John Walsh is a filmmaker.
Normally being banned from a University campus is a dubious status awarded to a fundamentalist clerics or a hate preacher. What did I do – other than stand as a Conservative PPC back in 2010, in a Labour heartland?
I was originally contacted by Tees Student Union in December last year to request a screening of the film, and Q&A, for April 2015. They told me it would a timely reminder for the town of the last General Election and for many students who could not vote last time, it would be their chance to hold my feet to the fire about the film and my time as the Conservative candidate.
Despite months of negotiations and assurances that the event would be fine to go ahead, late one Friday evening came word that it had to be cancelled.
This is a shame for the students who had a unique opportunity to hold me to account and put my film and story of the last election to the test with the Q&A to follow.
The reason given was that my appearance might breach the Union’s External Speakers Guidance compliance notes. This was rather surprising, as the film has been shown to schools, colleges and Universities, most recently at Colfes Secondary School in South London last month when I attended for a Q&A with politics students. Furthermore, the Q&A was to be refereed to keep it non-partisan.
Sad, then, that only Middlesbrough students are being denied this opportunity when the film centres on their town, whilst other students have not been shut out.
The University and Student Union later claimed that the film had not been finally agreed and no date time, or venue was set. This was odd as they produced a poster with a date of the 28th April, a time of 6pm and a location in the University!
One can almost feel the dead hand of a Labour Council PR Unit clumsily shutting down the event, with a predictable media backlash, from the local paper, The Gazette, at least.
I wonder what influence the Labour Council and the ghost of Sir Stuart Bell, whose disgraceful conduct as a constituency MP I revealed in my film, wield in the town. They are still reeling from the Gazette going ‘rogue’ with my expose of Bell on their front page, attacking him in the weeks and months that followed.
My film work has often provoked heated discussion and challenged perceptions but this is the first time that I can actually say that I have had one of my films ‘banned’ – so an entry of note at least for the Wikipedia page!
This is a terrible shame for the town as the film exposed tribal voting attitudes and a Labour bunker mentality that many had thought died with Sir Stuart Bell. Sadly it seems the party’s grip on this town and its students will be felt for a long time after this coming election.
The film will be shown at the Tricycle Theatre in London on Sunday 26th April at 2pm followed by a Q&A. You can book tickets and see the trailer here.