Widdecombe's Lytham show to go ahead

Ann Widdecombe is coming to Lytham on Tuesday
Ann Widdecombe is coming to Lytham on Tuesday
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Officials at Lytham's theatre have re-iterated why a talk by politician Ann Widdecome is to go ahead there - despite some of her other theatre appearances being cancelled following controversial comments she made about sexuality.

Venues in Greater Manchester, Devon and Surrey have axed tour dates after the Brexit Party MEP suggested science could "produce an answer" to being gay.

She has since blamed a "liberal tyranny" for the backlash and said theatres refusing to host shows were "denying free speech".

Her talk, entitled Strictly Ann: An Evening With Ann Widdecombe, at Lytham's Lowther Pavilion on Tuesday evening go on as planned.

The decision has come in for strong criticism on social media, while Carmel Kielty, from Lytham, who says she has been a supporter of Lowther for years, contacted us to say: "I will never set foot in that theatre again."

An invitation to take part in a peaceful protest ahead of the show has gone out on Facebook from local resident Sturat Wade, who said: "Most people will be aware that June is is the start of Pride events across the UK, with Blackpool Pride being held last weekend, so this is the perfect chance to take part in such an emotional and important protest."

But more than two thirds of the tickets for the 450-capacity venue have been sold and Tim Lince, chairman of the managing Lowther Trust, said: "Lowther Pavilion will be continuing with it’s contractual obligation - it is not for us to deny free speech.

"The Theatres Act 1968 abolished censorship of the stage in the United Kingdom, after passing both Houses of Parliament and it would not be appropriate to see a new form of censorship now introduced through judgement on social media.

"The right of free speech in the theatre was long fought and should be protected so that all opinions can be represented.

"When Miss Widdecombe’s performance was booked, it was on the back of her appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and her years of representation as an MP in Parliament.

"Tickets went on sale in September 2018, long before her recent decision to stand for the European Parliament or any other interviews she has had with news media and consequentially the performance will be based on her life. This the second time Ann Widdecombe has played the theatre.

"Lowther Pavilion has always had an inclusive performance and use policy and this has been represented by previous and future presentations booked at the theatre."

The Garrick Theatre in Altrincham joined the Penlee Open Air Theatre in Penzance, the Electric Theatre in Guildford and the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe in cancelling bookings for the one-woman show because of her comments in a Sky News interview.

But Miss Widdecombe has said that she has no intention of using the one-woman shows as a platform for her views on sexuality.

"I'm disappointed that the people who bought the tickets are now finding that they can't have that fun after all," she told the BBC.

"This is now the grip that I call the liberal tyranny and I think we have got to fight it."

She added that she had been "hijacked" when questioned about her views on sexuality, after agreeing to speak about winning a seat in May's European elections.

The newly-elected MEP said she stood by her comments, but they had been "distorted" on social media

But David Hutchinson, who runs the Landmark Theatre, said he was "absolutely disgusted" by her remarks.