Opera company says it’s not anti-gay

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An opera company which cancelled a community project after a primary school complained about a gay character has denied being anti-gay.

Opera North commissioned a work from Billy Elliot author Lee Hall as part of a project involving 300 primary school children in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.

However, the children’s school demanded that a scene referring to homosexuality be cut.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Mr Hall said he was astounded when Opera North agreed that the scene was inappropriate for children.

He said: “I thought there must be some mistake and that Opera North would support me by finding a way round this completely outdated hysteria… No one will countenance the idea that there could be homophobia at play.”

In a statement posted on the group’s website, Opera North general director Richard Mantle said the project was cancelled because the school withdrew.

“We regret that some people associated with the project have decided to view the decision not to proceed with performances as being based on a homophobic fear on the part of Opera North,” he said.

“This is utterly at odds with the reality of the company’s ethos about inclusivity, diversity and access to all, indeed Opera North prides itself on its stance towards sexuality.

“Opera North feels that the decision by Lee Hall to suggest that the production was cancelled due to a homophobic stance on the part of the company is unacceptable.

“It is so at odds with the reality of our views on the issue, and so publicly misrepresents the situation in such a demeaning way.”

At the centre of the issue is a scene which does not involve children where the character is confronted by youths. The lines are: “Of course I’m queer/That’s why I left here/So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.”

Mr Hall added that the school had demanded that other references be cut, including the words “pee-pee” and a character calling another “stupid”.