News / 10 December, 2010

Hackney TUC condemns council’s proposed ‘nil’ policy on sex establishments

Trade unionists vote unanimously against the Town Hall’s plan and in favour of protecting the dancers who work in the venues

“This was T’s Massage on Great Eastern Street, it used to be pink now it looks like dirty skin. Sex clubs aren’t perfect but they are a lot safer than working in the street,” says Hackney artist Stik. Photo: Claude Crommelin

Hackney Trades Union Council (TUC) passed a unanimous motion this Wednesday to take a public position against Hackney Council’s proposed ‘nil’ policy towards sex establishment licensing.

The union also resolved to support the application of model rules for venues set out by the GMB sex workers branch. The motion was proposed by John Page of the GMB union and amended by the performers union Equity.

Prior to the vote, a panel of guest speakers gave their views on the subject before the topic was put to the floor. Dr Kate Hardy from Leeds University has interviewed 200 dancers for a study on regulation within the lap-dancing industry.

Her research showed that many dancers had actively left a job to pursue a career in dancing, citing a high level of job satisfaction and flexible hours as benefits. High commission rates, a paucity of changing facilities and lack of information about unions and insurance were problems highlighted.

Hackney clubs in particular were singled out by the study as the type of well-run and regulated venues that dancers seek to work in. Suzanna Slack, an ex-dancer from the GMB , praised Hackney’s venues, describing them as “national treasures”. She said: “Men and women in these clubs are less likely to be extremely drunk because security is so tight.  Unlike at corporate lap dancing clubs, they are renowned for respecting the dancers. I suggest paying these clubs a visit, the bar staff are women and they are women run.”

An officer from Hackney Council’s buildings and licensing committee gave a position statement and confirmed that postcodes would be taken into account when collating responses. He said: “This policy does not aim to take away business.”

A statement was read out from Reverend Paul Turp  of St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch High Street, in which he expressed concern that  a nil policy would “bring back the bad old days’” of “seedy” unlicensed venues.

Cllr Angus Mulready-Jones told the meeting that there are wide ranging views within the council. He said: “I would like a system to protect workers, not the people who blush when they see what goes on in that industry.  I do not feel we should be over critical just because it is near at school or church. Making a policy on that basis concerns me.”

Edie, a dancer who worked in Browns, one of the venues concerned, for eight years, said: “It was an incredible place to work.”

Commenting on the wider issues she said: “There is no link between Hackney clubs and sex trafficking.”

Cllr Carole Williams said: “I would be minded to vote against it [the proposed policy]. My concern would be what would happen to the dancers if venues were unregulated.

She added: “There is a middle way to protect dancers and workers.”

Also present was the manager and owner of the Rainbow Sports Bar, Robert Kiss. He said: “It seems a bit unfair to me. I have worked in the place for 40 years to get where I am. The council said it was a good place last year, but not this year. Nothing has changed, if anything it has got better.”

The consultation continues until 13 December will be considered by full council on January 26 next year.

An alliance of affected parties are set to protest outside Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, on Friday 10 December at 10.30am.

More infoirmation about Dr Hardy’s study, Research Project: The Regulatory Dance.

Related stories:

Hands Off: women speak out over Hackney strip clubs

Strippers and vicar unite to fight cleanup campaign

Sex establishments: the other side

Sex club clampdown could backfire

Let’s talk about sex, says Hackney Council

/ 10 December, 2010
  • Chris

    This is what one ex-dancer had to say about Hackney venues in particular: “East London is particularly renowned for its ‘seedier’ venues … Many of my colleagues felt that the Hackney clubs were where you ended up if you got a drug addiction or were in real trouble… that these Hackney venues were the worst for trafficked young women… and easily the most prolific venues offering intercourse and oral sex acts.”
    (A respondent to Hackney’s consultation who worked in strip clubs for over 4 years)

  • Chris

    “ʻEntertainmentʼ which demeans and degrades women, portraying them as sexual objects, plays a part in normalising sexual violence and contributes to male abuse of women being acceptable, tolerated, condoned and excused. Such entertainment runs counter to explicit commitments by a range of private, public and voluntary agencies to promoting womenʼs equality.”
    (Glasgow City Council in their report into the effects of lap dancing clubs)

  • Chris

    The lap dancing industry is highly gendered, with men paying women to strip for them in the vast majority of lap dancing clubs – otherwise known as ‘gentlemen’s clubs’.
    The gendered nature of the industry makes the proliferation of lap dancing clubs relevant to the Gender Equality Duty 2007. This makes gender equality a factor
    which should be considered during licensing process.

    The ever-increasing sexual objectification of women, facilitated by the expansion of lap dancing clubs, runs directly counter to efforts to achieve equality between women and men.

    The links between objectification and discrimination and violence against women are recognised at the international level by the legally binding United Nations
    Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which has repeatedly called on states – including the British Government – to take action against
    the objectification of women. Similarly the UK-based End Violence Against Women coalition has called on the UK Government to tackle the sexual objectification of women and girls because it provides a ‘conducive context’ for violence against women.

  • Thierry Schaffauser

    Stop blaming strippers for violence against women.
    Nudity has nothing to do with being an object.
    Strip-tease is an art.
    There is no lap-dancing in the 4 venues concerned by the nil policy anyway.
    So stop confusing your own fears about being a ‘sexual object’ with the realities of what workers experience.
    Don’t pretend you want to save them when they are demonstrating and organising to save their job.

  • Björn

    People are scared of things depending on their situation, surely.

    Surely some people feel uncomfortable or intimidated having sex establishments in their area and they have a right to speak out against them.

    It seems that whenever there is anything that contradicts the picture perfect image the industry wants to project is mentioned it is done off without even taking it into consideration.

    I don’t think anybody is “pretending to save” the people who work in these establishments. I think people are concerned with things they have read about them or they have experienced in or near them. I think that is fair enough.

    Also I do not think anyone implied that it is the workers in the sex establishments who cause violence against women. Men commit violence against women and it is clear that sex establishments contribute to a society in which women’s worth is dependent on their ability to be attractive to men and seduce them. Where men can buy whatever they want. But what happens, if at home or on the way home a woman refuses? That is when violence against women occurs and it is commited by men!!

  • Thierry Schaffauser

    It’s not because some women say yes that it encourages men to rape those who say no.

  • Thierry Schaffauser

    I dont understand why you rely on things you have read somewhere and not on what the workers have to say.

  • Björn

    what workers have said:

    Also I’d like to say that even though these sex establishments are currently legal that does not prevent unlicensed establishments operating in the UK. Thus the whole “a nil policy will drive stripping and sex establishments underground” seems to be used to scare people rather than reflect reality. Even though allowed, there still are unlicensed venues and thus sex establishments are already (partially) underground:

  • Bill

    This is what one ex-dancer had to say about Hackney venues in particular: “East London is particularly renowned for its ‘seedier’ venues … Many of my colleagues felt that the Hackney clubs were where you ended up if you got a drug addiction or were in real trouble…

    That sounds like another of Objects “dancers” who is making things up to suit their argument. As a matter of fact Browns is the most difficult place to get a job at in London, girls move their from Stringfellows and Spearmint when they hear how good it is {read Girl in High Heels}. There are no ” extras” in either of the 4 pubs and as they do jug collections for stage shows, have lower house fees, and less girls on the pressure on them is much less.
    If sex acts were going on at the pubs then the council could take their license away from them legitimatley {under the old law}, they know they can’t so that is why this nil nonsense is being used.
    The pubs especially Browns and the White Horse are very well run family concerns that have been there for 30 years or more for people to close them for moral, taste, or political reasons is ridiculous.

  • Bill

    Just a final point, the idea that any of the Hackney pubs is involved in “sex trafficking” is so ridiculous that it would have made Goebbels blush. None of the pubs has accomodation for the dancers, if you go you will see that at shift change time the girls turn up singly , normally alone, and the pubs all recruit girls direct. None of the pubs have ever been charged {let alone convicted} of sex trafficking, or sex acts, or running a brothel but I don’t suppose that will stop the likes of Chris blaming them for everything from terrorisim to global warming and geting some fictional dancer to confirm this.

  • Björn

    I think these last comments are weak and irresponsible. It is way too easy to do away everything that does not fit your idea of things or personal experience away as “made up” lies.

    As a German I also think that your comment that these dancer’s experiences would make Germany’s Reich Minister of Propaganda blush is completely inappropriate. Who do you think you are?

  • Bill

    I am somebody who knows when things that are presented as facts are nothing of the sort. The ” dancer” quoted may or may not have ever worked as a stripper in London but she certainly knows nothing about the Hackney pubs if she is talking about trafficking, drugs, and extras.

    Object as an organisation seem {like your ex Minister} to think that if you tell lies often enough people will start to believe them, though I doubt even he ever told as big a whopper as the one about Browns and the White Horse being involved in trafficking !

  • Bill

    Rather good film that features the female owners of the White Horse and Browns plus dancers, lawyers etc commenting on the nonsense pedalled by Object. You will note here that this film features real dancers from the pubs who actually work there currently and not some strange unamed gossip expert.

  • Suzanna Slack

    I’ve been re-reading this, three years later, and want to revoke the expression ‘national treasures’ – it’s hard for me to consider any strip club, except perhaps one run as a worker’s co-operative, as any kind of treasure. What is true is that the Hackney clubs operate differently and often better. My encounters with corporate clubs are mixed, let’s say. The industry as a whole is clearly flawed for a whole range of reasons. That’s why the workers – the dancers – matter most. Listening to the dancers is vital to change what we don’t like about the industry.

    Also, since our nil policy campaign in Hackney I have noticed a dramatic increase in betting shops and no public consultation or moral outcry. Poverty and women seem to be the things it’s okay to ignore and to exploit. This has to change. Suzanna Slack


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