Drag Queen at the Center of Tate Britain Protests Speaks Out After Clashes Outside the Museum

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The drag queen who performed a storytelling event for children at Tate Britain that sparked a clash among protesters outside the museum said the readings teaching inclusivity were on “an important topic,” which he hoped would enable children to begin “living with their true selves.”

During the event on Saturday, some 30 right-wing protesters led by white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative protested outside the museum, holding up signs that read “No drag for kids!” and “Leave our kids alone!” They were met by counter-protesters from antifascist group Stand Up To Racism, who turned up to support LGBTQ people’s rights and the storytelling event from Aida H Dee, who the museum describes as “the first drag artist in Europe to read stories to children in a nursery.”

Violence erupted as the two groups of protesters clashed with each other, and five entered the museum to cause disruptions in parts of the building. A 53-year-old man from east London was arrested following the protests, and is accused of assault on an emergency worker, two homophobic offenses, and obstruction of a police officer. He has been held in custody and is due to appear in court on Monday.

Tate Britain protests

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – 2023/02/11: A pro-LGBTQ rights protester holds anti-far-right placards during the demonstration. LGBTQ rights demonstrators staged a counter-protest against the far-right group Patriotic Alternative, whose members gathered outside Tate Britain in protest against the childrens author Aida H Dee, who was booked by Tate to read stories to young children as part of the Drag Queen Story Hour. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Speaking after the protests surrounding Drag Queen Story Hour U.K., Sab Samuel, who performs as the drag artist and children’s author Aida H Dee, said the readings for children were “awesome” and uninterrupted despite the protests going on outside the London museum. But he was astonished by how the event got “completely blown out of proportion” by the protesters.

When asked about why reading stories to children as a drag queen, Samuel told TalkTV’s Trisha Goddard on Sunday: “drag is fun. Why not?”

The drag artist said he only wanted to become a “role model” that he wished he had when he was five years old. As a children’s books author, the storytelling events serve as “catalyst” for children to allow them to live with their true selves, he noted.

“If I had been told that gay was fine, and it was a positive word, I wouldn’t have gone through a horrendous mental health battle just to get to the point now, where I don’t just tolerate myself. I love myself,” Samuel said.

Earlier this year, nearly 4,000 people signed a petition launched by a group called Art Not Propaganda urging Tate to halt the event. The group did not participate in Saturday’s protests, but they accused Tate of “gender political carnage” and said the institution has “put themselves in the middle of it all without assessing the very real risks to visitors and children.”

Tate has previously said that it does not program artists to promote certain points of view, and that visitors have the freedom to choose which aspect of the institution’s program they wanted to engage with. Artnet News reached out to Tate for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

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