Festival boss 'regrets' Minchin offence

Henley boss apologises for set

A festival organiser who booked Tim Minchin has failed to back the comedian when some ticket-holders complained about his ‘blasphemous’ act.

Stewart Collins said he ‘regretted’ the offence Minchin caused among some attending the Henley Festival on Friday night – event though as artistic director he might have been expected to know the Australian’s repertoire and reputation for ruffling some religious feathers when he booked him.

However, when he received the complaints, he quickly made excuses that Minchin’s performance was not what was ‘expected’.

‘We hate disappointing — and certainly giving offence,’ he told the Henley Standard. ‘But there is only so much that can be done on the day. While a general discussion is had with artists about repertoire, it isn’t possible to micro-manage on the day and programmes can and do change from that which is expected and requested.’

The newspaper stated as fact that Minchin ‘poked fun’ at boat people – thought to be a reference to an offhand gag he makes about Australia’s government turning back refugees rather than the would-be immigrants themselves.

Other people took offence at Woody Allen Jesus, the song Minchin wrote for the Jonathan Ross chat show before it was dropped by ITV before transmission.

Among those who complained to the Standard were Pauline Wood, who said: ‘It was disgusting and offensive and I have yet to meet someone who found it otherwise.’

While Sue Taylor called Minchin’s performance ‘crude, blasphemous “entertainment”’ and ‘unbelievably bad’.

The festival’s publicists have not yet responded to Chortle’s request for a comment about why they chose to apologise, rather than standing by Minchin’s set.

Collins did acknowledged there had been ‘some hugely positive comments’ as well as the complaints.

Minchin, who shared Friday night's bill at the posh event with singer Alfie Boe, said: 'I love that I was booked for Henley, because it shows the festival has a sense of adventure. I played a set that I thought would only offend the most boring minority of the audience, and I think that's what it did.

'Frankly, if I'm not at least vaguely prodding the atrophied grey matter of the most conservative 10 per cent of the besuited punters of Henley-on-Thames, I'm utterly failing in my job. The rest of the audience was awesome and very appreciative, and we hope to play there again.'

Published: 16 Jul 2012

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