by Robin Layfield
"I'm Helen Price. I'm Adrian Lukes and we're both Whiteshill residents and we're both part of Whiteshill & Ruscombe Community Solidarity, which has been formed with a large group of residents in response to Katie Hopkins' appearance here.
"We don't tolerate Hate Speech or anti-inclusive activity, we don't want someone who's a racist or a Climate Change denier appearing in our town and also someone who promotes antisemitic views, that's really scary for us.
Adrian: "We both have strong personal reasons for being opposed to that. I'm second-generation Kinder Transport survivor. My father was saved from the Holocaust and was a refugee to this country and he was given haven in this country as an immigrant and I'm very much pro-refugee obviously, otherwise, if this country hadn't welcomed refugees, I wouldn't be here now.
“I don’t mind what you call me, it doesn’t really matter if you call me a racist.”
Helen: "I'm part of a dual-heritage family. My husband, his family came over from the Caribbean in the 1960s and we've lived in Whiteshill and brought our children up here and lived in Stroud and so it directly affects us. Her hate speech is abhorrent, utterly abhorrent.
"We can't have that happening. We don't want it. It's not what the village should be about and we have kept quiet and not made too much noise but actually it hits a chord.
Adrian: "And also it's the greatest solidarity in our community, in our position. I've been absolutely stunned by the number of people who have come forward who are all happy to come together under a banner of anti-racism, pro-climate, anti-Climate Change denial. We want to promote tolerance…
Helen: "… and inclusivity and also the other thing for us is to remember that there are people in our community who are drawn from the global majority and actually what we need to do is stand in solidarity and ally with them because this is frightening, hurtful and destructive to them so we must - as white people - make sure we're standing by them and in allyship.
Ms Hopkins appearance has provoked considerable debate in the local news with local MP Siobhan Baillie (Conservative, Stroud) weighing in to express that this is an issue of "free speech" and that "Most people are broadly happy to support her right to free speech even if they do not agree with her views.”
But it's not just Katie Hopkins' views that are disagreeable. Ms. Hopkins has a history of working closely with far-right organisations, sharing platforms with Holocaust deniers and Islamophobes and of using her own profile to promote their agendas. She is not above working with organisations and people that aim to stir up more than just controversy and clicks.
In delivering her views through a seemingly harmless comedy act she is developing new ways to reach new audiences across the country and given that this is her second visit to Stroud in a little over six months, it looks like she's finding her audience here too.
Elsewhere a commentator from the wider community explores how there is a need for us to not only uphold democracy but to defend democracy from being slowly poisoned with toxic rhetoric, ideas and opinions.
"I would suggest this positive assertive action by a well-informed local community backed by the local churches, anti-racist groups and others who recognise the real challenges we face in our democracy is a positive way forward. All within a challenging kindness that seeks to bind wherever possible - rather than creating silos. For we need community not division as we address the very real challenges of climate change and loss of bio- diversity."
— Erik Wilkinson
Community Solidarity Stroud District has written at length in response to a previous appearance by the performer at the same venue.
You can take direct action by adding your name to the open letter calling on venues to withdraw their invitations for Katie Hopkins (and similarly divisive acts) to perform in Stroud.