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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Jim Davidson in disability row
Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson said he had no intention to hurt anyone
A disability group in Wales has criticised comedian Jim Davidson for insisting disabled people at one of his performances should be moved.

The comic and TV presenter pulled out of a performance in Plymouth on Monday, after the wheelchair users near the stage refused to move.

Davidson is to perform in two sell-out shows as planned at Swansea's Grand Theatre on Tuesday.

Officials at the Pavilions Theatre said that on Monday night he asked for people in wheelchairs in the front row to go to the sides before he could go on because they would spoil his act.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales, an umbrella body representing 700 organisations, voiced concerns about Davidson's actions.

I feared the perception would be that I was picking on people specifically because they were in wheelchairs
Jim Davidson
"There seems to be a perception that disabled people are objects to be moved around at will," she said.

A Swansea Council spokesman said: "We have been re-assured by Jim Davidson that his performance in no way discriminates against disabled people.

"On that basis, tonight's back-to-back performances will go ahead."

The night was billed as Jim Davidson - Live and Unleashed! (16+) - a true blue evening of Jim at his most X-rated, controversial and funniest.

Robert Francis Davies, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Culture and Recreation, said: "I abhor any discrimination of any type."

Mr Davies said the Swansea Grand had a reputation for providing access and facilities for disabled people, including full wheelchair access to all parts of the theatre, a loop system for the hard of hearing and regular signed performances on stage.

Meanwhile, management of the Pavilions Theatre were considering legal action after Davidson's cancellation angered the 1,700-strong audience.

I abhor any discrimination of any type
Swansea councillor Robert Francis Davies
A Pavilions spokesman said the comic apparently took exception to a number of wheelchair users in the front stalls.

"Mr Davidson cited the fact that a proportion of his act was aimed at disabled customers and that he would be unable to perform under these circumstances," he said.

"Quite rightly these customers were not prepared to move.

Audience reaction

A number of fans were critical of Mr Davidson's decision to pull out. One, Jeff Peppitt, from Plymouth, said: "He is supposed to be a professional, if his act was based around that, why couldn't he change his act to suit the audience?

Davidson, who was travelling from Plymouth to Swansea, said in a statement: "I take the mickey out of all the people in the front row and as the people in the front row were in wheelchairs I feared it would appear that I was specifically targeting disabled people.

"I asked if some of them would mind moving.

"My act depends on audience reaction and one part of the show involves getting the audience to gang up on the front row.

"I feared the perception would be that I was picking on people specifically because they were in wheelchairs."

He added: "My intention was not to hurt or upset anyone and I apologise if I have done so."

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