Arts Council boss withdraws funding from 'anti-trans' gay-rights charity

LGBT flag - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA
LGBT flag - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

A senior figure at Britain’s biggest arts quango branded a gay and lesbian charity as “divisive” and “anti-trans” days before funding was withdrawn, The Telegraph can disclose.

The charity had been awarded a £9,000 Arts Council grant to make a film for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but the grant was withdrawn after an outcry over claims of transphobia.

Separately, Arts Council England staff also posted comments about LGB Alliance, claiming it was “a cultural parasite and glorified hate group” that had “neo-Nazi” supporters.

At a meeting of 400 Arts Council staff, Simon Mellor, deputy chief executive, said: “LGB Alliance is a divisive organisation with a history of anti-trans exclusionary activity” and that it was “a mistake” to have made the funding award.

The grant was given by the Arts Council to a second body, London Community Foundation, which then made the grant to LGB Alliance. The funding offer was withdrawn by the London Community Foundation on April 19, five days after the Arts Council’s virtual meeting, although it is not known if the two are connected.

Accused of making political judgments

The quango, which is funded through the taxpayer and the National Lottery, insists it was not involved in the decision but critics have accused the arts body of making political judgments and ignoring the artistic merits of the project.

In a subsequent petition circulated by Arts Council staff, one member of the organisation described LGB Alliance as “a cultural parasite and a glorified hate group that has fans and supporters that also happen to be neo-Nazis, homophobes and islamophobes”. Staff claimed LGB Alliance was a “hate group”, while another unofficial post likened it to the Ku Klux Klan.

LGB Alliance has strongly denied it is transphobic. The organisation, set up three years ago, boasts of being the only UK charity fighting exclusively for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, leaving it open to allegations by trans activists that it is “exclusionary”.

After the Arts Council funding was withdrawn from its Let’s Create Jubilee Fund, the charity made its film called Very British Gays, about gay rights during the late Queen’s reign, through private donations.

Kate Barker, managing director of LGB Alliance, said: “Since our founding in 2019, LGB Alliance has faced a relentless smear campaign, including the bizarre accusation that we are transphobic and homophobic.

“We would expect any public organisation such as the Arts Council to engage with us before accepting as fact such baseless and provably false accusations. If the Arts Council wants to understand what LGB Alliance is all about and why the issues we fight for are so important, they can watch Very British Gays, our fantastic film about the progress of gay men’s rights during the reign of the late Queen a film we funded through individual donations from those who support LGB people.”

Charity was taken to court by Mermaids

The charity was taken to court by Mermaids, the controversial trans youth charity, which has urged the Charity Commission to strip LGB Alliance of its charitable status. Since the case was brought, an investigation by The Telegraph into Mermaids has prompted the Charity Commission to launch a full statutory inquiry into the trans charity. The Telegraph investigation showed how Mermaids had agreed to send potentially dangerous chest-binding devices to 14-year-olds against their parents’ wishes.

The Free Speech Union has complained that groups such as LGB Alliance were losing taxpayer funding on the basis of legitimate views. Toby Young, its general secretary, said: “I would like to say I’m shocked by the news that so many employees of Arts Council England have sided with the trans activists in their efforts to silence gender-critical voices. But that’s true of most civil servants, I’m afraid.”

In a statement, the Arts Council England said: “In April 2022, London Community Fund made the decision to suspend an award from the Let’s Create Jubilee Fund to the LGB Alliance. The decisions regarding who received funding as part of this fund rested entirely with UK Communities Fund and its 44 member bodies.”

Sources said that Mr Mellor was “expressing his own personal opinion” at the staff meeting and was not reflecting the view of the organisation or its leadership.

In the summer, Darren Henley, Arts Council’s chief executive, denied at a Commons Select Committee that his staff were involved in the withdrawal of funding. Mr Henley will be further grilled by MPs this week, with Conservatives complaining that the body is wasting taxpayers’ money on political projects.