No gag on disabled row comic Frankie Boyle, says festival

Frankie Boyle is due to appear at the festival next Friday
Frankie Boyle is due to appear at the festival next Friday

The organisers of the Feile an Phobail festival will not try to curb any offensive jokes from Frankie Boyle when the comedian takes to the stage next Friday in west Belfast.

A spokesman told the News Letter no guarantees have been sought over the nature and content of his routine, in the face of opposition to the gig from protestors who are upset by jokes about disabled people he has made in the past.

Frankie Boyle is due to play the Feile an Phobail on August 7

Frankie Boyle is due to play the Feile an Phobail on August 7

On Wednesday night, the organisers said they were “deeply sorry” for any offence that was caused by the booking, following meetings with the protestors on Monday.

They said that, to prevent a recurrence of the controversy, they are considering nominating a disability representative to sit on the Feile entertainment committee.

When asked if any agreement had been reached that references to disabled people will not form part of Mr Boyle’s show on August 7, a spokesman for the festival said: “No, that wasn’t part of the agreement ... It wouldn’t be for us to dictate the content of any artist’s material.”

He said that “overtures” had been made to Mr Boyle’s management, suggesting they may wish to meet the group which has been leading the protests (called Feile for All).

The spokesman added: “That’s ongoing at the moment. They have that information. And whether or not they meet, well, that’ll be up to Frankie Boyle’s management.”

On Wednesday night, Feile for All issued a statement saying that while it remains opposed to the gig, it welcomes the festival’s response to its complaints.

However, it was reported that some protestors, including former Feile for All’s spokesman Jonny Lundy, were dissatistfied with the group’s stance and have now left it in protest.

Mr Lundy could not be reached for comment.

More than 2,000 tickets have been sold for the gig at £25 each – totalling £50,000-plus. Tickets are still available.

Questioned about whether the Feile for All protestors had come under pressure from festival organisers about the financial costs of cancelling the performance, the spokesman said: “No, no, it wasn’t a financial issue at all. It was more an issue of addressing concerns from certain sections of the community.”

He said: “There weren’t any financial ramifications discussed.”

According to mental health charity Mencap, during an April 2010 comedy routine in Reading, Mr Boyle “repeatedly used the word ‘mongoloid’ and joked that people with Down’s syndrome are destined for an early death”.

In 2012 he was criticised for joking about Paralympians, and the BBC quoted him as saying in response: “Nobody thinks it’s a good thing to laugh at the disabled. But it is a genuine problem that we’re not allowed to laugh with the disabled.”

Mr Boyle – who formerly worked in a mental hospital and is set to perform at a fundraising gig for the campaign group Index on Censorship on Thursday night – has responded to critics by saying “we have given taking offence a social status it doesn’t deserve”.

Mr Boyle’s management firm had not responded to a request for comment at time of writing.