Busselton’s Esplanade Hotel to host Margaret Court talk

Members of Busselton’s LGBTIQ+ communities have raised concern that the same venue that hosts the town’s Pride celebrations appears to be welcoming Margaret Court to give a talk on Monday.

Margaret Court is scheduled to speak at The Esplanade Hotel, giving a talk about her tennis career and the 50th anniversary of her first ‘Grand Slam’. The event is being hosted by Tennis Seniors WA, Court is the patron of the organisation.

Court holds the record as one of the most successful female tennis players of all time, but since she retired from the sport she has founded her own church and over the decades has regularly made disparaging comments about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The Esplanade Hotel is also the home of the After Party of Busselton’s Pride celebrations. On March 2nd the venue will host a Masquerade Party following the town’s annual Pride Parade.

Local resident Emma Cook told OUTinPerth that she was disappointed to see The Esplanade Hotel hosting the event with Margaret Court.

“People feel hurt that the same owners who say they are supporters of the Pride community would also allow such a notorious homophobe, maybe Australia’s most famous homophobe, to appear at their establishment.

“The venue say they will not be profiting from the $25.00 a head ticket sales, but they will still be making money from food and beverage sales and giving their space. Some of us feel that this is incredibly hypocritical.”

“If you’re going to say you support the queer community it can’t be tokenistic for one day of the year. You have to listen to people and prioritise who you give support to in this instance.”

Cook said she didn’t always expect the venue to always side with the LGBTI community, but in this instance they’d made a poor decision.

Cook said many people in the local LGBTI community were still recovering from Margaret Court’s most recent trip to Busselton to open the town new Tennis centre.

“It was actually alarming how many homophobic were stirred up in Busselton the last time she was here. It really did stir up quite a bit of hatred in what we think is quite a peaceful and welcoming town for queer people, it really reflected badly on the whole town.” Cook said.

Chris Fleming, the director of The Esplanade Hotel said the venue did not support Margaret Court’s views on homosexuality, but as a policy the venue did not comment on private events.

They confirmed that The Esplanade would also be hosting the Pride After-Party, and this was also a private event.

On their Facebook page The Esplanade Hotel said many of the complaints they had received about Margaret Court’s appearance at the venue had been derogatory.

The venue also complained that a fake poster had been created by activists using the venue’s logo.

The mock poster was placed on the back of toilet doors in the venue and suggested that Margaret Court’s talk on Monday would focus on her opposition to homosexuality.

A spokesperson for Busselton Pride said they condemned Margaret Court’s comments about LGBTIQ+ people, and her views; “We disagree with Margaret Courts views, and obviously do not welcome those views into our local community.”

“We would like to keep Busselton Pride as a positive event, rising above prejudice, and creating safe spaces for the LGBTIQ+ community.

“Busselton Pride looks forward to celebrating our local queer community in March 2020 with a range of events and activities.

“The Esplanade has been a long term supporter of Busselton Pride and the LGBTIQ+ community, without that support, Pride events in Busselton, would not have been possible.”

Paul Moss, the President of Tennis Seniors WA released a statement saying they were pleased to be hosting the talk from Margaret Court because she was one Australia’s tennis greats.

“Margaret Court is the Patron of Tennis Seniors WA (TSWA). As part of the Australian Seniors Tennis Championships being hosted by TSWA in the South-West during January 2020, Margaret will be speaking to Tennis Seniors members and their guests at a private function to be held at the Esplanade Hotel Busselton.

“A function room has been hired for the event. TSWA is charging members $25 to attend the event to cover their costs. We are delighted that Margaret is able to attend this event in the 50th Anniversary year of her first “Grand Slam” and very much look forward to hearing her talk about her tennis career and achievements, as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” Moss said in a statement.

Speaking to OUTinPerth Moss said Tennis Seniors WA did not have a formal position on Margaret Court’s statements about sexuality.

LGBTIQ+ rights campaigner Brian Greig, who lives in Busselton, said it was not possible to separate the achievements of Margaret Court the tennis player, from her her long history of anti-LGBTIQ+ comments.

“I think the real point that needs to be made is that any organisation, including Tennis Seniors WA, needs to understand that Margaret Court – the tennis player, and Margaret Court – the homophobe, is the same person.”

“Just because a blind eye is turned to her exceptionally harmful comments and anti-LGBTIQ+ activities, it doesn’t lessen their impact. This is not about her recent opposition to same-sex marriage, but decades of negative comments about LGBTIQ+ people.” Greig said.

Graeme Watson

Spectrum South West, one of the organisers of Busselton’s Pride events was also contacted for comment. OUTinPerth have obscured the Esplanade’s logo on the poster image for legal reasons.