In a few hours’ time, comedy fans in Sheffield will take to the streets in protest. Their cause? Not Brexit, or climate change, but the decision to ban Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown from performing a gig in the city.
Chubby, who is not to everyone’s taste, is best described as the North’s answer to Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson. An earthy stand-up comic from Middlesbrough, he is perfectly prepared to talk, joke and trade raillery about race, religion and sexuality in a way few other performers are. This week, after 30 years of performing in Sheffield, he was told he is no longer welcome.
Sheffield City Trust, which runs various leisure sites on the local council’s behalf, summarily cancelled a planned performance by him in the city’s Oval Hall next year. The reason? The trust’s chief executive, Andrew Snelling, said:
‘We don’t believe this show reflects Sheffield City Trust values.’
For local Labour MP Gill Furniss this was welcome news. ‘This is the right thing to do. There is no place for any hate filled performance in our diverse and welcoming city,’ she said.
But to the council’s dismay, few others agreed – not least many local residents in Sheffield who rather like Chubby. The cancellation spawned a furious popular reaction; 35,000 people have now signed a petition demanding Chubby be allowed on stage.
This isn’t the first time that Chubby has had shows cancelled: performances in Ashfield, in Nottinghamshire, back in 2016, and Swansea a couple of years ago, were also called off. Does he deserve this treatment?
Chubby’s patter is referred to by his detractors as racist, homophobic and misogynist. But it’s worth spending a few minutes on YouTube to see what he actually says. There is certainly a never-ending flow of insults, ridicule and profanity; and religion, race and sexuality undoubtedly get their share and more.