THE LEADER of Newcastle City Council has spoken out publicly to urge Utilita Arena to put a stop to a controversial event with a homophobic preacher.

Earlier this week (28 January) LGBT+ charity Northern Pride issued a public statement and petition calling for the Newcastle venue to cancel its scheduled tour date with anti-LGBT+ evangelist Franklin Graham on 3 June.

And speaking live on Pride World Radio this morning (30 January), Cllr Nick Forbes told host Peter Darrant that the council – which has just been named Employer of the Year by LGBT+ charity Stonewall – had also contacted the venue to question its decision to give the speaker a platform.

“The arena is a private enterprise and obviously we can’t influence their bookings but I would strongly say to the arena – and we’ve said this behind the scenes but I’m very happy to say it publicly – that kind of act does not match the values of our city.

“In my view it is just not appropriate given that we still have people who live in fear for their safety, for their security, for their lives and why anyone would want to preach hatred rather than love, I just do not understand.

“I also don’t understand where on earth he would get a crowd from in the North East. If we can’t get that event cancelled, let’s make sure we’ve got a demonstration outside to show our force and why our city has an alternative view about people’s lives.”

Franklin Graham has claimed that the LGBT+ people are trying to “drag an immoral agenda into our communities”, that those who choose to adopt are “recruiting” children and that Satan is the architect behind the fight for LGBT+ rights.

Ste Dunn, chair of Northern Pride – which organises the annual Pride festival in Newcastle – welcomes the action from the council chief.

“Newcastle City Council has always been a huge supporter of Northern Pride and we are very grateful to Cllr Forbes for speaking out against this event,” he said.

“In just three days we have had more than 3000 people sign our petition calling for the event to be cancelled and I believe that is a true representation of Newcastle – people rallying together to drive out hate speech and ensure the city is a welcoming place for everyone.

“Sheffield, Liverpool and now Glasgow have cancelled his events in their cities and we hope that Utilita Arena will see sense and agree that Franklin Graham’s values are exactly the opposite of everything this city stands for.”

Cllr Forbes added: “Newcastle is a safe and welcoming city and I must make it clear that hate speech in any form is something we are not prepared to accept.

“Franklin Graham’s previous deplorable remarks which serve only to discriminate evidently do not match up with Newcastle’s engrained values of equality and fairness.

“I would urge the Utilita Arena to prevent this hatred being allowed into our city at a time when we are looking forward to celebrating the very communities he wishes to denounce when we host UK Pride later this year.”

To add a signature to the petition, visit www.change.org/p/utilita-arena-end-the-franklin-graham-uk-tour

For more information about Northern Pride, which is this year’s host of UK Pride, visit www.northern-pride.com or search northernprideuk on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.