. Now, however, it seems also to be becoming something of a mecca for sex tourism. A Google search of the words “harrogate lap dancing”, which I performed today, identified a posting on a car enthusiasts’ forum entitled “York Stag Do” dating from last summer (http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?t=721166). The original poster, who is due to go on a stag night in York, enquires “whether there are any decent lapdancing clubs in York”, followed by a lip-licking emoticon. Of the replies, there are two separate suggestions that the stag party should take the train over to Harrogate, purely on the basis of what Harrogate has to offer in the way of SEVs. As a woman I would not have liked to share a train carriage with that stag party discussing their experiences on the way back to York.
 
While there is no suggestion that the poster in this example is himself a sex tourist, it does illustrate that Harrogate is beginning to get a name for itself in certain circles that tends to attract stag parties from elsewhere. Places that attract stag parties tend to suffer unduly from alcohol-related violence, including sexual violence against women.
 
For example, it is well-documented that British stag parties have fuelled the sex industry in Central Europe, resulting in the exploitation of many of the most vulnerable women, many of whom are themselves immigrants and unable to exercise free choice in their work (http://womensgrid.freecharity.org.uk/?p=4466). This trend is reflected in the UK; after Maxim named Tenby as one of the world’s best locations for stag weekends, there was a spate of serious sexual assaults and all local police could do was to “warn women to be vigilant” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/2117892.stm. “Vigilance” on the part of women, of course, will do nothing to prevent this, because sexual harrassment and violence against women is not actually the victims’ fault.
 
Is this the sort of tourism Harrogate Borough Council now wishes to promote? How will this affect girls and women who live in and around Harrogate and have no choice as to whether to walk past these venues, or whether they happen to attract the attention of stag parties on the street or in bars?
 
If Harrogate decides not to follow the example of Hackney to propose a “nil policy” on SEVs, we would ask why it would put the commercial interests of the sex industry above the well-being of local girls and women.
 
In short, we would ask the Licensing Committee of Harrogate Borough Council to look carefully at the image of Harrogate it wishes to promote and the type of tourism it welcomes.