Children's Drag Queen Story Hour UK event cancelled after 'concerns' raised

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A drag queen's story-telling event for children has been cancelled by Leeds City Council after a backlash.

Sab Samuel, who performs as Aida H Dee, was set to read to children via Leeds Libraries' Facebook page on Monday.

Mr Samuel had performed to groups of children across the country to "show the world that being different is not a bad thing".

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But the event sparked a backlash among some women's groups and a local councillor in Leeds.

Sab Samuel as Aida H Dee.Sab Samuel as Aida H Dee.
Sab Samuel as Aida H Dee.

The council said it cancelled the event as it "received a number of concerns about this event which needed further consideration".

Mr Samuel said: "I feel I feel so upset for anybody who is LGBT+ in Leeds.

"This is such a kick in the face, to be honest.

"I can’t imagine being a child hearing about this Drag Queens Story Hour, being one of those kids, who is probably not within gender norms, to hear that it gets cancelled because there are haters out there, that would make the world seem so scary."

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Members of the Leeds ReSisters raised their concerns with independent councillor Sarah Field.

A spokeswoman for the group said: "As a pro-women group, we want to make sure the council was in line with the public sector equality duty to foster good relationships between protected groups, and the rest of the population.

"We do not believe that the caricature of women provided by Drag culture fulfils this duty, especially in the year the council wants to be the first Woman-Friendly City in the country."

The group also felt some of the images on Mr Samuel's drag page were inappropriate for children

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They added: "We support diversity, and want children to have a broad range of role models.

"We would love to see children’s storytelling provided by black people of Leeds, by disabled people, by storytellers of all the different cultural traditions of the city.

"We don’t believe we need to expose children to Drag culture, for children to learn acceptance of gender non conformity."

Mr Samuel also highlighted hateful comments made about him online.

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He said he would still like to work with the council in future.

Coun Field said: "As councillors we are corporate parents.

"I had a duty to take up this issue after being contacted by many people."

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “An online event entitled Drag Queen Storytime was scheduled to take place this week which was booked and hosted through Leeds Libraries.

“Similar events have been hosted both in Leeds and at other libraries around the country in the past.

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“However, over the course of the weekend, we received a number of concerns about this event which needed further consideration.

“As it was being hosted in a new, online format and because these concerns were expressed shortly before it was due to take place, the decision was made to cancel this event so the service has the opportunity to properly consider the concerns which have been raised.

“Our libraries remain fully committed to hosting a programme of diverse and inclusive events and we will continue to discuss how best to do this alongside our visitors, guests and communities.”

A spokeswoman for Women's Lives Leeds said: "Women’s Lives Leeds, the alliance of women’s and girls’ organisations behind Women Friendly Leeds, are disappointed in the reaction to Leeds City Council postponing Drag Queen Story Hour event, especially during pride month – a time when the value of promoting a diverse range of voices is especially relevant.

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"We are conscious that there is an investigation being undertaken and we very much hope that the outcomes will be positive.

"We have done great work in partnership with LCC and we know that LCC is a tolerant, inclusive and principled local authority that is supportive of LGBTQ+ communities.

"Women Friendly Leeds and Women’s Lives Leeds stands for tolerance, diversity, inclusion and kindness.

"We understand that the women of Leeds have a wide variety of views and concerns on a range of topics and we encourage friendly and respectful conversation around these issues.

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"However, we are not supportive of any harmful generalisations or hateful language towards any group of people; our movement is inclusive for ALL, including (but not limited to) trans women, lesbians and other LGBTQ+ people.

"We believe that a city that is better for women is better for everyone.

"We will continue to strive for inclusiveness in all that we do; we believe that we are stronger together."

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