Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen, pictured here at a pay demonstration in Northern Ireland in early 2020
The boss of the UK’s biggest nursing union has said she regrets cancelling a controversial drag queen event aimed at children — with the organisation planning to move it to another date.
MailOnline revealed earlier this month the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was hosting a ‘drag story time’ for toddlers and children under the age of seven during Pride week.
The event provoked fury online, with some union members angry about their membership fees being used this way.
Other members of the public were concerned that an act traditionally associated with adult entertainment was being performed for children.
The backlash led to event, scheduled to start next week, being cancelled.
But in a statement to the union’s 465,000 members last night, RCN boss Pat Cullen said officials had ‘made a regrettable misstep’ in cancelling the event.
The CLIP Theatre’s Drag Storytime was going to be held on June 11 at the union’s London headquarters as part of the RCN’s celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride month.
Children would have participated in a ‘splendidly silly, super-camp storytime’ with ‘one of London’s finest drag artists’ featuring ‘interactivity, live music, silly props and sensory fun’.
However, a union spokesperson has confirmed to MailOnline that the event will still be held on another date that has yet to be confirmed.
Ms Cullen’s latest statement provoked outrage from some nurses, who said she failed to address their concerns they had about the event and the abuse they themselves had received from people supporting it.
The original tweet from the Royal College of Nursing promoting the story time with a drag queen which attracted backlash on social media
Some nurses slammed Ms Cullen’s statement, saying it failed to address the slurs directed at women concerned about the event
In her statement, published on the RCN website, Ms Cullen acknowledged that by both initially organising and then cancelling the event the union had provoked questions from nurses.
‘By arranging and then calling off a children’s event in our library for Pride, featuring a well-established drag performer, we opened up questions and counter questions,’ she said.
‘Our members and my staff questioned the purpose of the event or the reasons it wasn’t going ahead.
‘Speaking frankly, there were strong views on whether it was the RCN’s place to run this kind of activity – both for and against.’
Nurses pay up to almost £200 per year for membership to the RCN, which represents them in issues like pay negotiations and workplace representation.
Ms Cullen said the reason for organising events like the drag story time was so that members and their families could celebrate in a ‘safe space’.
‘Our sole aim with Pride events is to allow our staff, members and their families to celebrate diversity and inclusion in a safe space where there is respect and dignity at all times,’ she said.
She also apologised to members who thought the college had fallen short on its commitment to ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’.
‘Where we have fallen short recently, I apologise for any inadvertent offence,’ she said.
‘Regardless of the beliefs people hold, hate, discrimination and vile messages of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia will not be tolerated – we at the RCN stand for better.’
Ms Cullen’s statement was met by outrage by some nurses, who said they felt ignored.
One of these was Kat Barber, a nurse from Shrewsbury, who said the RCN had failed to acknowledge concerns among parent about the show.
‘It means that mothers like myself, who emailed expressing concerns about exposing our children to hyper-sexualised caricatures of women, are now being called bigots by men who feel entitled to do so,’ she wrote on Twitter.
One nurse, Danielle Tiplady criticised the RCN’s silence about women facing abuse in debate about the event
Ward manager Joanna Turton was also critical, stating the RCN needed to remember it was founded by women
But some nursing figures like Professor Tom Quinn welcomed Ms Cullen’s statement
Another nurse, Danielle Tiplady, was also critical, saying: ‘When women have faced relentless misogyny, bullying, abuse, targeted harassment, slurs nothing is said by the RCN’.
Joanna Turton, a ward manager, said the RCN needed to remember it was an organisation founded by women, and not be beholden trans right activist (TRA) ideology.
‘So it appears that you have fallen for the TRA ideology that any dissent is “hate speech”,’ she said.
‘The RCN needs to remember that it was founded for women!’
However, some nurses spoke in support of Ms Cullen’s statement.
Professor Tom Quinn, an expert in cardiovascular nursing at Kingston University in London, thanked the RCN leader for her statement.
CLIP Theatre, a production company specialising in children’s theatre, was contacted for comment.