Lancashire

Ann Widdecombe's Lowther Pavilion show goes on despite gay views row

Ann Widdecombe Image copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty
Image caption The Brexit Party MEP has defended her comments suggesting science could "produce an answer" to being gay

Ann Widdecombe's first show since her comments on homosexuality led to the axing of a number of tour dates went ahead "to support free speech".

Shows in Greater Manchester, Devon, and Surrey were cancelled after the Brexit Party MEP suggested science could "produce an answer" to being gay.

Lowther Pavilion in Lytham, Lancashire, said the show would go on, prompting claims it would give her a platform "to spout vile hate".

The MEP has defended her comments.

In a statement Lowther Pavilion said: "The right of free speech in the theatre was long fought and should be protected so that all opinions can be represented."

Tim Lince, chair of the Lowther Theatre Trust, added: "It is very important everyone has the chance to [put forward] their own views."

He added: "Censorship should never be through social media.

"It's been absolutely horrendous what some of the staff here had to put up with - some of the comments against them have really been beyond the pale."

Image caption "It is very important everyone has the chance to [put forward] their own views," says Tim Lince

There was an angry reaction on social media from some people to the theatre's decision.

Anthony Carroll said on Facebook it was "absolutely disgusting" the theatre was allowing Ms Widdecombe "to use such a wonderful place of love hope and diversity to spout her... homophobic views".

Matthew Bradbury said the other theatres that refused to host the show were "more enlightened and can differentiate between free speech and bigoted homophobia".

More than 20 people staged a protest outside the theatre just under an hour before the event started.

"Freedom of speech is a two-way street and we have a right to support those who are vulnerable to hate crimes," said one demonstrator.

Others backed the Pavilion's stance. Sarah Price said she did not agree with many of the MEP's views but "if people don't want to see or hear her, they don't need to attend".

Ms Widdecombe has blamed "liberal tyranny" for the backlash to the remarks she made in a Sky News interview on 2 June.

She said theatres which had "caved in" by axing her Strictly Ann: An Evening With Ann Widdecombe were "denying free speech".

Image caption A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the theatre.

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