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'We see this as censorship' - Row over reasons behind exhibition on NHS privatisation being taken down

PUBLISHED: 18:52 06 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:18 07 July 2017

Exhibition put on by NHS Norfolk Action Group. Photo: NHS Norfolk Action Group

Exhibition put on by NHS Norfolk Action Group. Photo: NHS Norfolk Action Group

NHS Norfolk Action Group

A row has erupted over an exhibition designed to show privatisation in the health service, which organisers have been told to take down.

The NHS Norfolk Action Group (NAG) was holding Marion Macalpine’s exhibition ‘How Come We Didn’t Know?’ at the Forum, Norwich, as part of their anniversary celebrations for the health service.

But yesterday, Thursday, they were asked to take it down because it was deemed “too political”, according to some members.

Jan McLachlan, from the NAG, said: “NHS NAG are shocked by the fact we have been asked to dismantle the ‘How Come We Didn’t Know?’ exhibition.

“The exhibition comprises of photographs of some of the buildings occupied by corporations who now own parts of the NHS.

“Forum chief executive Tim Bishop said there had been no public complaints about the exhibition, but that it was ‘a political campaign, not an exhibition’ and ‘narrowly party political’ and he felt the Forum had been misled about the content of the exhibition.

“We think people of all political persuasions are concerned about the future of the NHS. We see this as censorship.”

Chief executive of the Forum, Tim Bishop, said the decision was more due to petitioning and soliciting of donations, which he said had not been agreed to.

He also claimed the exhibition was actually a campaign vehicle: “We accepted a booking that we understood to be a photographic exhibition by a London-based photographer. It became clear that it was actually a campaign vehicle for a group whose activities included a petition and soliciting donations from Forum visitors.

“The Forum encourages robust discussion and debate on a wide range of issues, but The Forum’s Atrium is not a space for political campaigning or groups soliciting donations.

“We tried to work with the group to retain elements of the exhibition that would work alongside other events in The Forum at the moment, but their activity then resumed.

“If we open the doors to one campaign group we would open it to all and while political groups can hold private meetings here, this kind of political campaigning has never been bookable in The Forum’s public Atrium. We have talked the issues through with the group, explained our guidelines, and fully refunded the hire fees.”

Yesterday, NHS NAG also held a drop-in film show, and members of the public were recorded answering the question: “What would you like to see for our NHS?”

People were also able to write birthday cards with messages which will be sent to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt, and took away NHS birthday goodie bags.

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