It should have been a genteel afternoon singalong, with an audience of pensioners enjoying some fun, nostalgic tunes. But the well-meaning charity show erupted into a race row when one outraged audience member took umbrage at the inclusion of...The Horst Wessel Song? The Sex Pistol's 'Frigging In The Rigging'? 'Smack My Bitch Up' by The Prodigy?
...the classic music-hall number Camptown Races.
Pianist Sarah Fisher – who was live-streaming her performance via Facebook to help isolated people deal with lockdown – was criticised for her ‘inappropriate’ choice of a song that dates from the era of ‘blackface’ minstrel shows and is famous of its ‘doo-dah doo-dah’ refrain.
Is 'doo-dah doo-dah' another thing you're not supposed to say unless you're black, then?
While most of those watching were eager to type messages of thanks during the show, one of them – former BBC journalist Mary Stretch – was less pleased.
How did I know it'd be a BBC drone?
Actually, we probably could have suspected given the high-handed manner in which she expressed her displeasure...
Soon a war of words was raging between Mrs Stretch, 66, and others who had tuned in. ‘Get a life,’ one audience member shot back. ‘A song is a song, nothing more. If you don’t like it switch off.’
But Mrs Stretch was adamant. ‘No, it isn’t just a song,’ she countered. ‘I know you think they are fun but there are issues.’
Only for you, love.
‘I don’t blame Sarah at all for spontaneously picking it up and singing it in all innocence. But I hope from now on, because of what I have said, she and you won’t in the future. You might like to also consider why you should be comfortable, and demand the right to be so, when I am patently not.’
Because it's not all about you. And if you were the only one who had a problem, maybe you're the one in the wrong?
Although most of the audience had apparently enjoyed the performance, Toynbee Hall, the London-based charity which organised the show, backed the complaint.
Of course they did.
In a message, manager Sam Crosby said that ‘to completely deny both the experiences of people of colour and the historical context of cultural artefacts, such as songs, is racist.
‘When these issues are raised in good faith, it’s a chance for us to learn how to be sensitive to people of colour as a group, recognise historical injustices and racist power structures, and not simply deny their feelings point-blank.’
Mary isn't 'a group', though, Sam. She's just one overly-sensitive snowflake.
‘Any further comments along these lines will result in people being blocked.’
Ah. And clearly, so are you.