A date had only just been set for the irreverent event, with dancers of all backgrounds urged to get involved, when organisers announced they were pulling the plans over concerns that the event would inflame the situation.
The suggestion of a medical-themed flash mob in Ludlow – complete with cross-dressing participants – was made by Andy Boddington, Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North, and attracted strong support from those outraged that the trust which runs Ludlow Hospital turned down money raised by a team of men in nurse-themed drag in July.
For more than 20 years those involved with the “bed push” – which these days no longer involves an actual hospital bed – have dressed in nurse-themed drag to run around Ludlow collecting money for the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital.
But this year their money was refused by Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, as bosses said they were uncomfortable with what they called the ‘over-sexualised’ and ‘demeaning’ outfits of the men.
Councillor Boddington suggested “a flash mob of citizens and health professionals dressed as all and sundry,” which he said “could raise more cash and could be a way of driving home that we are a laugh-a-minute town that lives with gender as gender is.”
Supporters Steph Reid and Marie Andrews took up the baton, announcing it would take place at top of Mill Street, outside the Castle Buttery, at 2.30pm on September 9, with a rehearsal planned last night at the scout hut on Station Drive.
But just hours after the date was put up with its own page on social media, Steph said organisers had a re-think.
She said: “It is with regret that we are putting this flash mob, in support of the amazing men who have been collecting money to support our local community, on hold.
“Due to the media storm that has been building over the last two weeks, we feel that maybe this might add unwanted fuel to a very over fuelled fire.
“Our intention was only to come together as a community to support the recent events in a fun way.
“Unfortunately, the media onslaught has been too much for many and with great respect to those involved, we have decided to hold off on creating any more hype. A flash mob is a great idea and amazing fun in its own right, so maybe this could be a way to raise money for a different community project in the near future.”
A spokesman for the trust said previously that “Our male and female nurses are highly skilled professionals, and this negative imagery reinforces old-fashioned stereotypes.”
But Councillor Boddington said it was in a “tradition of laughing at each other, taking the mick out of our differences, our imperfections and our failure to remove stereotypes. I don’t think we should clamp down on fun events that are cross gender.”