Excluding or banning specific people from attending dances, folk clubs and folk festivals - what are the practicalities and risks? What actually is the law? Can compensation for wrongful discrimination be sought in the civil courts - and if so what are the exact procedures?
At the present time many pages in this section exist as headings with skeleton contents only. None of the pages contain finalised text. It is likely to take me a year or two of my spare time to produce any sort of 'finished' content. Life tends to intervene in these projects....... In the interim, comments are welcome if they are related to additional topics which you feel could with benefit be included.
Note: Much of the folk dance related material on this website may be re-ordered into an e-book at some future date - details here.
The second part of this webpage comprises a short article prepared as a draft in November 2014 for STS magazine. It was never completed - other items I submitted to the editor took priority. The material on this page will be reordered when I find the time.
|A display panel in the dancehall at Langney School, Eastbourne, (UK) April
Eastbourne International Folkdance Festival uses premises at St Catherine's College (previously Bishop's Bell School) and the adjoining Langney Primary School.
The college and school might have become centres of confrontation owing to the Festival organisers seeking on spurious grounds to bar me from these venues - but after a bust-up between the school and Maureen and Graham knight (allegedly!), the festival was transferred to near Evesham - just in time for Covid to put an end to proceedings fro a few years.
Of wider interest are the rights any person in England has to be treated fairly in respect of admission to all manner of 'public' events, and especially those where a large subsidy of public money is involved.
Many dance festivals have onerous Terms and Conditions that seem to run counter to 'natural justice', itself a founding principle of English Law.
|In threatening (illegal) violence straight out of the Handbook of
Thuggery, EIFF state on their 2017 website.
"Eastbourne International Folkdance Festival reserves the right to refuse admission to, or evict anyone from, its events or campsite that they feel is, in their opinion is or has been, behaving in a threatening or unsociable manner." - Maureen Knight and her Star Chamber.
Quite apart from the inane use of English there seem to be several things wrong with this paragraph, including the obvious one that 'eviction' implies violence against someone who doesn't wish to leave - and generally that can be done only by the police - and only when they have good grounds to use violence. And since when is 'being unsociable' a hanging offence under English Law?
Any violence offered to another person usually constitutes criminal assault - as explained in my letter to STS from late 2014 (see below).
The following table is a quick draft illustration of how the behaviour of festival organisers appears not to fit with the rest of English Law.
|Type of offence||Prosecuting authority or court||Standard of evidence required||Punishments|
|Criminal||Police and CPS. Criminal courts||Beyond reasonable doubt (except in sex cases) See here also.||Often zero, but can be severe fines and many years in prison.|
|Civil||Civil courts||Balance of probabilities||Civil damages, up to £25,000 is easily actioned.|
|Folk festivals and folk clubs||Any vindictive or malevolent committee member or group of such persons. Personal feuds are allowed.||None whatsoever, hearsay evidence permitted.
Vendetta evidence is admissible.
|Lifetime bans, lifetime punishments for no crime.|
The key question is what conditions (if any) need to be satisfied before a landowner, a lessee or a casual user of premises can order or enforce the exclusion of specified member(s) of the public from an event and without valid reasons (valid as would stand up in Court). For example, if the organiser of a dance or ceilidh advertised as being open to the public simply hated certain person(s) and wished them not to attend could he simply say 'I refuse to sell you a ticket'. In the case of any suspected discrimination on grounds of age, sex, colour, infirmity etc for which there is specific legislation criminal law might well be invoked to to obtain redress and remedy - and because it is criminal law the police would immediately become involved.
Where no crime is committed (and attending a dance hall to dance is hardly a breach of the peace?) the police cannot become involved - especially these days when they know that all their actions may be videoed and used in evidence against them. The law surrounding photographing or videoing police and other people in other situations is addressed here. (add all material from USA, courts, Met Police,youtube etc). Data protection laws require that if video evidence is collected it should be for a legitimate purpose, and it needs to be proportionate and necessary.
But what about 'ordinary white people in England'? Do they have any rights under English law?
Examples from festivals and dance clubs where people ought to be banned - but again - what is possible under the law, and if a person is treated unfairly, what redress is there in the civil courts?
Halsway Manor example - Herts club member.
I was told some time ago about an episode during a dance weekend (or it may have been a week-long event) at Halsway Manor. This was several years ago, as of 2016. A particular man who is apparently well known as a nuisance with women at folk dance events was gratuitously 'forward' with so many of those present that most or all of the women eventually refused to dance with him.
Examples of his behaviour included recounting at mealtimes how, when dancing, he felt like a dog on heat panting and circling around other dogs in the street. I wouldn't have believed the story except for the reliability of my source. The man is said to live somewhere in Hertfordshire and another source tells me that a man there (it may be the same one) has been banned from dancing at his local folk club - but he is still allowed to attend as a musician. The episode at Halsway Manor resulted in a stand-up row with one or two other attendees. This would be an extreme example of inappropriate yet not illegal behaviour - and if it is not actually illegal is it possible to 'ban' the person or exclude him from further events - and if so for what period of time?
Even if you kill someone (a far greater crime surely) you generally only serve 2 to 20 years in prison, depending on the method employed and the degree of premeditation (dangerous driving, bread knife, shotgun etc, and with mitigation possibly allowed in extenuating circumstances such as 'she asked for it because she was unfaithful'). In one recent case the wayward son of a millionaire was spared jail when he killed a pedestrian whilst over the drink-drive limit - largely owing to the fact that the pedestrian might not have been able to be seen clearly in the road. The punishment was a short driving ban and some community service.
So to return to dancing - even in the extreme case cited above - of a man who manifestly upset all or most of the women at a dance event - what type of ban is legally enforceable, for what period of time and with what rights of appeal - and to whom or via which court? And if a ban imposed by a 'committee' or other junta were ruled in court to be unfair - how could compensation be claimed?
I have won a couple of court cases recently (details later) but they were fairly routine 'breach of contract' (sale of goods and misleading claims) types where the procedures are straightforward. Nowadays, everything can be done online. The only time the post (snail mail) is involved is when a cheque arrives - and most satisfying it is too, especially when court costs are included. One case was six years old, I just had other things to do and it was especially gratifying to win after such a period of time - when the company had forgotten all about me! Leaving a case for six years does not prejudice the outcome - many civil cases take years to come to court.
Maureen and Graham Knight are well known folk dance people - Graham in particular has a decades long history having previously been married to a well known caller. Maureen is/was known as a member of a small dance band Meter Rite, based in Somerset. A few years ago both of them were made unwelcome (or told not to attend) their local dance club at Halsway. This club is quite distinct from Halsway Manor itself.
Stories vary - one contact told me that Graham had been told he was banned. I mentioned this to a woman who has known him for years - her immediate reaction was 'I'm not at all surprised' - but we didn't discuss it further at the time.
Other versions are that Maureen and/or Graham so annoyed other Halsway club members by trying to 'take over' that they were simply made unwelcome - something that would certainly fit with Maureen's bossy-boots 'head prefect' behaviour.
All of this needs to be clarified if only because of the number of clubs and festivals that are nowadays inserting clauses in their constitutions and 'Terms and Conditions' such as:
and many more!
In effect the people who write and seek to impose these terms and conditions seem to be granting to themselves far more power than is available even to the police under the authority of law as laid down by Parliament or as has become enshrined via 'common law'. It is worth noting here that 'natural justice' is a cornerstone of English Law - and what folk dance clubs and festivals are doing is arguably very far from fair and reasonable. For example, some clubs say that a member may be expelled by a vote of the Committee - but a right of appeal is allowed. The problem is that the right of appeal is often to exactly the same people who delivered the first verdict.
More recently, in September 2016, Maureen Knight sent me a slip of paper in an unsealed envelope 'inviting' me not to apply for a ticket to Eastbourne International Folkdance Festival in 2017 - this is reproduced here. But why not just send me an email? At first I thought the slip was a wind-up, sent by someone else, so I had to email Maureen to check. She is entitled to ask anyone not to attend - but what about actually denying someone a ticket when they manifestly are one of the most able and enthusiastic dancers, and especially amongst some of the more able female dancers? (see discussion here in respect of 2016) Also see (insert link 2015).
Another example from a dance club - (chronologically incorrect?).
Over the last few years a simmering row in another dance club came to a head. The history is convoluted. Basically, a couple of expert dancers were members of a club and later took control of it when it was faltering. Somewhere along the line a committee was formed and then ousted and then these two people took over (or tried to) and the entire membership voted to expel them. It all got rather messy.
Subsequently, one of the 'expelled' members - a well known caller in his field and an expert dancer, tried to take over calling at another venue - walking in and saying he would call some dances - yet he had not even been invited to do so. He tried to set up a 'rival' dance club to the one he had been expelled from but such was his popularity that few if any dancers attended.
Then he tried to 'hi-jack' what was an invite-only dance run by other expert callers in their field. There was a stand-up row and the police were called - but the aggressor left before the police attended. In the 'closed world' of dancing the story spread and may have been embellished along the way.
The important point, legally is whether any member of a club can be 'expelled' just because a vote of members says he is to suffer such a fate? Personally I doubt it unless all members have signed to agree and abide by a formal constitution and the constitution did, at the time of signing, allow for this to happen. In any case there would be the possibility of appeal to the courts.
But the more usual situation is for a vague constitution to say 'any member may be expelled by decision of (either) the committee (or) the membership by majority vote - yet at no time were any members ever required to sign when they paid their annual membership that they knew about and/or agreed to abide by all clauses in the constitution as it was formulated and adopted at the time. And if this agreement in writing is not obtained, then arguably any decision to expel a member cannot be valid?
As for police involvement - at a public venue any member of the public can walk in - and cannot be told to go away without good reason (this may include 'dress-code reasons but cannot surely include that the organisers simply don't like them). If the event is 'invite-only then it is a private party or dance and invite-only means what it says - but there may be no criminal conduct if there is no genuine breach of the peace.
I'm not certain of the order of events noted above.
Bridport ceilidhs - the early years - an example.
early years example
Local dance clubs example
I know of one man who several women dislike meeting at events. He is retired, personable, a good musician and an accomplished dancer. Yet another side of his personality is controlling and there has been an example of him putting his hands around a woman's neck and threatening to throttle her (albeit not in a dance hall).
Now, whenever he finds his next partner and brings her to a dance, she is 'warned' by one or more of his ex-partners, just so the new 'victim' knows what to expect. My only direct experience of his behaviour was at an event (I won't say where) when I was dancing with a woman who had recently left him. I recall she walked out when he was away from home and got friends to help her move. This caused extreme anger in the man concerned - it was probably a real dent in his pride at having control over all his partners.
At a dance, and as a set was forming, he came over and bluntly told this ex-partner (to the astonishment of other dancers also) "Why don't you just fuck off [name] ?" Yet this was probably not illegal - merely unpleasant, unsettling and maybe even threatening for the woman concerned. I have had several discussions with women who have known him.
Routinely, women have liased with dance organisers to see when and where this man might appear and he has been asked or told not to attend a couple of venues, so ex-partners know it is 'safe' for them to attend. Here, the legality of the 'banning orders' is clearer - these are small almost private events that are generally known only to those attending and to other dancers 'in the loop'. For example, there is no advertising and there are no posters, unlike for any major folk festival or even for regular local ceilidh events. Therefore the law is probably very much as for any private party - the organisers can invite who they wish. Yet in cases of 'Facebook' parties that get out of hand the police do not routinely intervene to eject 'gatecrashers' unless there is a serious disturbance and/or acts that are clearly criminal (add links).
Sidmouth festival (stewards) example
At a recent Sidmouth festival (2015 or 2016, I'll need to check emails) one steward was extremely unpleasant to many other stewards and also to other people. Probably he was on drugs or maybe just having a psychotic episode of some type. Stories included being very unpleasant to the woman who runs the accounts at the festival (at the time located in the infants school almost opposite St Teresa's Hall).
The story goes (and I'm still not sure I believe it!) that (not unreasonably) the man concerned has been banned for life for being a steward at Sidmouth and also banned from buying a ticket for the festival. Arguably, neither of these can be imposed even given his extreme behaviour - which might have had a genuine 'medical' reason.
Even people who were subject to old style ASBO orders got a second chance - and their anti-social behaviour had to be confirmed to a court before any order was imposed. Merely being unsociable is never surely sufficient grounds for any type of ban? So what right does a festival have to impose a greater penalty on anyone than would be imposed by a court, and for a greater period, and without any opportunity for mitigating evidence to be heard by an impartial judge or jury?
This is even more the case when (as with Sidmouth FolkWeek) the festival is heavily subsidised by public funds and the event should be run as fairly as any event organised by (say) a District Council. Even when council officials impose 'fixed penalty' notices, for car parking or littering offences for example, there are established rights of appeal and no possibility of a 'lifetime of punishment' for a trivial offence.
One example is useful here - allocation of beach huts at the seaside!
At Sidmouth and nearby Seaton and in other resort towns there are often more people wanting to rent a beach hut for the season than there are huts available. So rather than a local official looking at the list of applicants and choosing his friends (and not choosing any people he happened to dislike) the names are put into a hat (or some such system) and selected at random. Why? Because it is public money and (more importantly in law) it is fair.
In short - festival organisers as well as ceilidh and folk dance club organisers seem in recent years to have awarded themselves the right to ban whoever they wish, on whatever grounds they wish and for whatever period they choose - and without any of the evidence in some cases ever being made available.
Would any of this stand up in Court?
What are the procedures to question and overturn such decisions in Court and (of especial interest) what avenues for claiming compensation are available?
This does of course apply well outside the narrow confines for folk dance clubs and festivals.
Index page for this section
Dance diary 2016 - highlights
Folk dance section (local club venues and dances)