Bristol Fawcett's campaign against the proliferation of lapdancing clubs and the normalisation of the sex industry
For many years, Bristol Fawcett has campaigned - alongside many others - against the normalisation of the sex industry through the proliferation of lapdancing clubs. We believe that, among other things, they promote a one-dimensional view of women's sexuality and encourage the view that women are sex objects whose bodies can be bought and sold. We believe that they are unsafe working environments for women. We want local people to have a say in how many of these establishments they want to see in their neighbourhoods.
22/1/2012 Account of a Bristol Woman
Bristol Fawcett were contacted by a woman who has exited prostitution in Bristol, who wanted very much to find a forum for her voice to be heard. She is not able to speak at Council licensing hearings for a number of reasons not least that her personal safety is under threat. We have published her words here.
---LAPDANCING CLUB LICENCE APPLICATIONS---
In 2011, the five operating lapdancing clubs in Bristol applied for new Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licenses. They also applied, variously, to have Bristol's agreed standard policy conditions such as the prohibition of leafleting or of private booths, waived.
Residents of Bristol, those who work in or visit Bristol, or represent an organisation in in the locality of a lapdancing club, were entitled to write and make objections to the granting of these licences. Many people did this, including Bristol Fawcett.
Hearings for Urban Tiger, Lounge@30, Central Chambers and Temptations T3 were held in January 2012. The hearing for Platinum Club was held in May 2012. Urban Tiger, Central Chambers and Temptations were awarded licences and the applications for Lounge@30 and Platinum Club were refused.
Every year the remaining clubs reapply for a licence. Bristol City Council does not inform interested parties when the applications, together with deadlines for objections, come in but a list of applications is published weekly. Please check the Council website here under the 'related documents' section.
For further information please contact the local awareness campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2012 Jennifer Hayashi Danns published a book: Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing. Having worked as a lap dancer herself, athe author knows about the industry from direct experience. In "Stripped" she tells her story, and gives a voice to many others who have either worked in the clubs or been directly affected by what goes on in them. See here for a Guardian article about the book.
Please note that the organisation Object have also published a toolkit to assist in making objections which can be downloaded here.
Owners of lapdancing clubs have, famously, tried to claim that for councils to refuse a licence application would be a breach of their human rights. This is of course untrue - read the legal reasons here.
History of campaign and the Council's actions in Bristol
2009 saw the success of Fawcett and Object's national campaign to reform licensing legislation.
In December 2009, a local grassroots campaign - in which a number of Bristol Fawcett members were involved - took shape to protest against the proposed opening of yet another lapdancing club in Bristol's Old Market district. A petition - signed by a significant number of local residents - was organised and presented, and many individuals and groups made statements to the Council's Planning Committee, which met on 15th December and rejected the application. The applicant appealed - and lost the appeal. Read the decision here.
Bristol's citizens are clear about wanting their voices to be heard when it comes to the proliferation of the sex industry. The licensing legislation has been reformed and on 29 June 2010 in the culmination of the main objective of our campaign our members submitted a public statement to Bristol City Council whose members voted to adopt the new powers to require clubs to apply for "Sexual Entertainment Venue" licences.
We gave evidence to the Council's working group tasked with developing its new policy in October 2010: read our submission here. We have also contributed to a roundtable discussion convened by the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol: see our page on Commercial Sexualisation for more information.
We called for a nil cap (a maximum of zero permitted SEVs) in all Bristol areas. Our covering letter to the consultation response, detailing our main points as well as our disappointment at the lack of engagement shown by the Council, can be downloaded here. Read our response to the draft policy here, and to the draft conditions for licence here.
We summarised the main points to be addressed as:
The policy should set a 'nil cap'
(a maximum of zero permitted SEVs) for all areas in Bristol - this is
the only way to guarantee safety of performers and to ensure that there
is no wider adverse impact on women living and working in an area.
- The policy should designate gender equality as a specific licensing objective, underlining the Council's commitment to recognise the specific relevance of gender equality observations to this policy.
- The policy should state that organisations working to promote gender equality and tackle violence against women and girls will be informed when SEV applications are received.
- The policy should make reference to good practice in SEV applications being heard by subcommittees constituting at least equal numbers of women to men.
- The 'waiver clause' must be tightly defined or illustrated, its application must be strict and it must be clear that in all cases there will be a presumption against a waiver being granted.
The Council has now published its final policy for Bristol: visit their website to view it - see 'related documents'. Despite submissions from a considerable number of organisations including ourselves, Bristol Rape Crisis, Bristol University Centre for Gender and Violence Research, the Director for Public Health at NHS Bristol and others - and despite the roundtable discussion convened by policy experts (but only attended by one member of the Licensing Committee and none of its officers), not one of our recommendations was adopted. The "Equality Impact Assessment" accompanying the policy made a remarkable assertion that "there is little independent research available with regard to the potential for a significant impact on an equality group". The Equality Impact Assessment was to be rewritten but if it has been, we have not seen it.
On 23 November 2011 the Licensing Committee met to discuss 'appropriate' numbers of SEVs for localities in Bristol. We made a submission - read it here. The submission appends details of just some of the independent research available of relevance to SEVs and gender inequality. Read the Police Report about the increase in violent and sexual crime against women in the immediate vicinity of Bristol's lapdancing clubs, which was not given to the Committee in their paperwork, here. Read the police scoping report with further detail here.
On the same day as the Licensing Committee were meeting, and in the same building, Bristol City Council hosted a three-day International Conference on Gendered Violence which brought together hundreds of delegates from 21 countries across the world. These men and women came from all backgrounds, from the police to support organisations to universities. What they had in common was their commitment to tackling gendered violence, and their vast expertise. At the opening of the conference these expert delegates heard that the Licensing Committe were meeting and they voted - overwhelmingly - to take the following message to the committee:
The appropriate number of lapdancing clubs in any area where women and men are valued equally and where gendered violence is not tolerated is zero.
Bristol Fawcett were asked by Conference to read the statement above to the Committee but we were prevented from doing so, because we had not included the text in our written submission which had been delivered to the Committee by the deadline 24 hours beforehand and before the conference had begun.
We are pleased that the Council have strengthened their licensing conditions and hope that they will treat breaches of licence conditions by withdrawing licences. We continue our work to raise awareness of the impact of SEVs in our communities.