A Middlesbrough venue has become embroiled in a row over freedom of expression after it announced controversial comic Roy Chubby Brown would be performing in the town, despite a previous ban.
Middlesbrough Town Hall has confirmed that the comic is to perform at the venue next year, after an unofficial ban was lifted by the town’s mayor.
However, the move has been criticised by some people, who feel the comic’s humour is outdated and offensive. It is also understood that the head of the venue, Lorna Fulton, has resigned from her position, in protest at the council’s decision to let the comic play there.
Mayor Andy Preston said that people who find the comic’s material offensive should avoid his shows.
Writing on Facebook he said: “Despite the rumours, comedian Roy Chubby Brown was never officially banned from Middlesbrough Town Hall – but I discovered the Town Hall had an unwritten policy of not allowing him to play here because he was considered ‘offensive’. I’m happy to confirm that the Town Hall is ready to announce some dates in the new year for Chubby to perform at the Town Hall.”
He added: “Many big comedy names are controversial – in fact, that’s really part of what comedy is. Many comedians say things that some people may find offensive. Personally, Chubby Brown’s act isn’t my cup of tea – but I respect and will defend the right of Chubby to perform his act and for those who do find him funny to spend their hard-earned cash on tickets to see him. If you find Chubby Brown’s act offensive, there’s a simple answer – don’t go to see him.”
He said the venue prided itself on “a comedy programme that’s exciting, wide-ranging and sometimes controversial – that way we can deliver first class entertainment for all tastes”. Tickets for the event, in the comic’s home town, are now on sale.
Explaining his decision on Twitter, he added that most critics of the comic are “white, slightly posh, Labour members”.
“There’s a vocal hardcore who want to censor the acts they don’t like,” he added.
Last month, Swansea Council said it had cancelled a Roy Chubby Brown gig at the Grand Theatre because it was “unlikely to reflect our values and commitments”.