Activists who stopped Father Ted creator's show proves cancel culture

ANDREW DOYLE: What a joke! The woke activists who stopped an Edinburgh Fringe show by my brilliant friend and Father Ted creator Graham Linehan prove cancel culture DOES exist

When priests Ted Crilly and Dougal McGuire demonstrated outside a cinema showing a movie they considered blasphemous called The Passion Of St Tibulus, they carried placards bearing the slogans ‘Down with this sort of thing’ and ‘Careful now’.

It was hilarious scenes such as this that made Father Ted, the Channel 4 comedy series about three Catholic priests sharing a parochial house on Craggy Island, such a hit.

It was the brainchild of Graham Linehan and his scriptwriting sidekick Arthur Mathews, and Linehan would create a string of other comic classics, including The IT Crowd, Black Books and Motherland.

As a result, he is widely regarded as one of the best comedy writers of all time.

So you might have thought that the Leith Arches, an Edinburgh Fringe venue with a capacity of 180, would have been mightily grateful for him agreeing to appear there, even if it was for one night only.

But thanks to complaints that we can assume were much less moderately phrased than the gentle admonishments of Fathers Ted and Dougal, Graham won’t be stepping up to the mic at the Arches tonight.

On Monday afternoon the venue posted a statement on Instagram which read: ‘We DO NOT suppprt [sic] this comedian, or his views and he WILL NOT be allowed to perform at our venue and is CANCELLED from Thursdays [sic] comedy show with immediate effect.’

Comedian Andrew Doyle, left, and Father Ted and The IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan, right

Linehan was set to join a comedy night at the Leith Arches venue (pictured) on Thursday as part of a line up put together by comedian Andrew Doyle

The venue said that it had received emails from ‘outraged members of our community’ complaining about Linehan’s scheduled appearance. ‘We are an inclusive venue and will not allow such views to violate our space,’ it concluded.

It’s a strange kind of inclusion that excludes acts from performing.

READ MORE: Furious ticketholders blast Edinburgh Fringe comedy club for cancelling Graham Linehan

The line-up Graham was due to appear in was a production by Comedy Unleashed, the monthly free-speech comedy club that I co-founded five years ago.

In addition to Linehan, our mixed-bill was to feature the comedians Bruce Devlin, Mary Bourke, Dominic Frisby and Alistair Williams.

We set up Comedy Unleashed because we wanted to challenge the stifling groupthink that now dominates the comedy scene.

We do not believe in sacred cows and refuse to accept that comedy can exist without the potential to cause offence.

Our motto has always been: ‘If it’s funny, it’s funny.’

But not everyone feels the same way, particularly the Puritans of the new ‘woke’ movement. They are especially exercised by Graham Linehan because of his views on gender identity.

He believes that there are only two sexes, that no human being has ever changed sex, and that the notion that someone can ‘identify’ into another sex category jeopardises women’s rights.

We have seen how gender self-identification policies can backfire. When Scotland’s former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tried to push through a Bill that would make gender self-identification easier it sparked a furious internecine war in the SNP.

When this debate was at its height, it emerged that the double rapist Adam Graham – who had changed his name to Isla Bryson and claimed to be transitioning — had been housed in a female prison in Scotland.

Critics of this arrangement were accused of being ‘transphobic’, when in fact they were simply concerned with the safeguarding of vulnerable women in the prison. Good sense prevailed, and Graham/Bryson was soon transferred to a male prison.

Women’s sports are increasingly under threat, with biological male athletes dominating various events. Only this week, Anne Andres, who identifies as female, set a new powerlifting record at a championship in Canada, beating the nearest competitor across three different lifts by a combined weight of more than 200kg.

It is for criticising these kinds of injustices that Linehan has become a hate figure for many trans activists.

It all started five years ago, when Linehan noticed that friends of his were referring to certain women as ‘Terfs’, an abusive acronym which stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’. It signifies an individual, usually female, who opposes the idea that society should be reorganised around the notion of gender identity rather than biological sex. But it’s effectively a synonym for ‘witch’.

Linehan has always supported the rights of individuals to identify however they please, so long as they do not encroach on the rights of others.

As he told The Mail on Sunday in 2020, he believes everyone should be able to present themselves as they wish but that women’s hard-won rights must not be compromised for the benefit of men suffering body dysphoria — which is to say men who feel they are stuck in the wrong body.

To satirise the problem, he joined a lesbian dating site. He claimed to use ‘she/her’ pronouns and made little effort to change his appearance, other than the application of light make-up, before uploading his profile picture. He was accepted on to the site immediately.

And he’s clearly not alone. Many gay women now complain that their dating sites contain a number of trans women, some fully bearded, who claim to be lesbians.

It sounds like the stuff of make-believe. But last week, Jenny Watson, the organiser of a lesbian speed-dating event that has been running at a pub in London for five years, was told the event had to be cancelled because she refused to admit biological males.

This, she was told, was not ‘inclusive’. But of course, women don’t exclude men from their dating pool because they’re discriminatory, they do so because they are gay.

For raising awareness about such absurdities, and the threat they pose to the rights of women and gay people, Linehan has been vilified and demonised by his former allies on the Left. ‘I was naïve,’ he tells me. ‘I didn’t realise how savage these forces were that had lined up against me.’

Activists have repeatedly reported him to the authorities for ‘hate speech’, and he was even given a verbal warning by police for ‘misgendering’.

His enemies haven’t stopped there. Activists have released Linehan’s home address online, circulated fake screenshots purporting to be written by him, and harassed his family to the extent that his marriage eventually broke down.

One particularly aggressive activist, an actor called David Paisley, is currently suing him for what Linehan says are totally unfounded allegations of harassment.

The venue’s latest statement appeared to say the decision was a purely commercial decision

Linehan is best known as the creator of the still hugely popular Father Ted Channel Four series

His career has been left in tatters. He is no longer employable in the comedy industry, because the arts have been almost entirely captured by this new ‘woke’ ideology.

His musical adaptation of Father Ted is being held hostage by the rights holders, Hat Trick Productions, who don’t want to produce it in partnership with Linehan, and it may never see the light of day.

As a result, he has reached the point of near-bankruptcy and relies on his Substack blog for an income.

Linehan is often accused of having an aggressive tone in his online disputes but his approach has to be seen in context.

‘I often argue the way I do because I’m so isolated,’ he tells me. ‘Every day people call me a bigot, a fascist, every name under the sun. So if people are rude to me, I’m rude back.’

We are often told that ‘cancel culture doesn’t exist’ — that those who claim to have been cancelled are free to speak out.

But the Leith Arches’ decision to ban him this week will not have the effect of cancelling Graham Linehan from the Fringe, as Comedy Unleashed aren’t going to accept a handful of authoritarians making judgments about which shows people are permitted to watch.

If they find Linehan’s views offensive, they can choose not to buy a ticket. Problem solved.

We have found an alternative venue in Edinburgh so that Linehan’s Fringe debut can go ahead. We will only reveal the location to ticket holders on the day itself, to avoid trouble from activists.

In the current climate, where free expression in the arts is increasingly under threat, we can’t allow the killjoys to win.

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