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Kneecap funding refusal claims attack on culture

Kneecap funding refusal claims attack on culture

The west Belfast rap group Kneecap has been granted permission by the High Court to challenge the UK Government’s decision to block a £15,000 funding award. The group claims that the refusal to grant them the funding is an attack on their culture and an infringement on their rights under the Good Friday Agreement.

DJ Próvaí, a member of Kneecap, emphasized that the legal action is not about the money but about defending their artistic expression and cultural identity. He described the funding refusal as an attack on their way of life and their means of self-expression.

Kneecap, formed in 2017 by three friends known by their stage names Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap, and DJ Próvaí, had applied for the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) to support their international endeavors. Their application was initially shortlisted and approved by a panel from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). However, the final decision rested with the Department for Business and Trade and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, overseen by UK Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who ultimately refused the funding.

The group believes that the refusal was influenced by a provocative poster for their 2019 Farewell to the Union tour, which reportedly angered the Conservative Party. A government spokesperson at the time stated that while they supported freedom of speech, it was unsurprising that they did not want to allocate taxpayer money to those opposed to the United Kingdom.

Kneecap’s legal team argues that the decision to block the funding was an abuse of power and discriminatory on the grounds of nationality, political opinion, and ethnic origin. They contend that the refusal violates the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, which aims to protect the rights and identities of all communities in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Justice Scoffield, who granted Kneecap leave to seek a judicial review, noted that this decision does not necessarily reflect the ultimate strength of the case. The full hearing is scheduled for November, after the group returns from a series of performances in the United States.

DJ Próvaí, the only member of the trio present in court, expressed his belief that the funding refusal was an overreach by Ms. Badenoch. He argued that as taxpayers, they have the right to benefit from public funds regardless of their political beliefs. Kneecap’s solicitor, Darragh Mackin, described the decision as an attack on identity, freedom of expression, and the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. He emphasized that the discrimination is evident and that the Secretary of State has a case to answer.

The BPI, which had initially approved Kneecap’s application, expressed disappointment over the blocking of the grant. They support the group’s right to challenge the decision and seek a fair resolution.

Kneecap’s case highlights the broader issue of how funding decisions can impact cultural expression and identity. The group’s fight for their rights underscores the importance of protecting artistic freedom and ensuring that funding decisions are made fairly and without discrimination.

As the case moves forward, it will be closely watched by those who support artistic freedom and cultural expression. The outcome could have significant implications for how funding decisions are made and the extent to which they can be influenced by political considerations.

Kneecap’s determination to challenge the funding refusal reflects their commitment to defending their culture and their right to express themselves freely. Their legal battle serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting the rights and identities of all communities, particularly in a region with a complex and sensitive political history.