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Kneecap funding refusal ‘attack on culture’

The west Belfast rap group Kneecap has secured High Court permission to take legal action against the UK Government for blocking them from receiving a £15,000 funding award.

The band has been granted leave to seek a judicial review into claims that denying the grant discriminates against them on grounds of nationality and political opinion.

A judge agreed to list the case for a full hearing in November, after the group returns from a series of gigs in the United States.

Outside court, band member DJ Próvaí said the legal action was not about the money.
“This is an attack on artistic culture, an attack on the Good Friday Agreement and an attack on us and our way of expressing ourselves,” he said.

PA The three band members looking at the camera. One has sunglasses on his head with a dark hoodie. One is wearing a ring and a dark jumper. The other member stnds behind the first two and is wearing a colourful patterned top

In December, Kneecap applied for a grant allocated to support UK-registered artists in global markets.
The rappers’ application for the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) was said to have been shortlisted and approved by a British Phonographic Industry (BPI) panel.

However, the initiative is overseen by the Department for Business and Trade, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at Westminster, and UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch decided to refuse the funding.

Reuters Ms Badenoch standing with the union flag behind her

UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch decided to refuse the funding

Kneecap claimed that a provocative poster for their 2019 Farewell to the Union tour had angered the Conservative Party.
At the time a government spokesperson said it fully supported freedom of speech, but that it was “hardly surprising” that it did not want to hand out UK taxpayers’ money to those opposed to the United Kingdom.
The BPI expressed disappointment over the blocking of the grant.

Lawyers for the group contend that Ms Badenoch abused her power for an unlawful purpose.
Papers issued as part of the case claim her decision discriminates against Kneecap on grounds of religious belief or political opinion, as well as racial grounds of nationality and ethnic origin.

In court their barrister announced it has been conceded there are arguable grounds of challenge.
“It’s a shame I wasn’t able to say that in Irish,” he added.
Mr Justice Scoffield confirmed that he was granting leave to apply for a judicial review but added: “That doesn’t say anything in particular about the ultimate strengths of the case.”

‘Attack on identity’
DJ Próvaí, who formed Kneecap with friends Mo Chara and Moglai Bap, was the only member of the trio who attended court.

Following the hearing, he claimed Ms Badenoch had “overreached” by denying the grant.
“We are paying taxes and surely we have a right to the benefit of those taxes, regardless of our political beliefs,” he said.

Kneecap’s solicitor Darragh Mackin claimed Ms Badenoch’s decision was an attack on identity, freedom of expression and the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The underpinning discrimination is hiding in plain sight,” he alleged.
“The secretary of state has now conceded that she has a case to answer, and we welcome the court’s indication that this case will be heard early in the new term.”

 

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