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Theatre defends hosting Ann Widdecombe show amid ‘free speech’ row

Ann Widdecombe. Photo: Shutterstock
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A theatre in Lancashire has defended its decision to allow a one-woman Ann Widdecombe show to go ahead, despite protests prompted by the MEP’s remarks on sexuality.

Around 25 protestors gathered outside the Lowther Pavilion in Lancashire on June 11 as Widdecombe appeared in her one-woman show, Strictly Ann: An Evening with Ann Widdecombe.

They were protesting against comments Widdecombe made in which she said science might one day “produce an answer” to being gay.

Following her original remarks, theatres including the Penlee Open Air Theatre in Penzance, the Electric Theatre in Guildford and the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe have cancelled bookings.

However, the Lowther Pavilion kept the show in its schedules, with Tim Lince, chairman of Lowther Theatre’s Trust, saying “I do not feel we should be in the business of censorship”.

He told the Blackpool Gazette: “I believe the theatre is open for everybody to speak and that’s a very important thing we should all defend. If there had been an incident where something had been said that had led to police action, the board would have had no place in that. The Lowther would not support anything where there has been police action.”

Previously, the theatre issued a statement in which it said: “The right of free speech in the theatre was long fought and should be protected so that all opinions can be represented. Lowther Pavilion has always had an inclusive performance and use policy and this has been represented by previous and future presentations booked at the theatre.”

When Selladoor Worldwide cancelled Widdecombe’s show at the Landmark Theatre, chief executive David Hutchinson told The Stage: “Following her disgusting gay therapy comments over the weekend, my programming team and I immediately decided to cancel the scheduled event, as we flatly refuse to offer a stage to someone who wishes to promote such vile opinion.”

He added: “We welcome everyone in the community to our theatres, and operate a fully inclusive and respectful approach to programming. We don’t seek to prevent discussions where there might be differences in opinion – but in this case, there is no discussion to be had. Ann’s comments are divisive, disrespectful and foolishly ignorant.”

Poll: Were theatres right to cancel Ann Widdecombe’s show at their venues following her comments about gay therapy?

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