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Questions around free speech and discrimination raised after Edinburgh Fringe show is cancelled due to concerns about comedian's personal views.

Graham Linehan speaking on stage at an event
Graham Linehan says he is considering legal action over the cancellation of his show

re:publica/Creative Commons

An Edinburgh Fringe show due to be performed by writer and comedian Graham Linehan will be staged at a new location after the original venue cancelled it due to his views on gender.

On Tuesday (15 August) Leith Arches announced it had cancelled the gig involving Linehan, which had been due to take place this evening (17 August), because his views on transgender issues did not "align with our overall values".

The show's organisers Comedy Unleashed said an alternative, as yet unnamed, venue has been found. The situation has polarised opinion with many people taking to Twitter on both sides of the debate.


Leith Arches said it had been unaware Linehan, who has been highly vocal on trans issues and women's rights on social media in recent years and has been accused of transphobia, would be taking part in the show. 

It issued a statement on Instagram explaining the decision was made in light of its close work with the LGBT+ community, adding that this represented a considerable part of its revenue.

'Negative effect'

"We believe hosting this one-off show would have a negative effect on future bookings," it said.

"This decision was not influenced by the pressure of online activists, but by our regular community who use the space on a daily, weekly and monthly basis." 

During an appearance on TalkTV yesterday Linehan, who has been involved with hit TV shows including Father Ted and the IT Crowd, said he was considering legal action against the venue.

Andy Shaw, Co-founder of Comedy Unleashed, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland that he believes the show was cancelled due to Linehan's personal views, rather than the content of the show.

"[If you see] his comedy, you'd realise that it's mainly little vignettes on everyday life and bizarre musings on self-aware pizza boxes. Because Graham's a sitcom writer, he brings quite a different angle to stand-up comedy. You get little hints of the absurdities of Father Ted, and there's a real warmth to his humour.

"We're very much against this cancel culture. It's treating the audience like they're children who need mollycoddling. Andrew Doyle and I set Comedy Unleashed up because we're sick of this. We want the extroverts, we want all the crazy stuff, we want people to be free to treat audiences like they're adults."

While many people have backed the decision to cancel the show, some who disagree with Linehan's views have said he should have been allowed to perform.

Writer and producer Jolyon Rubinstein tweeted: "I profoundly disagree with Graham Linehan on many things but I don’t think cancelling a show where you can have a reasonable argument about those disagreements achieves anything constructive. We have to be able to debate those we disagree with."


Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "I disagree with trans critic [Graham Lineham] but do not support him being cancelled at Edinburgh.

"It looks like discrimination based on belief, which is unlawful under #EqualityAct. Best response to is counter arguments & evidence, not by bans."

Luke Gittos, a lawyer and director of the newly established Freedom Law Clinic, said he does not believe the venue has broken any law by cancelling the show.

"The venue is a private organisation, is a private business and they're entitled to invite or disinvite whoever they please," he said speaking on a podcast this morning.

"There is no law in this country which requires an organisation like a theatre to provide equal access to everyone irrespective of their political persuasion.

"[The law] won't protect people who are being politically removed from being able to do the things that they want to do. People talk about human rights and specifically the right under Article 10, which is the right to freedom of expression.

"But that right doesn't extend to giving someone a positive right that they can then enforce when they are cancelled in this way. That's why there's interesting debates at the moment around what the law should be doing with respect to free speech."