Founder of Drag Queen Story Hour UK Aida H Dee, known off-stage as Sab Samuel. (Sab Samuel)
Drag performer Aida H Dee says Rochdale Borough Council has cancelled her Drag Queen Story Hour event for children “without discussion”.
According to Rochdale Online, the storytelling event for children due to take place in the borough on 16 August was postponed on Monday (8 August), with Aida H Dee claiming that an alternative date has not yet been given.
The storytelling sessions, which have toured Britain over the summer to promote diversity, inclusivity and kindness, have been targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ protesters, with a group storming a session in Reading Central Library, and an arrest after a group of protesters became aggressive at an event in Bristol.
Rochdale Borough Council did not disclose whether the events were cancelled due to potential protests, however the storytelling group explained that it could have been a factor.
Rochdale Borough Council have decided to postpone their event with us without any discussion with us about it whatsoever. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. pic.twitter.com/IMYcuLUd0N
— Drag Queen Story Hour UK® ️🏳️🌈 (@DragStoryHourUK) August 9, 2022
Drag Queen Story Hour UK posted a lengthy statement on Twitter to confirm the cancellation.
“We are disappointed that we were not consulted in safety strategies for Rochdale Borough Council, and that their one-sided decision was given to us with less than 30 minutes notice prior to publication,” it wrote.
“This action is not only a breach of our contract, but a breach of the trust with the whole LGBTQ+ community in their area and across the UK.
“We are sympathetic to the council’s concerns of potential protesters, but we have many more supporters than the opposing voices.
“Moving forward, we hope to have an open discussion with them on how they can improve their communication with us and future event organisers…
“We want to ensure that Rochdale Council understand the damage they have incurred to Drag Queen Story Hour UK and the message that this gives off to the young people and their families who were excited to attend.”
Rochdale Borough Council told PinkNews in a statement: “The decision to postpone the event was made following a risk assessment undertaken by the council.
“Rochdale Borough Council is a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. Rochdale in Rainbows took place for the fourth time from 24 June to 2 July with a line-up of events and activities across the borough.
“We’ve held a number of drag queen story sessions in our libraries through the Rochdale in Rainbows programme and these have included stories which encourage the understanding of differences between people and diversity. The feedback from families has been really positive.
“It is unfortunate that we’ve had to postpone the drag queen story events… We have been in contact with the performer and will be discussing alternative options with them.”
‘I’m scared for these events’
The 27-year-old founder of Drag Queen Story Hour UK Aida – known off-stage as Sab Samuel – was left “fearing for her life” after the incident in Reading in July, where she faced abuse and homophobic slurs.
The crowd held up a banner in front of police guarding the entrance reading “Welcome, Groomers” while accusing parents of not protecting their children by taking them to see a “sex worker” and a “paedophile”.
When two protesters broke into the room in the middle of the event, Aida H Dee told PinkNews: “Police had to escort me out of the building and make a human shield because they were literally chasing me.”
“I can’t say I’m shocked or surprised by what they did,” she added.
“It doesn’t matter though how non-shocked I was by the fact they were doing what they were doing, it was still scary… I am scared for the rest of these events.”