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Norfolk Drag Queen Story Hour postponed over safety concerns

Joseph Ballard aka Titania Trust says they were disappointed "but if anything, this has fired me up!”

2022-08-03

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Facebook/Titania Trust

A Drag Queen Story Hour event for children at North Walsham Library, north Norfolk, was postponed on Tuesday (2 August) after protesters gathered outside.

Norfolk County Council said it decided to postpone the event following safety concerns, the BBC reports. 

Joseph Ballard, who has performed as Titania Trust since 2011, told BBC Norfolk: "I was utterly disappointed, I've been doing Story Hour for quite a while now… I've been up and down the country, and sometimes you get various messages and a few threats but nothing of this scale before."

"This has happened on my home turf, in North Walsham, my old hometown," Ballard added.

Ballard explains he received a phone call two hours before his library reading session was supposed to begin, citing "safety concerns for the participants" as the reason for the cancellation. 

The protest was "an organised activity" with protesters intending to disrupt the event, after conversations with the county council, library and police the event was called off. 

The BBC reports that police "engaged with two people who were protesting peacefully" outside the New Road library.

"I was disappointed but if anything, this has fired me up!" said Joseph. 

"We don’t want to avoid these situations, if anything, we need to show this lot… that we can’t be bullied by these bigots," Ballard continued. "We can’t stop our activity, I know there were around 50 to 60 children who were going to attend, all ready to go. It’s dampened their summer holidays."

When asked about the protester's concerns about the session including adult-themed content, Ballard denied there was anything sexual about the event, adding: "I would love them to come to see an event and experience a story-time because sometimes that’s the best way, educate the people."

The protest happened three days after Norfolk's biggest Pride march in Norwich, where the city was brightened by rainbow flags on Saturday (30 July).

Margaret Dewsbury, the county council's cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said they were "very disappointed" to have to postpone the event.

"Titania Trust has delivered story time events at other locations, including the Millennium Library in Norwich, and always received a warm welcome and positive responses from children and families alike,” Dewsbury said.

She continued: "However we always put the safety and wellbeing of our service users first and sadly the acts of a small number of people have forced us to postpone on this occasion."

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated event. Last week (27 July), Aida H Dee’s Drag Queen Story Hour was targeted by protesters, two of whom intruded on the session, and police had to intervene to ensure Dee was escorted to safety. 

Drag Queen Story Hour is a free country-wide initiative in local libraries for a fun and interactive kids show that sees drag queens read to children.

The Attitude September/October issue is available to download and order in print now and will be on newsstands from Thursday 4 August.