Three storytelling sessions, hosted by Aida H Dee (the drag alias of Sab Samuel), were scheduled for Saturday as part of the UK’s LGBTQ month.
Demonstrators from both sides gathered outside the museum, with the atmosphere intensifying after two individuals wearing t-shirts reading “Groom Dogs, Not Children” disrupted the trans-rights demonstration. Conspiracy theorist Piers Corbyn was among those in attendance.
The Metropolitan police announced that one person was arrested outside Tate Britain on suspicion of making a racially aggravated comment towards a police officer. For much of the day, police had to block off a corridor ensuring visitors could still enter the museum which remained open.
Sky News reported that members of Patriotic Alternative, a nationalist organisation, led the right-wing demonstration of around 30 people. Some made it into the museum, according to The Art Newspaper, in an effort to stop the Drag Queen Story Hour event, but Aida H Dee tweeted the event went “swimmingly”.
— Aida H Dee The Storytime Drag Queen (@AidaHDeeDrag) February 11, 2023
The storytelling events are designed for children between the ages of three and eleven. On Tate’s website, Tate describes Aida H Dee as an “ADHD, neurodivergent, queer hero of literature” and “the first drag artist in Europe to read stories to children in a nursery”.
It continues: “She is a patron of Autistic Inclusive Meets London, a professional author, a five star Edinburgh Fringe act, has been featured on Forbes Magazine for being an activist for neurodivergence, and has recently been awarded Local Leader Of The Year in 2022 by PinkNews.”
A petition was launched by a group called Art Not Propaganda demanding Tate stop advocating “gender ideology” to children.
In an open letter, Conservative Party life peer Emma Nicholson described the specific planned appearance of Aida H Dee as “propaganda”, going on to draw similarities between drag queens and “murderers, paedophiles, terrorists, furries and other fetishists”.
Responding to Nicholson, Tates chair of trustees, Roland Rudd, said: “Tate is open to all. By virtue of this, there will be some programmes which appeal to some visitors and some that do not.”