Banned: Sherborne's raunchy poppy seller
A burlesque dancer has been banned from collecting donations for the Royal British Legion because of her “inappropriate” costume.
Jo Freestone says she has raised hundreds of pounds for the legion’s annual appeal, but her local branch voted to stop allowing her to collect money.
Since 2010 Jo says she has raised hundreds of pounds for the branch in pretty Sherborne, Dorset, and its Poppy Appeal through stunts as her alter ego ‘Major Outrage’.
The leader of the Sherborne-based ‘Barmy Burlesque’ troupe annually took to the streets in November 2010 and again last year wearing a military style burlesque costume selling poppies and collecting donations.
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But Jo, from nearby Yeovil, claims 28 out of 30 members at the Sherborne branch supported a proposal that she should be told not to collect on behalf of the RBL at Remembrance time because the way she dressed was “inappropriate”.
She said: “I’m fuming. This has upset me very much. I’ve no idea why this happened. Someone should have had the guts to talk to me about it and invite me to discuss the issue with them. It’s disappointing that an institution like this has acted in this way.”
Beverley Harrison, the RBL’s county secretary, said members had acted on complaints from the public but was unable to give specific details. She said: “The meeting and the discussion was minuted.”
She said Jo’s burlesque performance was “not very Sherborne.”
Jo, whose family was in the Armed Forces, said her performances were never intended to offend. She said: “My grandfather, a professional Shakespearean actor and a Second World War officer, used to entertain troops with a group of entertainers called The Cheerios.
“What I’m doing is respecting what’s gone on, it’s not making fun. I have only ever had praise for the stunt.
“It has put Sherborne on the map. It takes a lot of guts to dress like that. I think it’s successful because it is so unique. It raises an eyebrow and a smile and it’s something different. People want to donate more because they see you have made an effort. People thought it was hilarious. It follows Benny Hill and Carry On type humour and those sorts of double entendres.
“I think the members need to slip into the 21st century and liven up a bit.”
Jo said David Haynes, Poppy Appeal organiser for the Sherborne branch, had been asked to break the news to her.
Mr Haynes declined to comment in detail but said: “All I’m worried about is getting the poppies out there. I am always looking for recruits to help with the appeal. It certainly is a problem to get younger people involved.
“I think Remembrance time is a very sincere period of reflection about loved ones lost and Sherborne is quite an ageing population with many retiring military people.”
Jo said she had written to the RBL head office, and the county headquarters, who both told her they were happy with her routine.
A national spokeswoman for the Poppy Appeal said: “The situation has been reviewed by the Poppy Appeal and we are happy for Mrs Freestone to continue collecting on our behalf. The Poppy Appeal would like to thank Mrs Freestone for her support in previous years and we hope she will continue as an active collector for the appeal.”
Jo said she had not heard from anyone from RBL at a national or local level since the decision was made.