Hundreds turn out to defend London pub’s drag event for kids from pitiful far-right protest

A counter-protest taking place outside The Honor Oak Pub in London after protesters targeted it over a drag storytime event

A protest against a London pub’s drag storytime made for a pitiful sight on Saturday (25 February) after hundreds of people turned out to defend the event.

A rally organised by right-wing group Turning Point UK against Magical Storytelling at The Honor Oak pub in Lewisham, south east London, was dwarfed in number by those attending a loud and colourful counter-protest made up up of LGBTQ+ people, allies and anti-fascist groups.

Around 30 protestors – including anti-LGBTQ+ GB News host and Free Church of England member Deacon Calvin Robinson – attended the Turning Point UK protest, which was forced to take place around 100 metres from the pub after the road was blocked by hundreds of people defending the family event, hosted by drag queen That Girl.

Dozens of police attended the scene to prevent the two sides from mixing as LGBTQ+ supporters drowned out a speech from Robinson with a chorus of boos, sirens and chants of “You’re not a real vicar”.

Jennifer Dean, in her 50s, was one of the many who attended Saturday’s counter-protest. She told PinkNews that those protesting the drag event were a “dying breed”, adding: “They came, they saw and they were conquered. So, job done.”

She continued: “The national discourse is extremely upsetting… My way of tackling it is to take part, to be a part of it, to be a part of the community, to be an active part, to be seen, to be visible, to show that the haters are the ones in the minority. They shout loudest, but we’re the ones that are facing it and we are the ones with the numbers.

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Jennifer Dean holds a sign reading 'Drag is diversity, not "grooming"' during a counter-protest outside The Honour Oak Pub in south-east London
Jennifer Dean attended Saturday’s counter-protest at The Honour Oak Pub in south-east London (PinkNews).

“When we come out, there’s nothing they can do.”

The Honor Oak pub had previously defended the Magical Storytelling event in a post on Facebook, reiterating that the drag-hosted children’s event was “age appropriate and it isn’t anything different to what families will see and experience together in a theatre”.

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Saturday’s demonstrations came just two weeks after clashes between protesters and counter-protesters took place outside the Tate Britain museum in London over a Drag Queen Story Hour event, hosted by drag performer Aida H Dee.

While Saturday’s event was independent from Drag Queen Story Hour, The Honor Oak pub confirmed on Instagram that they had received a message of support from the organisation, as well as a promise from Drag Queen Story Hour that the group would donate an LGBTQ+ children’s book to a library in London “for every far-right protesting bigot who attends this protest.”

Drag queen That Girl thanked supporters gathered outside the pub on Saturday as parents and children made their way out of the venue following the conclusion of Magical Storytelling.

“When we first heard about this [protest], we had no idea how it was going to go, so to have this outpouring of love and outpouring of support shows that when we all stand together, they can’t touch us,” That Girl declared, prompting cheers from the assembled crowd.

“We all know this was never about ‘protecting the children’. This is homophobia being disguised as concern. We are stronger when we all stand together – thank you so much for all coming out today, it means the absolute world to me, it means the world to the pub.

“They don’t know it yet, but it’s going to mean the world to these kids as well.”

Magical Storytelling at The Honor Oak pub has previously been hosted by local drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK series four star Copper Topp, whose image was used in Turning Point UK material promoting Saturday’s protest.

Speaking to PinkNews ahead of Saturday’s demonstrations, the drag star accused Turning Point UK of spreading “misinformation” by using an image of her from an unrelated drag performance for adults.

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Describing Magical Storytelling as a “family environment” and “extension of pantomime” that teaches “tolerance”, she added: “It’s really terrifying how all of a sudden I feel like the world is becoming more far-right in front of my very eyes, and that is scary.”

The drag star continued: “This far-right viewpoint is null and void. There’s no place for it in our world and there’s no place for it in the world in general. It is a back-dated, old-school way of thinking – and we’re in 2023 people, things have changed for the better.”

Expressing solidarity with those taking part in the counter-protest, she added: “Our hope is just to show them that you can’t dim our shine. We’re gonna be here, we’re gonna be queer, and see you later.”

Meanwhile, Tennessee has officially become the first US state to ban drag performances after the southern state’s Senate passed a bill banning drag shows in public on Thursday (23 February).

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