Anti-racism charity confirms Ken Loach as judge for its School Competition

Well-known and widely-respected anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) has upheld its invitation to filmmaker Ken Loach to judge the charity’s 2020 School Competition.   The competition (to be judged jointly with author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen) is a major anti-racist fixture.   More than half a million school students have taken part in these annual events.

When launching the competition on February 4, SRtRC CEO Ged Grebby said of the appointment of Ken Loach and Michael Rosen as panel judges, ‘I can’t think of two people better qualified to choose the winners’.   However, Ken Loach was attacked on grounds of alleged antisemitism, and the charity put under pressure to withdraw his invitation. Sajid Javid, at the time Chancellor of the Exchequer, even retweeted a hostile message from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to his 170,000 followers.   Michael Rosen was also vilified in the press, and subjected to online accusations of antisemitism. But after careful consideration, Show Racism the Red Card has reaffirmed its choice of Loach and Rosen as judges.

Miriam Margolyes OBE said, ‘I am delighted by this decision.   It is the best way of responding to a baseless campaign of accusations.   Ken Loach is a man who has dedicated his life to opposing racism, and he has my full support’.

Loach’s fellow film director Mike Leigh said, ‘The charity has unquestionably made the right moral decision.  It is preposterous to call Ken an antisemite. Ridiculous, in fact’.

Legendary footballer and outspoken anti-racist, Eric Cantona, strongly endorsed both Loach and SRtRC: ‘Everybody knows Ken Loach is a warrior against injustice. Show Racism the Red Card is right to work with him.They are a brilliant charity doing vital work in fighting all forms of racism. I support them 100% – you must too!’.

John McDonnell MP said, ‘I am pleased that Ken Loach is now able to fully participate in this initiative.   There should have been no questioning of his ability to do so. Ken is an outstanding, dedicated campaigner against racism in all its forms’.

Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance told the charity’s Trustees, ‘I am not a judge, but to me the active attempt to discredit Ken Loach is an act of defamation, a slander…  An apology should now be forthcoming from his accusers’.

Actor and comedian Steve Coogan said: ‘[Loach’s] entire career has been to shine a light on the plight of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised…  For him to be castigated by the likes of Sajid Javid is shameful’.

More than 200 public figures wrote to SRtRC urging it not to give in to pressure to remove Loach, saying it was ‘regrettable’ that Loach and Rosen had been ‘subject to vilification’, and warning it would be ‘damaging for the struggle against racism in all its forms if SRtRC were to succumb’.   Signatories include:

  • Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona
  • musicians Peter Gabriel, David Gray and Brian Eno
  • actors David Morrissey, Miriam Margolyes,  Juliet Stevenson 
  • John McDonnell MP
  • civil rights lawyer Michael Mansfield
  • academic and author Dame Marina Warner
  • 30 national executive members of the National Education Union

Michael Rosen said: ‘I am beginning to wonder how the word “antisemitism” is being used.   As a child my parents told me of their fight against antisemitism in the East End of London in the 1930s.   I am worried and saddened that our fight against antisemitism, as I have always understood it to mean, is being undermined.’

Responding to the charity’s decision, Ken Loach said, ‘It is a great shame that Show Racism the Red Card has had to deal with baseless claims of this sort.   They are a distraction from the vital work of anti-racist education, which is needed now more than ever. These smears are very distressing to me and my family, but I have been overwhelmed by the support of so many artists, academics, lawyers, footballers, trade unionists – people with a lifetime’s experience of committed work in their fields.   I am honoured to be judging the competition, and I look forward to engaging with the work of so many thousands of young people.’



1.   The details of the Show Racism the Red Card School Competition are here

2.  Statement by Show Racism the Red Card, March 5 2020

We are sad that a creative initiative to encourage young people from a range of diverse backgrounds – many of whom have direct and painful experience of racism – has been overshadowed.

We condemn antisemitism and racism in all its forms.   Through our education programmes we have worked tirelessly to combat racism since we were founded nearly 25 years ago.   Much of our work involves raising awareness of the Holocaust and antisemitism. We welcome those who question our decision to work with Ken Loach and Michael Rosen to collaborate with us on future education campaigns.

With hate crime on the rise – and the Jewish community increasingly a target – our anti-racism work is more vital now than ever. We are a non-political charity that relies on support from people with differing political views, who are all united in their belief that racism must be eradicated.   Cross-party support is essential to our mission, which is why we established the Show Racism the Red Card All-Party Parliamentary Group, comprising Parliamentarians from different political parties working together in partnership.

Many prominent figures in academia, the arts, education, law, media, politics, science and sport have contacted us to endorse our decision to work with Ken and Michael, and to refute the allegations made against them.   We are grateful for their support, as well as for the kind messages we have received from the public. We have taken time to reflect and listen, and we stand by our decision to work with Ken and Michael, who are both long-standing supporters of our charity.

We previously recognised Ken Loach with a Show Racism the Red Card Hall of Fame award for the work he has undertaken with the charity spanning two decades.   As a world-renowned film director, we are delighted that he has agreed to judge our annual School Competition, alongside the recognised novelist, poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.   It is the UK’s largest anti-racism competition for schools, with 27,000 young people taking part last year and more than 8,000 calendars of the winning work distributed. More than half a million young people have entered the competition since it launched in 1998, producing art, creative writing, film or music around an original anti-racism theme.   As award-winning icons in their respective fields, it is very exciting for us that Ken and Michael have agreed to be judges. But equally important is the compassion we have seen them show to people – of all races and religions – who our charity is here to help.

3.  Full text of Letter 1 addressed to Show Racism the Red Card, signed by 138 public figures, plus the full list of signatories, including Sir Alex Ferguson and former justice minister of Scotland, Kenny MacAskill:  

 Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) plays a vital role in the fight against racism in football. 

 SRtRC’s initiatives have included the annual School Competition on racism, in which young people produce creative work (artwork, creative writing, song, film) with an original anti-racism theme. 

The choice of celebrated film-maker Ken Loach and children’s author Michael Rosen as panel judges is highly fitting.   As SRtRC chief executive Ged Grebby said of Loach and fellow judge Michael Rosen when launching the competition, ‘I can’t think of two people better qualified to choose the winners’.

It is therefore extremely regrettable that they have both been subject to vilification. We regard these attacks, and in particular the demand that Ken Loach be removed as a panel judge, as completely unjust and a threat to principles of free expression. 

 Ken Loach is an implacable opponent of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.   We believe that the charges of antisemitism against him are without foundation, and rest on misrepresentation and distortion.   Ken Loach’s own statements on antisemitism and the Holocaust leave no room for doubt.[1]

 We believe that demands for Ken Loach’s removal as a competition judge reflect political differences, including over Israel-Palestine.   As signatories we share a conviction that legitimate political differences must not be allowed to undermine unity against a common threat from the far right and racists.   Furthermore, misplaced accusations of antisemitism against Ken Loach risk degrading the real threat of antisemitism and other forms of racism.

Ken Loach is a life-long and consistently outspoken advocate for progressive causes. We call on Show Racism the Red Card to firmly reject demands for his removal as a panel judge and stand by its invitation to him

Sir Alex Ferguson

Eric Cantona, footballer, actor

Kenny MacAskill, former Justice Minister of Scotland 

John McDonnell, MP

Baroness Blackstone

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC

Michael Mansfield, QC, civil rights lawyer

Henry Blaxland, QC

Rajiv Menon, QC

Benedict Birnberg, lawyer

Jane Deighton, solicitor

Jim Nicholl, solicitor

Matt Foot, solicitor

Antony Lerman, former Director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research 

Frances Webber, Vice-Chair, Institute of Race Relations

Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group

Jock Morris, Chair, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees

Clare Short

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist, author 

Jonathan Steele, journalist

Dr Ghada Karmi, author

Melissa Benn, writer, education campaigner

Alan Gibbons, children’s author

Professor David Epstein, FRS, University of Warwick 

Professor Tim Shallice, FBA FRS, University College London 

Professor Graeme Segal, FRS, University of Oxford 

Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS, University of Southampton 

Sir Iain Chalmers, Editor, James Lind Library

Dame Marina Warner, DBE CBE and FBA, Birkbeck College

Professor Dorothy Griffiths OBE FCGI, Imperial College

Professor Frank Land OBE, FBCS, FAIS, London School of Economics

Susie Orbach, psychotherapist

Professor Diane Reay, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Henry Maitles, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of West of Scotland

Craig Hammond, Senior Lecturer Education Studies, Liverpool John Moores University 

Rania Hafez, Senior Lecturer Education & Community Studies, University of Greenwich 

Professor Steven Rose, Open University

Professor Catherine Rottenberg, University of Nottingham

Professor Colin Eden, University of Strathclyde

Professor Ilan Pappe, University of Exeter

Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds

Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Elizabeth Dore, University of Southampton

Dr Robert Boyce, London School of Economics

Professor Hilary Rose, University of Bradford

Professor Neve Gordon, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Colin Green, University College London

Professor Nira Yuval-Davis, University of East London

Professor Suleiman Sharkh, University of Southampton

Professor Richard Seaford, University of Exeter

Professor David Wield, Open University

Professor Donald Sassoon, Queen Mary, University of London

Professor David Mond, University of Warwick

Professor Avi Shlaim, University of Oxford

Professor John Yudkin, University College London

Professor Robert Wintemute, King’s College London

Professor Mica Nava. University of East London

Professor Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Andrew Samuels, University of Essex

Professor Ailsa Land, London School of Economics

Dr Justin Schlosberg, Birkbeck

Professor David Graeber, London School of Economics

Professor Miriam David, UCL Institute of Education

Professor John Chalcraft, London School of Economics

Professor Erica Burman, University of Manchester

Professor Alex Callinicos, King’s College London

Professor Harriet Evans, Emeritus Professor, University of Westminster 

Professor Karma Nabulsi, University of Oxford

Professor Kamel Hawwash, University Birmingham

Professor John Parrington, University of Oxford

Bernard Sufrin, Emeritus Fellow & Tutor, Worcester College, Oxford University 

Iain Ferguson, Honorary Professor, University of West of Scotland

Amanda Martin, President, National Education Union

Louise Regan, Membership and Equality, National Education Union

Kiri Tunks, Past President, National Education Union

Daniel Kebede, National Executive, National Education Union (Equality Seat for Black Members) 

Emma Mort, National Executive, National Education Union

Jess Edwards, National Executive, National Education Union

Sarah Carter, National Executive, National Education Union

Alex Kenny, National Executive, National Education Union

Warren Chambers, National Executive, National Education Union

Kauser Jan, National Executive, National Education Union

Sally Kincaid, National Executive, National Education Union

Stefan Simms, National Executive, National Education Union

Gawain Little, National Executive, National Education Union

Simon Murch, National Executive, National Education Union

Deirdre Murphy, National Executive, National Education Union

John Reddiford, National Executive, National Education Union

Karen Parkin, National Executive, National Education Union

Chris Denson, National Executive, National Education Union

Robin Head, National Executive, National Education Union

Anne Swift, National Executive, National Education Union

Karen Williams, National Executive, National Education Union

Ian Watkinson, National Executive, National Education Union

Mairead Canavan, National Executive, National Education Union

Debra Beale, National Executive, National Education Union

Jerry Glazier, National Executive, National Education Union

Debs Gwynn, National Executive, National Education Union

Sheena Wheatley, National Executive, National Education Union

Phil Clarke, National Executive, National Education Union

Philipa Harvey, National Executive, National Education Union

Dawn Taylor, National Executive, National Education Union

Jean Evanson, National Executive, National Education Union

Dominic Coughlin, National Executive, National Education Union

Carlo Morelli, Scotland President, University and College Union

Julia Roberts, National Executive, University and College Union

Sean Vernell, National Executive, University and College Union

Margot Hill, National Executive, University and College Union

Sean Wallis, National Executive, University and College Union

Julie Hearn, National Executive, University and College Union

Hugh Lanning, Ex Deputy General Secretary, Public & Commercial Services Union, human rights activist

Charlie Reid, singer, The Proclaimers 

Peter Ahrends, RIBA architect

Elaine C Smith, actress

John Smith, artist, filmmaker 

Anthony Neilson, writer, director 

David Harrower, writer

Peter Mullan, actor 

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Ben Jamal, Director, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Lindsey German, National Convenor, Stop the War Coalition 

Tony Higgins, former footballer

Phil Vasili, scout, Coventry City FC

Thelma Walker, former MP

Laura Smith, former MP

Holly Rigby, National Education Union activist

Julia Bard, journalist

David Rosenberg, author

Dave Sherry, Vice Chair, Glasgow Unite Retired Members Branch 

Dr Donny Gluckstein, Edinburgh College

Dr Glyn Robbins, Housing and anti-racism campaigner

 4.   Full text of Letter 2 addressed to Show Racism the Red Card,  signed by 78 artists, filmmakers and writers: 

 We’re writing as artists who wholly support the work of Show Racism the Red Card to say we trust you will stand by your invitation to our colleague Ken Loach to judge this year’s schools’ design competition.

It would be damaging for the struggle against racism in all its forms if SRtRC were to succumb to political pressure on this point.

Ken Loach’s career as a film-maker has been devoted to making visible the lives of marginalised and disregarded people.   His work takes us inside those lives, fosters empathy, and revives our sense of solidarity with our fellow citizens’ struggles for equality and justice.

When you invited him to be a judge, we understand you had these qualities – and more – in mind.   We agree with chief executive Ged Grebby when he said of Loach and fellow judge Michael Rosen, ‘I can’t think of two people better qualified to choose the winners’.

Your decision is being attacked on the grounds Ken Loach allegedly fails to acknowledge the presence of antisemitism in our society.   He has previously defended himself against this, and worse, allegations (see for instance this letter from him in The Guardian).   But the attacks continue. 

We know Ken Loach, and indeed Michael Rosen, as life-long and consistently outspoken advocates for progressive causes.   In our fractious and still deeply racist society, their work promotes decency, understanding and kindness. SRtRC needs to stand by its invitation to both of them.  

Khalid Abdalla   actor

Tariq Ali   writer, editor, broadcaster

Candace Allen    writer

Roy Battersby   filmmaker

Sarah Beddington   artist, filmmaker

Iciar Bollain   screenwriter, film director

Howard Brenton   playwright

Victoria Brittain   writer

Dr Mark Brown    theatre critic

Niall Buggy   actor

Antonia Caccia   director

David Calder   actor

Carmen Callil    publisher, writer, critic

Julie Christie   actor

Caryl Churchill   playwright

Steve Coogan   actor, comedian, producer

Dror Dayan   filmmaker

April De Angelis   playwright

Andy De La Tour    actor

Jeremy Deller   artist

Ivor Dembina   comedian

Brain Eno   musician

Nancy Elan    violinist

Andrew Feinstein    author, filmmaker

Mike Figgis   filmmaker

Bella Freud   designer

Peter Gabriel  musician, founder of Womad music festival 

Gali Gold   film programmer 

David Gray    singer songwriter

Lee Hall    screenwriter

Abe Hayeem    chair, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine

Waris Hussein    film director

Gemma Jackson    production designer

John Keane  artist

Brigid Keenan    writer

Reem Kelani    musician

Peter Kennard      artist

A.L. Kennedy     writer

Peter Kosminsky     screenwriter, director

Adam Kossoff     artist, filmmaker

Line Langebek   screenwriter

Paul Laverty   screenwriter

Mike Leigh   screenwriter, director

Mike Lerner    producer

Sonja Linden   playwright

Miriam Margolyes OBE    actor

Jehane Markham    poet

Kika Markham   actor

Pauline Melville    writer

Nicholas Mirzoeff   writer, cultural theorist

Jenny Morgan   director

David Morrissey   actor

Laura Mulvey    professor of film

Rebecca O’Brien    producer

Pratibha Parmar    director

Virginia Pitts     filmmaker

Leon Rosselson     songwriter, children’s author

Sir Mark Rylance    actor

Alexei Sayle    writer, comedian, broadcaster

Seni Seneviratne     poet

Jasleen Sethi    director

Nabil Shaban   actor, writer, filmmaker

Farhana Sheikh    writer

Gillian Slovo    writer

Robyn Slovo   producer

Chris Somes-Charlton   artist manager

Maggie Steed   actor

Juliet Stevenson    actor

Tom Suarez   violinist

Chris Thomas   filmmaker

Di Trevis     theatre director

Cat Villiers    director

Harriet Walter DBE     actor 

Roger Waters    musician

Eyal Weizman     director, Forensic Architecture

Hilary Westlake    theatre director

Penny Woolcock    screenwriter, director

Ben Woolford    producer

  5.  PERSONAL STATEMENTS submitted by artists, filmmakers and writers to the Trustees of SRtRC:

As the son of a Holocaust survivor who lost 39 members of her family in the camps, as the first Member of Parliament to introduce a motion on Holocaust Remembrance in the South African Parliament while serving under Nelson Mandela, and as a writer who has published on genocide and mass atrocity prevention, a topic on which I have lectured at Auschwitz for the Auschwitz Institute, I would like to unreservedly support Show Racism the Red Card’s 2020 School Competition to find ‘the most inspiring and original creative designs produced by young people on the theme of anti-racism’.   I would also like to endorse SRtRC’s decision to use Ken Loach and Michael Rosen as judges for the competition. Both are committed anti-racists whose lives and work have been dedicated to fighting racism in all its forms, to the exposing of inhumanity, to the pursuit of justice, equality and respect. The criticism of their selection by the Jewish Board of Deputies, an organisation that does not represent me or, in fact, the majority of British Jews, is yet another attempt to conflate criticism of Israel and its occupation of the Palestinian Territories with antisemitism. This conflation is false and extremely dangerous, as it undermines the real and essential struggle against antisemitism and all forms of racism.
Andrew Feinstein, author, filmmaker

It is preposterous to call Ken an antisemite.   Ridiculous, in fact.
Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director 

His entire career has been to shine a light on the plight of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised.   His films have given a voice to the voiceless. For him to be castigated by the likes of Sajid Javid is shameful.   Ken Loach’s legacy will remain long after his critics have gone.
Steve Coogan, actor, comedian  

I am not an Artist for Palestine.   I am an artist for all people, all life.   I am not aligned with any political cause other than the defense and celebration of life on this earth, all life.   I do not feel qualified to comment on Palestine. I grieve the suffering in all violent struggles between people. I pray for peace.

I do however feel qualified to defend Ken Loach.   Defamation and libel of an individual have been crimes in the UK for many hundreds of years.   I am not a judge, but to me the active attempt to discredit Ken Loach is an act of defamation, a slander.   For me, Ken is a living example of the finest artists that have lived amongst us. He has always been highly sensitive to the suffering of the excluded in society and his sensitive storytelling has awakened compassion and justice in others.   His record and character are clear. From the evidence I have seen, to try to turn him into an enemy of the Jewish people is misguided, to say the least. Ken has had the grace to answer his accusers, clearly and without doubt. He is not nor has he ever been a denier of the Holocaust.   An apology should now be forthcoming from his accusers or they risk seriously damaging their own much needed work defending Jewish people against real antisemitism.
Sir Mark Rylance, actor

Ken Loach is a man who has dedicated his life to anti-racism.   He is anti-Zionist, he is NOT antisemitic. There is a difference.
Mirian Margolyes OBE, actor

Ken is someone I deeply admire and have known for years.   He defines decency.
Mike Figgis, film director

It’s vital that we resist the current trend that conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.   Calling Ken Loach an antisemite is ridiculous and succumbing to that train of thought is sad and stupid.   These are dark days in which racism is rearing its ugly head – I have personally witnessed two blatant incidents in the last week. Attacking people who have spent their lives fighting discrimination is misplaced and depressing.
Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, director 

 I endorse Ken Loach as a compassionate advocate for human rights as well as a unique filmmaker.
Waris Hussein, film and television director 

 Ken Loach is an important role model for many young British people, not only for his creativity in telling stories from our society which they can recognise, but also because of his moral record in standing against racism and all forms of injustice.    The accusations of antisemitism made against him have been refuted many times. His long record of solidarity with all those, including Palestinians, whose lives are scarred by racist violence, makes him an icon for the next generation.
Victoria Brittain, writer

As a British-Jewish (four Jewish grandparents, family in Israel, family names on the lists of the murdered at Auschwitz) writer on visual culture, Ken Loach has always been there.   From the classic Kes when I was a child to recent award-winning films like I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach has shown how to use film and visual culture to tell different stories and to advance social justice.   He’s been an ally in the best sense.
Nicholas Mirzoeff,  author (The Appearance of Black Lives Matter, How to See the World)

Removing great artists like Ken Loach from the SRtRC panel of judges would be a dangerous step on a slippery slope.   What next? The McCarthy Tribunals?   The burning of books?
Pauline Melville, writer

 Ken Loach has never sought to conceal his support for Palestinian self-determination and has defended the beleaguered Palestinian population against the daily violence to which it has been and is being subjected.   If this is now considered antisemitic, then Ken Loach is not alone. A majority of the Scottish and Irish populations and a significant percentage in England and Wales are no different from Loach.   
Tariq Ali, writer, editor, broadcaster

I will always support Ken Loach.   A true defender of human rights.
Niall Buggy, actor

 Ken Loach is the kind of human being who defends justice everywhere. 
Carmen Callil DBE, publisher, writer 

Ken Loach is what any conscious artist should be, creating socially relevant art which forces us to think about our society and the way we treat each other, about the importance of solidarity and of sticking together.   But the special thing about Loach is that his principles carry on beyond his art and into his actions as an individual in this society. It is for this principled stance that he is now under attack. If Loach’s films have taught me anything, it is that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that people must come together to defend each other against the wrongdoings of the system.   Now we must do precisely this – come together and support Loach against those malicious attacks.
Dror Dayan, filmmaker

Ken Loach is highly esteemed and loved in France,  Germany and much of the world for the exposing of extreme inequalities and suffering and the dismantling of human rights under this government in his films.   Both Rosen and Loach represent the highest principles and ideals in a society and world that are threatened with increasing racism and violence. We should cherish them.
Kika Markham, actor