Peter Tatchell receives standing ovation at Christian festival

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell received a standing ovation for his speech at the Greenbelt festival this weekend.

Greenbelt, a Christian arts festival held annually in Cheltenham, initially raised controversy in some quarters by extending an invitation to Mr Tatchell. As reported by, He drew laughter from the crowd at the start of his speech by “paying tribute to Anglican Mainstream, who by their attacks on me and on Greenbelt, have boosted ticket sales and ensured a successful Greenbelt”.

In his speech, Mr Tatchell spoke about the struggle for “queer freedom in Africa”, homophobia among church leaders and “brave” Christians who did not condone persecution of LGBT people.

He also discussed the international differences in law facing sexual minorities, particularly in African countries such as Uganda, where there are plans to introduce the death penalty for any repeat “offence” of same-sex relations. Mr Tatchell also pointed out the colonial influence on such laws: “They’re not genuinely African laws . . . they’re laws that were inspired by a conquering imperial power”.

At one point, Mr Tatchell reportedly drew both applause and uncomfortable expressions from members of the audience, when he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” in the persecution of LGBT Africans.

The speech was followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session, during which one audience member suggested that Mr Tatchell had underestimated the importance of church unity in working against persecution long term.

He was also asked about Anglican Mainstream, whose spokesperson, Dr Lisa Nolland, had questioned the festival’s decision to invite Mr Tatchell to speak. In response, he said: “I’m a great believer in free speech [and] that includes people criticising me”.

He added that Anglican Mainstream had quoted him out of context. There crowd were enthusiastic in their applause as Mr Tatchell added, “I would urge Anglican Mainstream to re-read their ten commandments.”

Greenbelt is one of the UK’s largest Christian festivals: over 21,000 attended over the weekend.