A BOOKSHOP was at the centre of a freedom of expression row last night when it cancelled a poetry reading after warnings from a Christian group.
Poet Patrick Jones, brother of Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire, was due to give a reading from his new book, Darkness is Where The Stars Are, at Waterstones in Cardiff at 7pm yesterday.
But shortly before he was due to speak, he received an e-mail from the firm which read: Please be advised that to avoid potential disruption to our store, tonights planned event at Waterstones in Cardiff is cancelled.
Mr Jones, 43, from Blackwood, said he was later told over the phone that Waterstones had received hundreds of complaints from people opposed to the poems subject matter.
Im a bit shaken and shocked, said Mr Jones, a playwright who is credited as one of the earliest influences on the Manic Street Preachers.
A line from one of his poems There is eloquence in screaming appears in the booklet for their first album, Generation Terrorists, and earlier this year, Manics singer James Dean Bradfield scored a new play based on Jones book, Revelation.
Are we living in Iran? Mr Jones said yesterday.
I cant believe its happening. This is a free country.
We should welcome the viewpoints of others but maybe Waterstones feel a bit threatened.
What right do they have to do this? Its frightening.
Im proud of this book. There are poems about the state of society, poems about war.
I also exercise the right to free speech and criticise certain religious practices like female circumcision, George Bushs use of religion, as well as Christians treatment of homosexuality and the treatment of women, especially in Islam and Catholicism.
People have obviously felt threatened about this and activated a religious protest and Waterstones have bowed to it.
Waterstones spokesman John Howells said: We have cancelled the planned event involving Patrick Jones this evening at our Cardiff Hayes branch as we felt it was not appropriate to go ahead in the light of potential disruption.
However, his book remains available at the store.
The Western Mail discovered the group behind the disruption was Christian Voice, the organisation that waged a campaign against the BBC over the screening of Jerry Springer The Opera.
The organisation gained notoriety after convincing cancer charity Maggies Centres to turn down a donation from a gala performance of the opera, and for trying to prosecute BBC director-general Mark Thompson for allowing a televised screening.
The moves led to Christian Voice being described in Parliament as a bunch of fundamentalist thugs.
In 2005, its members also promised to target abortion clinics until the scourge of abortion was driven out of the UK.
Stephen Green, Christian Voices director, lives in Pen-y-Bont, near Carmarthen.
He said yesterday his organisation had not finalised plans for what they would have done had last nights reading gone ahead in the store but said they were prepared to enter Waterstones and disrupt the event.
In the past they have entered buildings en masse to voice their opposition.
“We might have leafleted those going in, or stuck some leaflets in books and engaged people in conversation, said Mr Green, who labelled parts of Mr Jones poetry referring to Jesus and Mary Magdalene as obscene and an insult to Christianity.
“We may have stood up at an appropriate point to explain how harassed we were that this was going on.”