London theatre cancels appearance by convicted antisemite after community uproar

However, the event with conspiracy theorist Ian Fantom will still go ahead, the venue owner says


A small London theatre cancelled an appearance by a convicted antisemite on Monday amid outrage from Jewish groups, and on Tuesday the event itself was cancelled due to "threats of violence".

The Tea House Theatre, located in Vauxhall in South London, accepted a booking from conspiracy group 'Keep Talking' on Thursday for an event to discuss the "pandemic scam", as well as the "World Economic Forum" and the "cancel culture mob", but the theatre's owner says that he was not aware of the previous antisemitism and convictions of Alison Chabloz who was scheduled to appear.

Director Harry Iggulden told the JC that he only learned of her views via Twitter over the weekend, and on Monday cancelled her appearance, describing her as a "repugnant human being".

At the event, Chabloz was set to "talk about her own experiences in being cancelled".

In 2018, Chabloz, 58, was given a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, after being found guilty of broadcasting antisemitic songs on YouTube that suggested the Holocaust was "a bunch of lies" and referred to Auschwitz as a "theme park”.

She also mocked the Jewish faith in a parody Oliver Twist song, changing the lyrics "you’ve got to pick a pocket or two," to "you’ve got to shift a shekel or two" in a video posted online on April 18, 2020.

She was then jailed in 2021 after being found guilty of sending offensive messages by public network, which breached the conditions for her previous suspended sentence.

On Sunday, Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi tweeted: "This is worrying - #Vauxhall is a vibrant diverse constituency. I hope the venue in question will reconsider- free speech should not be a platform for people to share any form of hate, racism, discrimination or antisemitism."

Speaking to the JC, Tea House Theatre owner Harry Iggulden said: "I've looked now into her history a bit more, I understand a bit more of who she is and quite what a repugnant human being she is, and found myself in the position of this horrible person coming to my house."

"I put my colours to the mast a long time ago about being a free speech house, and sometimes I have to let people who I don't agree with, speak in my house. But there are limits. And last couple of days, I've been weighing those limits."

Iggulden claimed that when he first heard Chabloz's name around a week ago, he did a "cursory check" but found nothing objectionable.

When challenged on the fact that when typing her name into Google, the top search results show her previous antisemitic comments, he said: "I didn't find that. I absolutely admit it; a week ago I did this and there was nothing except for a music piece about something. But now I have found it and it's not something I agree with. I've made this clear to the group involved."

Ian Fantom, co-founder of 'Keep Talking', was also set to appear at the event. According to a 2020 joint report by the Community Security Trust and Hope Not Hate, the group has hosted conspiracy theorists who have engaged in Holocaust denial, 9/11 trutherism, and conspiracy theories about world domination by the Rothschilds.

In a tweet on Monday morning, the CST described some of the group's members as "antisemites, Holocaust deniers and conspiracy cranks".

But Iggulden - who self-describes as a Zionist - said: "Keep Talking, as they're called, is a nice enough group. I've seen them, they're fine."

"I've got nothing against them. I've listened to their talks. Their talks are things about COVID and conspiracy theories, and they're a bunch of old people just sitting around talking... they're not, I would say, antisemitic. They got rid of those members. I mean, I'm not defending them, though. I won't do that."

Iggulden says that he is a staunch defender of free speech, and it's not for him to get involved in what and what cannot be discussed at his venue, as long as no laws are broken: "I'm a tea house where you come for conversation. I supply tea, you bring your opinions."

"I do want people I disagree with, with objectionable opinions. I don't want them hiding under rocks. But people have to be able to debate them as well."

On Ian Fantom, Iggulden said: "I've met the guy. He doesn't seem [antisemitic]. You get Twitter reviews, you get Hope Not Hate reviews, and then you meet the people and actually newspapers don't tell the truth. I'm not defending him, but he's a nice old boy."

"I've never got anti-Jewishness from him."

Iggulden initially said that the event would go ahead without Chabloz, and that he would be reviewing whether or not he will host the group again in the new year.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the theatre posted a statement to social media cancelling the event. It read: "Due to threats of violence levelled against staff and customers of the Tea House Theatre, the think tank 'Keep Talking' has made the decision to cancel their event on Thursday 8th of December."

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We are pleased that convicted Holocaust-denier Alison Chabloz will no longer be appearing at this venue. We have worked for a number of years to repeatedly send Ms Chabloz to prison over her attempts to spread her antisemitic vitriol. Her landmark conviction following a private prosecution that we initiated was the first conviction over Holocaust denial in this country. It is prudent of the venue to have heeded our call for her to be denied a platform, and we are grateful to Vauxhall Ward councillors and local MP Florence Eshalomi for their support.”

Ian Fantom and Alison Chabloz have been approached for comment.

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