Mary Whitehouse and Mrs Thatcher meet The Strand

by Pseud O'Nym

Last night my partner and I were engaged.

I know she’ll read this, so to forestall her brutal realignment of my gender by the repeated and prolonged introduction of her feet to my man bits, we were of course engaged in conversation. You know, the kind that where you can’t exactly how you arrived at a certain point, one which causes you to look back wistfully to a more live and let live world. A world where one didn’t exactly accept things so much as innately understood that just because you didn’t like something, you had a choice. That choice being either to ignore it, and to tut loudly to yourself, or to become Mary Whitehouse and call for it to be banned. A part of the social contract that helps gel society together, a shared but unspoken acknowledgment that one day that one day the your likes might easily be someone else’s dislikes. But then as Mrs.Thatcher said, there was no such thing as society, and as we all know, history has been kind to her.

My partner was telling me about working as an usher at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden many years ago, back in the mists of time, probably when the mists were probably caused by cigarette smoke. Imagine that children, smoking indoors! Shocking! Adults just left to get on with things and enjoy being being adults because it hadn’t yet dawned on someone that just because something they didn’t like was happening, then it should be stopped from happening. Anyway, she told me about one performance she’d ushered where the performer had shit in a bucket.

What was shocking to me wasn’t just that they’d timed it just right so that they could shit on cue, or had taken care only to eat foods that made such precision possible. No what was really shocking that this wasn’t considered shocking by the Theatre, the audience or the staff then – well not to a placard waving mob outside the Roundhouse extent anyway – and that to us both in2023. Yes there are things that are shocking, but shitting in a bucket isn’t one of them. It might be distasteful, but whilst it might be visually unpleasant there is artistry involved. Not my thing, but hey, carry on.

This made me think of Joanna Cherry because according to the BBC and others;

SNP MP Joanna Cherry is threatening to take legal action against an Edinburgh venue which cancelled a Fringe show in which she was due to appear.

She says she will take “whatever legal action is necessary” unless The Stand admits that it acted unlawfully, issues an apology and reinstates the event.

The venue had cancelled the show after staff said they were not comfortable with her views on transgender issues.

The very idea of an arts venue being somehow being prisoner to the feelings of its staff seems to be as ludicrous as it is chilling. How is this not censorship dressed up as ‘safeguarding’? Just because you’re not comfortable with someone’s views doesn’t make those views any more or less problematic, you become the problem by dint of trying to prevent those views from being expressed in the first place.

Giving that power to staff is to fundamentally abdicate any notion of freedom of choice by the venue management. The choice of an audience mainly. Or the choice of the staff concerned to consider that maybe, just maybe, they’re in the wrong job, that maybe working in an arts venue isn’t always going to be finger painting for the under 5’s and balloon sculpting workshops. That possibly an arts venue is exactly the sort of place one might hear their views challenged, and that equally possible, their views should be challenged. People proclaim they believe in free speech right up until the point that they disagree with what the person wants to say, and then it isn’t free speech anymore, because they believe in free speech, of course they do, but this isn’t it.

Mind you, good job they weren’t working at the National Film Theatre when we were hosting the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in the ’90’s. Some of the films…