National Trust U-turns on forcing volunteers to wear gay pride badges after membership exodus

Staff who refused to wear pride memorabilia had been told by bosses they would not be allowed to carry out public facing duties

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Saturday 05 August 2017 16:36
Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer was the last lord of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk
Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer was the last lord of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk

The National Trust (NT) has U-turned over its decision to force volunteers at one of its properties to wear LGBT lanyards, after people reportedly started cancelling their memberships over the controversy.

Volunteers at Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall were asked to display the rainbow-coloured neckwear to celebrate the last lord of the manor, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who was gay.

Staff who refused to comply were told by bosses they would not be allowed to carry out public facing duties in the 17th-century hall.

The decision provoked a furious backlash from volunteers who accused the trust of encroaching on their political freedoms.

The campaign itself, part of the trust's Prejudice and Pride programme that marks 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised, also stirred controversy, with staff accusing the NT of "outing" the late owner.

​Relatives of the former squire criticised the trust, saying Mr Wyndham Ketton-Cremer was "intensely private" and should not have been "outed".

More than 240 members have since contacted the NT to revoke their membership over the scandal, according to the Daily Telegraph, which suggested the charity was being "excessively politically correct".

A spokesperson for the trust said it had never been their "intention" to ignore employees' personal opinions.

"We remain absolutely committed to our Pride programme, which will continue as intended, along with the exhibition at Felbrigg," the spokesperson said.

"However, we are aware that some volunteers had conflicting personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges. That was never our intention.

"We are therefore making it clear to volunteers that the wearing of the badge is optional and a personal decision."

Mr Wyndham Ketton-Cremer died in 1969, aged 63, just two years after homosexuality was decriminalised.

He was featured in a short NT film last month narrated by Stephen Fry called The Unfinished Portrait.

The U-turn followed an earlier announcement on Friday by Annabel Smith, the trust's head of volunteering and participation development, who said that volunteers uncomfortable with the badges had been offered "the opportunity to take a break from front-facing duties if that's what they would prefer".

She added: "Relating specifically to the Prejudice and Pride programme, we do recognise that some volunteers may have conflicting personal opinions.

"However, whilst volunteering for the National Trust we do request and expect individuals to uphold the values of the organisation."

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