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.
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.”