Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the English Defence League, will not speak at the University of York in January 2017 as promised by a “subsidiary organisation” of a campus-based newspaper.
Robinson, who co-founded the far-right street protest movement against the “Islamisation” of Great Britain in 2009, had been invited to speak at the University of York on free speech and “the police state” by students first working with Nouse and then with York Vision, both award-winning student newspapers at the university.
Following a change of hosts, Robinson was expected to be the first speaker of a series of events by ‘York Talks’, described by Jayh Karia, a student and the organiser of the proposed event, as a “subsidiary organisation” of York Vision.
However, the ‘event management form’ required to host Robinson on January 19th 2017 has not been submitted, meaning that the former EDL activist will not speak on campus on this date as claimed.
The event management form is required to hold events at the University of York. Event hosts are asked to state the organiser and people responsible for the event, whether the event would require security, catering or other services, general health and safety information and other relevant factors involved in the planned event.
Once completed, the form is dispatched for authorisation from the relevant authority on campus. In the case of York Vision, a student society, hosting Tommy Robinson, the authority whose permission is required is the student union. Alex Lusty, Activities Officer of the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU), indicated that no form related to the proposed Robinson event had been submitted for authorisation, telling The Yorker earlier this week:
A student society had planned to bring Tommy Robinson to campus, but has since cancelled the event. YUSU have not been approached by any other student group wishing to host Mr. Robinson.
Event management forms are required twenty-one working days in advance of a proposed event. The Yorker has confirmed that as of today, a form has still not been submitted for authorisation, meaning that Robinson will not visit the York campus on January 19th. This means not only that the event will not happen as promised, but also that the event was, officially, not going to happen at all.
Earlier this week, Karia removed the Facebook event promoting Robinson’s appearance on campus. Karia maintained that the event would continue, writing:
York Talks has made the decision to close this [Facebook] event in the morning to avoid any misunderstandings and misgivings. The event is still proceeding ahead, and those who are attending will be notified of more information and details.
All 220 tickets to hear the former EDL activist on January 19th, made available on Tuesday, sold out in less than an hour. Robinson has Tweeted this week that he has received “confirmation” that the event is going ahead:
Furious backlash over plans to bring far right activist to speak in York – YorkMix. I've had confirmation it's on https://t.co/lBgkm8wQMk
— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) December 13, 2016
The Yorker wrote to Jayh Karia to ask about the fate of the 220 free tickets to see Robinson, but at the time of going to publication had received no response.
The Yorker has found no external information on ‘York Talks’ and, according to the Huffington Post, York Vision has claimed no connection with this organisation. No description of a host is provided on the official ticket. The Yorker wrote to York Vision to ask about ‘York Talks’ but no response was forthcoming.
Nouse was the original host of Robinson in a new series of public lectures and discussions titled ‘Nouse Events’. Luke Rix-Standing, Editor of Nouse, told The Yorker:
Nouse is no longer planning on hosting Tommy Robinson. After we postponed the event on Monday our contact with Robinson began to seek a new host, whereupon the event was picked up – as we understand it – by York Vision. We posted a statement on our event disaffiliating from the appearance, and deleted the event soon afterwards. For the time being Nouse Events is on hold.
Students have reacted to the news that Robinson will not visit the campus next month. Richard Crawshaw, a postgraduate student, told The Yorker:
This whole episode isn’t just embarrassing for the societies involved, but it gives Tommy Robinson the attention he craves while distracting us from confronting his divisive and often vile views.
Additional reporting by Eleanor Higginson.
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