Page last updated at 21:53 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Christian group halts book launch

Patrick Jones
Patrick Jones had expected to launch his poetry collection in the store

A poet has been forced to launch his new collection in the street after a bookstore cancelled the event because of a campaign by Christian activists.

Patrick Jones was due to sign copies at Waterstone's in Cardiff but the shop cancelled the event at the last moment.

Christian Voice said the book was "obscene and blasphemous" and called on the chain to remove copies from stores.

The company said it was not a censor but felt it was "prudent" to cancel the event because of its duty to customers.

Darkness is Where the Stars Are is a collection of 30 to 40 poems from the Welsh publishers, Cinnamon Press.

Mr Jones, the brother of Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, had been expecting to launch the book at the Cardiff Hayes branch of Waterstone's on Wednesday night.

But a few hours before, the poet from Blackwood in Caerphilly county, was contacted by the company to tell him the event had been cancelled "to avoid potential disruption to our store".

Mr Jones said he was not going to be "beaten down" by religious activists, and signed copies for a small group of people in the street.

"I'm really proud of this book and I'm really sickened.

"There shouldn't be censorship of this sort - it doesn't set out to be offensive."

Cheryl Llewellyn
We're supposed to have freedom of speech in this country
Cheryl Llewellyn, poetry fan

He said he had not singled out Christianity in his poems, but was questioning beliefs in society.

The national director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, said the decision was a triumph "for the Lord, not for us".

"The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstone's, only that it should be Christlike.

"Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition."

Mr Green also called for Waterstone's to stop selling the book.

Will Garland, 28, from Newport, one of the people who went to the out-of-store book signing, said he had been a fan of Mr Jones for a long time.

"I don't know what they're protesting about.

"Give the guy a chance," he said.

Cheryl Llewellyn, of St Mellons in Cardiff, did not know the launch had been cancelled until she arrived at the store.

Notice in shop window
Although the launch was cancelled, the shop said it will still sell the book

"If they want to protest they're quite entitled to protest outside and let his reading go ahead inside."

Siān Preece, a writer from Cardiff said Waterstone's had failed to support freedom of expression.

"You hear of countries like Turkey or China oppressing writers and you feel sorry for them.

"And then you're surprised to find it happening here," she said.

A spokesman for Waterstone's confirmed the event had been cancelled.

"The book remains available through Waterstone's and we are very happy for that to be the case.

"However we have a duty to our customers and booksellers regarding events that we organise, and we felt it prudent in this case.

"We don't act as a censor, we stock books in the tens of thousands and would only remove them from sale on the advice of the publisher."

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