The Lord’s Taverners has blamed a “minority of audience members” after the comedian Nish Kumar was booed and had a bread roll thrown at him when he performed at its Christmas Lunch this week.
Video of Kumar being heckled was circulated on social media and one of the charity’s ambassadors, BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James has criticised those involved, tweeting that he “was embarrassed to be there”.
I was embarrassed to be there. On an afternoon that was supposed to be about kindness, there was a distinct lack of it in the room.— Greg James (@gregjames) December 3, 2019
Other social media users raised concerns that the hostility faced by Kumar was racist.
The charity has distanced itself from both Kumar’s political jokes and those who booed him.
Tickets to the event cost between £149 and £270. They included a drinks reception, three-course lunch with wine and “a great mix of comedy and sport”. Football manager Harry Redknapp was the other celebrity on the line-up.
Audience members apparently objected to Kumar’s political and anti-Brexit material. Video of the event posted online shows Kumar, who was not being paid for the appearance, encouraging the disgruntled audience to donate more to the charity so that it could afford “a budget to start paying some proper comedians” and saying that right-wing comedians cost more.
Lord’s Taverner’s: ‘We are not a political organisation’
The story was covered widely across the mainstream media yesterday, but it was not until 5.30pm that the charity released a statement which distanced itself from both Kumar’s views and the behaviour of the audience.
It said: “Yesterday’s annual Lord’s Taverners Christmas Lunch was an opportunity to fundraise and to reflect on the outstanding achievements and impact our work has had on the lives of young people throughout the UK. This event alone raised a staggering £160,000, which will go towards helping to empower disadvantaged and disabled young people to fulfil their potential through sport and build foundations for a positive future.
“We are not, and never will be, a political organisation, and we don’t endorse the views of the guest speakers at our events, which are their own.
“However, nor do we endorse the reaction of a minority of audience members at yesterday’s event. Nish Kumar’s attendance was arranged in good faith and he gave his time for free to support the charity and our work. He follows a long tradition of comedic special guests at the event.”
Yesterday Kumar encouraged his supporters to donate to Choose Love / Help Refugees, which has shops in London, New York and LA where people can buy gifts for refugees.
I understand I’m trending because someone threw bread at me. Anyway please donate to @chooselove & vote out the bread throwers on December 12th.— Nish Kumar (@MrNishKumar) December 3, 2019
He told the Guardian that he was surprised by the reaction from the crowd.
“I sort of knew what I was doing and I knew the risk,” Kumar said. “They were more easily offended than I thought they would be. I would like to apologise if I triggered any of them.”
Editor's note - 13.20
The headline has been changed from Lord's Taverners blames 'minority' of guests after Nish Kumar booed at its charity lunch for clarification.