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Arts Council England stands by decision to fund a show about a transgender artist’s search for a sperm donor with more than £60,000 of public money.

Promotional material for Krishna Istha’s show First Trimester
Krishna Istha’s show First Trimester was performed at Battersea Arts Centre in November

Arts Council England (ACE) has spoken out in support of a show about a transgender artist’s search for a sperm donor after the use of public money for the project was criticised.

Krishna Istha’s show First Trimester, which involved conversations live on stage with potential sperm donors, took place at Battersea Arts Centre in November last year, as well as touring to New Zealand and Denmark.

ACE has confirmed that it provided £64,631 of funding thorugh its National Lottery Project Grants for the season at Battersea Arts Centre, but that decision has come in for criticism.


Writing on X, Denise Fahmy, co-director of Freedom in the Arts, who won an employment tribunal claim against ACE after being harassed by fellow staff over her gender critical beliefs, said: "In what universe is selecting a sperm donor to make a child from a theatre audience a National Lottery Good Cause? Does the term ‘Good Cause’ have any ethical criteria?

And Lexi Ellingsworth, co-Founder of Stop Surrogacy Now UK, told the Telegraph: “The Arts Council have trivialised the life of any child conceived and born through this by turning it into performance art for public consumption.

“There is a general move towards the commodification of children, more now than ever, with the number of parental orders increasing annually and proposed reform seeking to liberalise surrogacy," she added. 

"We are concerned for the direction this is taking and what this means for women and children and society as a whole.”

'An entertaining show'

In a statement ACE defended the decision to fund the show.

“First Trimester is an entertaining show that explores questions about what it means to create a family and was originally supported through our National Lottery Project Grants programme, which invests in a broad range of performance appealing to audiences across the country," a spokesperson said.

"We were glad to see that Krishna Istha’s show toured to New Zealand and Denmark, and that international audiences had the chance to experience it.”

The show was also praised in a review published by the Progress Educational Trust, a charity that provides information to people affected by infertility or genetic conditions.

"For such a traditionally serious topic, the event somehow managed to be simultaneously insightful and riotously funny," Dr Joseph Hamilton wrote in the review.

"The evening was thoroughly entertaining and also made me consider what is important to me in the route to parenthood.

"Topics spanned the importance of financial stability in raising a child; the inaccessibility of adoption services for trans parents and the lack of racial diversity in UK sperm cryopreservation."

Opposition to the funding of First Trimester comes after Creative Scotland last week defended its decision to award funding for a film installation featuring participants engaging in "non-simulated" sex.

The REIN project, which was initially presented as “an exploration of dyke sexuality”, secured more than £110,000 of lottery funding from the Scottish arts body. 

Support was cancelled when concerns were raised that the project's website was advertising for people to take part in "non-simulated" sex, including "hardcore" acts.

MSPs were told that Creative Scotland had since reclaimed £76,196 from the project.

Chief Executive Iain Munro said it important for Creative Scotland to support work "representative of all parts of Scottish society, including those who are more marginalised" and that the it was not initially aware of the intention to use real sex.

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Isn't it absolutely marvellous that in the same week as there's an article on the 'cultural revolution' of the arts and how people are being silenced if they don't fall into line with 'dogmatic' views. One of the people from that very same organisation that is standing up against being silenced is quoted in this article questioning a funding decision on another artists work? Based on the content of the show? That doesn't sound particularly Freedom For The Arts now does it...

What I would like to know is why Krishna Istha, was not consulted for a comment on this. The article is giving voice to 2 different sources opposed to the show, but the artist voice is not heard. Unfortunately this is happening right across the board. Trans issues are being debated, but the trans community is not being included and in effect silenced!