A British school principal has defended her decision to pull out of an opera, written by the renowned Lee Hall, that features a gay character.
The opera, titled Beached, was meant to be put on by Opera North and 300 children from the Bay Primary School in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.
However, the performance was scrapped after Hall – who wrote the popular film Billy Elliot and co-wrote the subsequent stage play – refused to make certain changes.
These reportedly included removing the word “pee-pee” and changing a line by an adult character that goes: “Of course I’m queer/That’s why I left here/So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.”
According to Hall, after a number of attempts to come to a compromise, “Word came back from Opera North that, unless I removed the lines ‘I’m queer’ and ‘I prefer a lad to a lass’, the whole project was in jeopardy”.
He added: “It seemed the school believed this particular scene threw up issues that were age-inappropriate – even though no children were involved in this part of the libretto: it was purely an exchange between adult performers.”
Hall noted that by that time it was by far too late to replace the 300 schoolchildren from the school and the performance was cancelled.
Principal Emma Hobbs insisted that homophobia played no part in her decision to pull out of the opera.
“The gay character was not a problem,” she told the Hull Daily Mail. “It is the language and the tone of the scene in question that were problematic. The emotional wellbeing of our children is my only concern in this matter.”
She added: “As a parent and an educator I have made the decision that our four to 11-year-old children have the right to be protected from offensive language and to be able to learn about the impact of upsetting insults in the appropriate manner.”