17 April 2014, The Tablet

Oxford Passion play cancelled after City Council red tape mix-up

A Passion Play in Oxford has been cancelled after a bureaucratic misunderstanding involving the local police and council.

Organisers of the Cowley Road Passion Play, due to be performed on Good Friday, announced the news “with great disappointment and frustration” after confusion over the need for an entertainments licence from the council.

A statement said: “This is due to an intractable situation which developed with the City Council Events Planning Department and the local police. Previously unheralded issues came to light a couple of weeks before Good Friday and, despite efforts to resolve the situation, the decision was taken on 12 April to call off the performance.”

The Tablet has learned that the cancellation happened amid a misunderstanding about the necessity of an entertainment licence, which is not needed for religious events. A police officer who did not know that a Passion play was religious recently advised organisers that they should apply for a licence. But such licences take around six weeks to be processed by the council and, with the issue unresolved last weekend, the play’s organisers decided it needed to make a decision a week in advance of the scheduled performance.

A source behind the play said that all three parties – organisers, police and council – were to blame, but that there were no hard feelings and the individuals involved in the council and police had apologised.

The play was successfully held at stations along the Cowley Road in east Oxford in 2012, watched by some 250 people. The organisers, who declined to comment on the cancelation, did not apply for an entertainment licence in 2012.

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