Chaos at James College Pride Night

A student set off the fire alarm in response to a drag act who was deemed to be offensive by several people

The James College Pride Night was evacuated last night after a student triggered the fire alarm in response to a drag act found offensive by students.

Image: Gareth Dybiec

Image: Gareth Dybiec

The night was aimed at showing support for the LGBTQ community through a show consisting of musical, comedy and theatre acts. It also featured a drag act from Leeds as its host.

The Facebook event, which had over two hundred attendees, stated that the night would see the Roger Kirk Centre “transformed into a magical and elegant venue” and that the event was “designed to be enjoyed by everyone and make you feel welcome and accepted”.

However, several students, including BME and LGBTQ Network Officers, found certain jokes made by the drag act offensive and found cause to complain.

The drag queen initially caused offence to Jack Chadwick, LGBTQ Officer, who left the event after part of the act involved the drag queen spitting her own saliva at the audience.

This led to many other members of the audience to complain about certain jokes and comments made by the drag queen that they found homophobic, transphobic, fat-phobic and racist.

The drag queen’s act involved comments directed at the audience regarding gender re-assignment surgery and circumcision, and involved the use of Nazi salutes.

Mollie Staples, former LGBTQ Representative for Vanbrugh College, told Nouse: “We initially complained to Gareth Dybiec [Chair of James College], concerning the comments made by the drag performer. Dybiec apologised but said there was nothing he could do until the event was over.

“The complaints were then addressed to the person accompanying the drag queen, who told us to stop using ‘you uni-words’ at us, as he didn’t understand the term anti-Semitic and said that he was sorry we had found offence at the event but we were in the minority and it was a very successful show.”

Staples reiterated that the point of the night was to celebrate minorities and that the fact no-one else had previously found offence did not invalidate her and her companion’s complaints.

Dybiec tried to remove the drag queen from the stage but she refused, instead issuing the statement: “I do apologise if I have upset anyone tonight. I work all over the world. I could have come out and been abusive but it’s all tongue in cheek and lots more people say things a lot more abusive.”

The drag queen then attempted to perform one more song but at this point the fire alarm was triggered by a student.

The drag queen did not immediately leave the stage at this point and it was not until members of the audience and The Lounge bar staff chaperoned the audience out of the Roger Kirk Centre that the event was fully evacuated into the James College car park.

Dominic Smithies, Chair of Alcuin College, spoke at the event and told Nouse: “I’m disappointed in the drag queen. That’s not what drag is about. It gives our community and profession a bad name. The line is there to be pushed but there areas that shouldn’t be crossed. It can be so much better and it’s unfortunate people saw it at its worst.”

However, he added: “It has to be mentioned that the event was amazing excluding the blip. Gareth and the JCRC did an outstanding job, put so much effort in and it really showed.”

Speaking of the complaints made against the drag act and the triggering of the fire alarm, Dybiec said: “I apologise to anyone who was offended by tonight’s acts. I took on the feedback from last year and implemented everything that the LGBTQ community wanted.

“However, I do not appreciate, accept or condone any behaviour that involves calling the emergency services because people were annoyed with the acts. It was stupid and can be summed up as the most pathetic thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I just hope no one actually needed those brave fighters.”

57 comments

  1. 21 Apr ’15 at 9:37 am

    AllInGoodJest

    Just because a student wasn’t enjoying the event doesn’t mean they should set off the fire alarm and ruin it for everyone. Don’t be a fun sponge.

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    • “A” student? Don’t you mean most students? The reception of the jokes was borderline riotous, it’s really not surprising that it escalated

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    • Quite. And “a line that shouldn’t be crossed”. Drag comes in many forms, some offensive. Do your research if if you want a straight act. I take the mick out of trans all the time, but when I did a trans charity…I kept my jokes clean. That’s professionalism.

      …but you would have no chance looking after these flag waving children who think they know everything because they’re doing a Bachelor’s in being a twat. A new youthful breed of people who find offense at anything and everything, pretending to be liberal…as long as they agree.

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      • “I take the mick out of trans all the time”

        I’m sorry, what? First of all you mean trans people, they are people. Secondly, you realise that what you just said is “I’m transphobic”?

        Not being transphobic isn’t professionalism, it’s being a decent human being.

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  2. 21 Apr ’15 at 10:53 am

    Totally one-sided

    This article barely covers the issues and scrapes the surface of what actually happened – essentially defending the racism, anti-semitism and transphobia that the LGBTQ audience was forced to sit through.

    Ending on a very one-sided comment about the emergency services just completes the disgusting bias.

    Awful article. Get your facts right at least Nouse.

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    • It’s literally as the bare facts of what happened?

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      • Exactly – the bare facts of the horrific jokes, and long detailed accounts of what a ‘disproportionate’ reaction there was.

        “The drag queen’s act involved comments directed at the audience regarding gender re-assignment surgery and circumcision, and involved the use of Nazi salutes.”

        No, it involved deeply transphobic jokes about being an “inbetweener” (let’s dehumanise trans* people at a LGBTQ event…).

        And how anybody can defend a Nazi salute is beyond me. Millions of Jews died, hahahahaha…. Really, James College?!

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        • I don’t think you really understand what non-inflammatory, unbiased reporting is.

          I didn’t see the event. However, if it contained, as you stated, “deeply transphobic jokes” and “a nazi salute” then Nouse’s decision to describe it as “comments directed at the audience regarding gender re-assignment surgery and circumcision, and […] the use of Nazi salutes” is completely legitimate and, in fact, admirable.

          It doesn’t contain emotional, unecessary descriptive language (like “deeply”), it doesn’t make assumptions at the intentions behind the event (like “dehumanis[ing] trans* people”) and it certainly doesn’t use the ridiculously inflammatory phrase “Millions of Jews died, hahahaha…. Really, James College?!”

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    • haha if you don’t like free speech and free will go have yer lgbtq meet in saudi Arabia l

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      • Free speech literally means you can’t be arrested for it, it has nothing to do with going into LGBTQ-friendly spaces and being a terrible person.

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    • I find any form of bigotry appalling however I find the tactics used to be criminal and deserving of punishment. If some one died because emergency service were detained by someones tantrum and thin skin then they should be arrested.

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    • If people didn’t like it they were free to leave. Why is it, the worse the educational institution, the more laughable are its SJWs?

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      • The comments made really weren’t that bad. If you watch any comedy on the TV then you see many more offensive jokes. I think it is a shame that the minority had to ruin a night that was the culmination of a lot of effort. In an age were people play cards against humanity I hardly think that you can call this offensive.

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        • People opt in to watch offensive TV or play Cards Against Humanity. This was an LGBTQ-centred event designed to make people feel welcome and included, designed to demonstrate tolerance. It is absolutely not the place for offensive material.

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    • “Ending on a very one-sided comment about the emergency services just completes the disgusting bias”
      Stating that the emergency services were called out and lives possibly put at risk simply because someone was ‘offended’ is not bias. It’s the truth.
      Wait until you’re in the big wide world where nobody gives a damn about how ‘offended’ you are about everything.

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  3. 21 Apr ’15 at 11:17 am

    PissupInBrewery

    Who the hell doesn’t watch a drag act’s previous material before booking them? Offensive comedy can be really funny, but ONLY if the people who are attending it were expecting it and that’s what they signed up for! This kind of material you could expect at a Bianca Del Rio or a Frankie Boyle gig, but for something billed as inclusive and welcoming? Come off it, James college…

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    • no such thing as comedy in the world of SJW’s

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      • 21 Apr ’15 at 11:25 am

        PissupInBrewery

        You wouldn’t book Katie Melua for a Fringesoc social, why would you book an act that bases around homophobia for an LGBTQ one?

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        • 21 Apr ’15 at 11:28 am

          CheckYourFacts

          There was an youtube video of her act on the facebook event. Surely people should have looked at before going to the event if they wanted to know about the act that would be there.

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          • I think it’s reasonable for attendees to assume that this description: “the Roger Kirk Centre “transformed into a magical and elegant venue” […] “designed to be enjoyed by everyone and make you feel welcome and accepted” meant that the act would be tasteful.

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          • 21 Apr ’15 at 11:16 pm

            PissupInBrewery

            Yeah see the video shows her singing “Rollin’ On the River” rather than
            saying “I’m sweating like a Jew in a bank” so I can see how people may have been slightly mislead there.

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  4. The student who set off the alarm to shut up someone saying things he didn’t like should be billed for fire crew callout costs. And grow up. A lot.

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  5. Chaos? Come on Nouse I expect better. Wouldn’t refer to events as chaos personally think the evacuation of the event was well handled by all involved.

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  6. I enjoyed the evening, and would like to offer condolences to Gareth and his team that someone so selfish stole the limelight, (the evening wasn’t ruined) :/ yes the comments were unjust but talk about over reaction.. I’m fairly sure anyone offended could have been refunded.

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  7. ‘Chaos’ lololol the only chaos was the prick that had a fire engine turn up..! Giving a bad name to those “activists”

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  8. This event should never have been put on in the first place.

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  9. The tab are now posting the person that pulled the fire alarm has been fired. This is false information, currently no action has been taken.

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  10. This is the best thing I have ever read

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  11. 21 Apr ’15 at 3:03 pm

    Darren Mooney

    Why no mention of the student getting arrested for pulling the fire alarm? He better have been arrested.

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  12. What was the drag queen called

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  13. 21 Apr ’15 at 3:54 pm

    Exhausted fourth year

    I am so ready to be done with all of this nonsense.

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  14. Best to look at this as two separate incidents to avoid shutting down either discussion.
    Having that act at a pride night was absolutely atrocious. The whole night was organised by cishet people which is sad because had they consulted lgbtq network and/or social, they would happily have given recommendations for decent acts.
    Sadly, the James College cishet majority who did the typical straight white privilege type thing of trying to figurehead for people without their consent or involvement.
    I’m all for allies, but things like this explain why minority groups should be trusted to head their own campaigns.

    On a separate note, the fire alarm thing was total idiocy.

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    • 21 Apr ’15 at 5:00 pm

      CheckYourFacts

      The chair of James College, who was the main lead in organising the event is gay (as you would know if you had attended the event). He was also the individual responsible for booking the act. Your cishet points are invalid.

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      • They said “cishet majority”. The majority of the JCRC are cishet, even if he isn’t. Besides, being a gay cis man means that you are unaffected by transphobia.

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        • 22 Apr ’15 at 10:20 am

          CheckYourFacts

          Actually they said “the whole night was organised by cishet people”. I know that several people involved in the organising of the event, besides just the chair, on the James JCRC identify as LGBTQ. The points raised have clearly been made by someone who wasn’t at the event and doesn’t know the people who organised it. That is where my issues with the comments lie.

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          • Also, the chair consulted feedback from previous years and consulted the LGBTQ network when putting the event together.

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  15. First of all, as an LGBT individual and a fan of comedy I wish I’d attended this event. It sounds hysterical. Not necessarily because of the jokes but because of the ridiculous over the top reaction of some of the attendees. Whoever set off the fire alarm should be ashamed of themselves for unnecessarily calling out emergency services just so they could throw a childish strop. It is no surprise that the usual suspects such as Chadwick and Smithies were offended, when are they not? I dread to think how these people will cope in the real world outside of their cocooned university bubble.

    The act may not have been to everyone’s tastes but you see far worse on TV than what was supposedly said at this event. I am amused that the author of this article felt the need to protect the sensitive reader from actually reading the apparently offensive jokes made. God forbid people can form their own opinion.

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    • Oh, what silly people Chadwick and Smithies are, for wanting performers to not be racist or transphobic. Gosh, what an overreaction, to expect a performer at an LGBTQ night to be inclusive and welcoming.

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      • The point is that drag acts aren’t exactly known for being tame, they are often pretty offensive and if you don’t like that sort of humour then you probably shouldn’t go. It is like going to a Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle gig and then storming out in disgust halfway through. The merits of booking such an act for a welcome night are questionable, but no more questionable than making the outdated, stereotypical assumption that LGBT people are all into drag acts and that is what we would all want to see.

        Also the people listed there as well as several other high profile members of the LGBT committee (and other prolific student committees) are notorious for being offended at the slightest thing and getting offended on everyone else’s behalf too. The fact that the fire alarm was pressed is testament to this (to note: I am not saying any specific person pressed the fire alarm but somebody in attendance clearly did).

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        • I doubt the assumption was that ‘LGBT[Q] people are all into drag acts’ was made; it was probably more that the drag community is very closely tied to LGBTQ community and often contributes to the Pride the event was there to invoke. As for your claim that drag acts are usually offensive, I’m not sure you can make such a broad statement. Even if that were the case, an effort should have been made to find an inclusive act (though as noted above, it is not clear online that the act is offensive anyway). As the event was designed to be inclusive, the offensiveness of the drag act should have been made known, even if it is as common as you claim.

          Please give examples of the LGBTQ committee being offended at ‘the slightest thing’? You may want to consider the prevalence and importance of microaggressions.

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        • Actually, storming out of this event (or indeed Carr’s or Boyle’s performance) because you are offended is a pretty reasonable thing to do in those circumstances. Forcing an event to close because you are offended is rediculous. Using a fire alarm & brigade as a tool to achieve this is absolutely idiotic. Otherwise Rolling Eyes is absolutely right.

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  16. I’m sure the drag act was atrocious and offensive. However, calling the emergency services as an act of protest is fucking repugnant, and I hope whoever did it gets prosecuted. There’s an appropriate reaction to an offensive stage-act, and putting people’s lives in danger is not it.

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  17. Whoever pulled that alarm should be kicked out of Uni. Seriously. That drag queen could have been Frankie Boyle in a dress and it is still not an appropriate response to call out an emergency service.
    As context: One of my family members works for the emergency service in question. There are only two fire engines in York. When a uni fire alarm sounds, both get called out. Hence why uni-wide there are CCTV cameras on most of the fire alarms.
    The people who pulled this one are on CCTV and should be kicked out of uni. People could have died because they were titting about. Got a problem with the act? Talk to the bar manager, leave in a huff, take over the stage, whatever. But call a random emergency service out just to make a point? Are you fucking kidding me? You should be disgusted with yourself.

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  18. 24 Apr ’15 at 7:51 am

    Sensitive Millennial Snowflake

    I declare that I’m offended! I assure you I’ve been triggered!

    What I really mean is I’m narcissistic and entitled.

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    • Fun fact: ‘trigger’ is actually a psychological term for people with mental health problems, not something SJWs made up. It’s a real thing. I didn’t really take them seriously until my counsellor pointed out that I have a couple.

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  19. 24 Apr ’15 at 12:37 pm

    Wish I was there

    Overly sensitive York students reacting hysterically to an offensive comedian? Wish I was there!!

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  20. These people just complain for the sake of complaining. It’s a comedy show, not the BBC question time.

    As an employer who regularly visits the university, let me tell you, we can spot these types of people a mile away, and we do not employ them.

    We point them in the direction of the nearest tabloid, where they remain as bottom feeders until they realise they need to stop being offended in order to be taken seriously.

    It typically takes them a decade to figure that out.

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