Despite many complaints

Yesterday evening London time (early afternoon my time) –


Good evening all!

The act booked to play tomorrow, Kate Smurthwaite, has been cancelled by the Comedy Society and will no longer be appearing at Goldsmiths.
Since announcing the line up a couple of weeks ago I have had many complaints about Kate’s past material, particularly in relation to her position on sex work, religion and Trans issues.

Without again going into the details or accuracy of these claims, there is a likeliness that the Safe Space policy we abide by could be breached, leading to more complaints. This is as well as rumours that there is a picket planned outside the venue.

All of these factors are not conducive to the type of environment what we, as a volunteer led group in a small Students’ Union, want to create so, with regret, we have cancelled the gig.

Anyone who has already bought tickets is entitled to a refund that we shall be issuing tomorrow morning. Just email if there’s any problems. We apologise for cancelling last minute and hope we haven’t ruined your plans.

But just a few days before that, on January 27th

HELLO! We have the wonderful Kate Smurthwaite (great feminist comedian) doing a solo show next week and it’s FREE for you! The poster is pretty good too, right?

So that was quite a radical change, for no real (satisfactory) reason.

Not liking her stuff or her politics would be a reason for not inviting her in the first place, other things being equal. (It might not be a reason if other people loved her stuff and her politics, and you alone had bad taste and shitty politics.) You don’t really need reasons for not inviting people in the first place (unless you’re part of a group and everyone else wants to invite the people in question). You damn well do need reasons for telling people – especially at the last minute – “Sorry, we’ve decided we don’t like you!”

This one, posted after the “Good evening all!” one, is even more insulting and rude.


Despite many complaints from students about the content of Kate’s act in the past we were planning to go ahead with the gig until Kate told me 24 hours before that there was likely to be a picket with lots of students and non students outside the venue. I couldn’t verify this. Up to this point we had sold only 8 tickets so I decided to pull the plug.

Comedy Society President

I don’t know why the president decided to do that. I can’t tell what the reasons were. Maybe it was just some kind of erring on the side of caution thing, given that omigod there had been “many complaints from students about the content of Kate’s act.” I don’t know, but I think it was extremely bad manners at best to cancel the gig, and just plain disgusting to trash Kate in the process.

That’s my 2.7 cents.


  1. Stephane Guyard says

    The university student’s union has a “safe space” policy in place. If some women feel Kate’s views are offensive to them, then obviously the “safe space” policy can be enacted.

    I know feminists have fought to have these “safe space” procedures in place for many years, so opposing them now seems churlish.

  2. says

    What do you mean? The “safe space” policy means that if some women dislike Kate’s views, her gig should be canceled 22 hours before it was scheduled to take place? Is that the meaning of safe space?

  3. karmacat says

    If some women are offended, they don’t have to go or they can express their opinions by picketing or writing letters. They seem over worried about there being more complaints. The comedy society could use this as a way to start discussion about these issues.

  4. EigenSprocketUK says

    Maybe I just don’t understand this whole subject as well as the paid-up members of the Goldsmiths fem-soc and comedy-soc clearly think they do. But I don’t think they thought through what a safe space actually means other than what the two words mostly sound like they ought to mean.

    A policy for a safe space can’t prevent someone from hearing an opinion they really would rather they had never heard – one which they had found offensive to hear. Rather it should protect someone from feeling that they are excluded from a community surrounded by a toxic culture where they feel they have no voice.

  5. says

    So the comedy soc invited Kate, the Uni security heard of the picket and rather than contacting their own comedy soc they contacted Kate, who then contacted the comedy soc to tell them of their own securities concerns.

    I’m getting the sequence right, no?

  6. Morgan says

    Danny Butts: no, that puzzled me too but from the exchange Smurthwaite posted it seems she thought there might be a picket because of comments she’d seen on Twitter, she told the Comedy Society that, and they talked to security. It’s not clear whether “the risk of a picket line” that worried security was based on her reporting or on other information. It seems like who said what at Goldsmith has all been filtered through the Comedy Society point of contact, so “it’s not clear” is the refrain.

  7. says

    Shallow comment #1: That’s gotta be one of the creepiest and most ridiculous event-ad posters ever. No wonder they only sold eight tickets. Who draws this stuff?!

    Shallow comment #2: What past comments of hers, exactly, were causing all this controversy over her appearance in the first place?

  8. says

    Okay, here’s the answer I got from a previous post here:

    The issue arose from a group of students who objected to Kate’s widely-recognised support for the Nordic Model on prostitution. This arrangement, currently in place in Sweden and Norway, decriminalises those who sell sex and criminalises the purchase of sex. The students from the college’s Feminist Society (FemSoc) support legalisation of the sex industry and for this reason threatened to picket the event causing security to pull the plug.

    (Oh dear, my spellchecker is choking on all the British spelling!) So here’s my two objections: first, the same post notes that the Feminist Society voted to APPROVE Smurthwaite’s appearance, by 70%, and it’s the minority opposition within that group who are calling for the pickets.

    And second, since when was the prospect of pickets a “security” threat big enough to merit cancelling an event? How often does that happen? Were there threats or rumors of actual violence? Was there a prospect of pickets being so huge as to pose a public traffic problem?

  9. says

    And just for the record (okay, just because I wanna bloviate), I disagree with Smurthwaite on sex work, because when you criminalize johns instead of sex-workers, you’re still doing pretty much the same harm to the latter group, and because there’s no good reason to criminalize either party in a consentual transaction between sane adults involving non-dangerous sexual activity.

    But that’s still no reason to cancel an appearance by her once it’s been booked. If there’s likely to be pickets, just bring a few more cops in to keep everything peaceful.

  10. johnthedrunkard says

    I don’t know Smurthwaite’s work or content. Opinions about criminalizing one half of a commercial transaction and not the other sound like better comedy material than legislative writing. But Kate’s JOB is comedy.

    The message here is that intimidation works, that ‘progressive’ positions are defined by grovelling in the face of ‘offence,’ that bloviating about ‘PC’ is (almost accidentally) a public service.

  11. says

    Opinions about criminalizing one half of a commercial transaction and not the other sound like better comedy material than legislative writing.

    If that’s her comedy material, the joke sounds kind of old. But maybe that’s just how you’re telling it.

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