Confederate Flag row: Club denies ‘racism’ claims over battle banner use at Les Battersby country and western launch

Bruce Jones, better known as Les Battersby from Coronation Street officially opened the first Country and Western night at the Armstrong Hall social club in South Shields on Friday 8 January.
Bruce Jones, better known as Les Battersby from Coronation Street officially opened the first Country and Western night at the Armstrong Hall social club in South Shields on Friday 8 January.
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Organisers of a country and western night in South Tyneside say they have been forced to defend themselves against ‘racism’ claims after innocently using a flag as decoration.

Bethany Edge says she was devastated after an event she organised ended up hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Armstrong Hall is to host Country and Western nights organised by Bethany Edge, right, with manager Eddie Proud and Alison Eglintine, left.

Armstrong Hall is to host Country and Western nights organised by Bethany Edge, right, with manager Eddie Proud and Alison Eglintine, left.

The country and western night, compered by ex-Coronation Street star, and held at the Armstrong Hall ,in Stanhope Road, South Shields, attracted about 300 fans of the music.

But the use of a Confederate battle flag as part of the decorations led to controversy.

The flag is seen in parts of America as a symbol of hate, since it was created to represent the 13 southern states in the American Civil War – but has also long been associated with country music.

Ms Edge said: “We are in no way shape or form a racist group and the flag is used at lots of country and western nights. I have been left quite upset by this.”

Brian Clough, a country and western broadcaster in the North East said: “I have been broadcasting country music for 35 years and during that time I have had the pleasure of meeting lots of American artists who have appeared on stage in front of the Confederate flag, as well as the flag featuring the stars and stripes.

“It is just a stage backdrop and is a flag used by hundreds of clubs around the country when they dress up their venues for events.”

The manager of the Armstrong Hall, Eddie Proud, said: “The event was organised by an outside agency and was a huge success. We had no idea of any racial connotations associated with the flag, which I believe is used in lots of country and western nights.

“Having spoken to the organiser, she was also unaware of this. There were no complaints made on the night. We apologise if any offence has been caused.”

Mr Jones said: “To anyone who has been offended by my appearance on a stage that was decorated by the Confederate flag of southern America, I am truly sorry.

“The decor of the function room in question was within the sole control of the event organiser. I saw no reason at the time to question the decor. The room was designed to look like a country and western barn dance, this was how the room appeared to me.

“I have seen the Confederate flag before and I know it is frequently seen at rodeos and other country and western music events and concerts.

“I believe that some people would have simply associated this flag with southern American music, as opposed to racism.”