Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Kirsteen Paterson
12 May 2023
Joanna Cherry wins apology after The Stand admits Fringe show ban was discrimination

Joanna Cherry wins apology after The Stand admits Fringe show ban was discrimination

The Stand comedy club has apologised to Joanna Cherry after admitting the decision to cancel her Fringe show was "unlawful discrimination". 

Cherry was invited to take part in an In Conversation event at The Stand this summer.

However, it was called off after venue staff said they would not work at it, sparking a freedom of speech row.

The concerns are understood to relate to the SNP MP's opposition to the Scottish Government's gender recognition reforms and fellow critic JK Rowling is amongst those to back Cherry, who threatened legal action on the basis of discrimination.

Now The Stand's own solicitors have advised the venue - part-owned by Cherry's SNP colleague Tommy Sheppard - that the move did amount to discrimination.

In a statement released this afternoon, the club said: "We have sent a detailed response to Miss Cherry and her legal team and have spoken to the event's promoters to confirm that we will be able to host the event as originally planned. 

"The Stand will donate our share of the profit from the event whenever our partner charities it and benefit project. 

"The management of the event will be discussed with its staff in the coming weeks. We have always been clear that we oppose all forms of discrimination and recognise the rights of individuals to air views with which we may disagree. 

"We hope that this apology draws a line under this episode and allows the stand to get back to doing what it does best."

The reversal comes after the club sought a second opinion from outside lawyers.

It said it had taken legal advice before the initial cancellation.

In a letter to Cherry's legal team, representatives of The Stand state that the club is working with Fair Pley, the promoter of Cherry's event, to ensure it "may go ahead as originally planned".

The letter says the venue "hope that your client remains keen to appear" and adds: "While accepting responsibility, our clients wish to make it clear that it was not their intention to unlawfully discriminate against anyone.

"The decision followed representations from some of the key operational members of our client’s Fringe team who advised that they would be uncomfortable working at the event (due to their own philosophical beliefs) and would be unwilling to do so. As an employer, our clients were (and remain) keen to respect the wishes of their staff and not compel anyone to work at an event where they would feel uncomfortable. 

"They were, however, concerned about the impact that cancelling the event could have on both Fair Pley and your client."

It goes on: "Our clients unreservedly apologise to your client for their previous decision. They hope that your client will accept their unreserved apology."

Prior to the U-turn, Cherry compared the show's cancellation to "McCarthyism", saying: "The actions of The Stand and all that has followed thereon are symptomatic of a wider problem in our society. 

"I am very concerned that those who hold perfectly legitimate views on a variety of issues, including women like me are regularly being misrepresented, de-platformed and, in some cases, facing damage to or the loss of our livelihoods. This is often accompanied by online abuse and threats.  

"The debate on gender self-identification is a very important one which must be allowed to take place, but I am a woman of many parts who was engaged to talk about my political life in general and I see the cancelling of my one-hour event as the thin end of the wedge."

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Kirsteen Paterson - Power struggle: How the North Sea became a general election battlefront.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top