Leave my Cock alone!

Richard Herring joins protest at Fringe censorship

Richard Herring has joined the protests about arbitrary Fringe censorship, after learning that his show Talking Cock was to be modified in the official programme.

Chortle yesterday reported that stand-up Stuart Goldsmith was angry at his show being called Pr!ck, rather than the full spelling for fear of causing offence. The story mentioned that Herring’s show would similarly appear as Talking C*ck, even though it appeared in full when he first took the show to Edinburgh in 2002.

But the Fringe veteran was unaware of the change, apparently made after he had seen proofs of his programme entry.

Writing on his Warming Up Blog today, he said the censorship was a ‘draconian’ attack on the freedom of ideas that should be encouraged at an arts festival.

After previously being told he couldn’t have the words "dick" and "fuckinghamshire" in his entry, he said: ‘Today I learned that they're not only censoring the words in the entry, but also the title of the show AND the advert that I am paying them hundreds of pounds to put in their brochure. Now this has more serious repercussions for me personally, but also for artistic freedom at the greatest Arts Festival in the World.’

He added that the censorship is entirely arbitrary in a programme that allowed the words ‘Kunt’ and ‘Niggas’ in show titles.

There is also a show called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, which has escaped the blue pencil, comic Chris McCausland has been allowed to use the quote from a Chortle review ‘balls-out funny’ and a show called Sex Ed: The Musical contains the blurb: ‘Have you ever tried hand-to-gland combat? Playing the clitar? Spelunking? Have you ever been vaginally tardy?’

Herring wrote: ‘The phrase “Talking Cock" itself is obviously a double entendre but in its basic reading means "talking nonsense" as there is no such thing as a talking cock in the rude sense...

‘The problem is that someone sitting in an office is making an arbitrary decision based on their own interpretation of a word as to what should be censored.

‘The worrying thing is that this censorship is not about words, it's about ideas. Neither my show title or Stuart's is offensive in itself (Sarah Millican pointed out his show might be about knitting). Somebody who has seen neither show, based on a 40 word entry has made a decision that the public need to be protected from an idea (while actually not protecting them at all in any case). I don't think this should be happening at an arts festival. This is where people come to have ideas (and sometimes worse than that) thrown at them. To be challenged.

‘It's actually embarrassing that the Fringe seems to think the words "prick" and "cock" are challenging. Because next they will be saying that they don't like the sound of a subject of the show or the political views of the person performing it. They came for the people using childish euphemisms for genitalia and I did not speak out...

‘Whilst I acknowledge there is a point where some choice has to be made over what is suitable to go into a general publication, I am concerned about the draconian level of censorship that is occurring here and what it says about what the Fringe is turning into. This should be the last place where freedom of expression is clamped down on. I hope the people who have made these decisions will change them. Because otherwise I fully intend to call them "kunts" on my amended advert.

‘And the really dumbass thing about this is that the uncensored poster will be plastered all over the walls of the city anyway.’

When asked today about why certain words are deemed offensive and others not – and how Herring’s title was changed without him knowing until now – the Fringe office said they did not wish to comment.

Yesterday, a spokesman said: ‘‘The Fringe Programme has a print run of more than 400,000 with an estimated readership of 1,000,000.  The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has a responsibility to make sure that the programme is as suitable for as wide an audience as possible.  We therefore work with participants to make sure that show titles, descriptions and images in the programme are family friendly.’

  • Blogger John Fleming – who had some of his own programme entries altered by the Fringe – has found other festival stalwarts angry about the censorship. Read his latest entry here.

Published: 9 May 2012

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