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"Public Health will be invited to actively engage with event"

Tuesday 26 October 2021

"Public Health will be invited to actively engage with event"


The organiser of an upcoming event challenging Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic says the show will go on, after the Education Department ruled it would be "inappropriate" to host it at a States-owned venue.

The Channel Island Integrative Health Alliance wanted to book the 300-capacity theatre for its second 'Covid Conversations' event expressing alternative views on the response to Covid-19 and exploring ways of "moving beyond the pandemic".

The Princess Royal Centre for Performing Arts [PRCPA] originally confirmed its availability on 15 November before declining to take the booking after the organiser, Laura Anderson, revealed the topic of the event.  

Without representation from Public Health at the event, and unless politicians directed them to do otherwise, the PRCPA said it “wasn't appropriate, as a States-funded venue, to host an event that was likely to not comply with Public Health guidance.” 

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Pictured: 'Covid Conversations' organiser Laura Anderson raised her grievance with Deputies last week after being unhappy that the PRCPA had refused to book the event.

Director of Operations for Education, Ed Ashton, said that accepting the booking could have led to suggestions that the event was supported by the Performing Arts Centre, and by association the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture. 

“This is not about freedom of speech or seeking to limit that, this is purely about whether it would appropriate for a States-owned venue to host an event which seeks to promote information contrary to government policy when we are in a pandemic.  

“Allowing the event to go ahead in a States-owned venue would have likely also caused criticism so those who run the Performing Arts Centre were in a difficult position either way.” 

Ms Anderson says the presentation is designed to cover "a wide and diverse and global array of presenters talking about a wide array of topics to do with the pandemic and moving beyond it.” 

That does not currently include any professionals for Guernsey's Public Health Services, however Ms Anderson said she will be extending the invitation to senior figures within HSC now that the CIIIHA has booked an alternative venue for 15 November, the St Pierre Park Hotel.  

“Open discussion and live debate has always been welcome in a democratic society,” she said.  

“It is very disappointing that the States has felt the need to censor an event which is about oppression, freedom of information and moving out of a pandemic.   

“It is not designed to go against States policy – we invite the deputies, the CCA and the heads of Public Health to attend and actively engage with the event.” 

Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen

Pictured: ESC President Andrea Dudley-Owen said the refusal to host the event was an operational decision. While she would not give a personal, political opinion on the decision, she did say that staff were put in a "challenging position" and that she "can understand the reasons for the decision reached".

Education refutes those claims of censorship. “While the organisers of the event are of course free to hold it in any private venue, it was considered inappropriate for it to be held in a States-owned building given the subject matter and content," said Mr Ashton. 

Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said it was “an operational decision made at the appropriate level”.  

“I fully understand the challenging position this presented for the Performing Arts Centre and understand the reasons for the decision its staff reached.” 

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