A single mother was ‘humiliated’ after being thrown out of a West End show for breast feeding her baby daughter.
Sam Lucas, 33, had gone to see the Broadway musical American Idiot at the Arts Theatre in central London, with her 10-month-old and sister Jackie, 32, when staff sent her packing.
She described the experience as the ‘worst in her life’ and now has plans to sue the venue for discrimination if the matter is not resolved.
When the family first arrived at the musical, inspired by American punk rockers Green Day, they found the theatre only two thirds full and were told they could sit where they wanted.
Sam put her daughter’s ear defenders on and the women enjoyed the show – however, trouble broke out just 10 minutes into proceedings.
Sam said: ‘Nobody was behind us and the nearest people on our row were three or four seats away.
‘I chose the seats on the aisle so that if [my daughter] did need a nappy change I could sneak out without disturbing anyone.
‘They had just finished the first song, American Idiot, and [my daughter] had been fine, bopping along.
‘A few times, she had pulled at her ear defenders, but other than that she had just bopped along, not making any noise.
‘After the song ended, about ten minutes in, she was due a feed.
‘I had a top on and put her under the top.
‘I was also wearing a vest so you can hardly see anything.
‘I think if a woman wants to get her boob out, she should be allowed to, but I always try to be discrete as I don’t like to make anyone feel uncomfortable.’
However, as [her daughter] began to settle, the mother-of-one was taken aback when the theatre’s assistant manager told the women they would have to leave.
Sam said: ‘I was in complete shock.
‘One minute I was watching the show and breast feeding and the next this man came up from behind me.
‘He said we had to leave because there had been another member of the audience had complained that my child was being distracting.
‘When I asked if I could finish feeding[my daughter] first he said: ‘No you have to leave.’
‘I felt humiliated and embarrassed and I just couldn’t comprehend what had happened.
‘I was like ‘seriously?’
‘He never gave me a proper explanation and when refused to tell me who it was who had complained.’
She added: ‘When I asked if it was because I was breastfeeding he said: ‘No, no, not at all’ and became very defensive.
‘I think the breastfeeding at the very least must have played a large part in why they asked us to leave.
‘Sexism possibly did play a part and I did feel discriminated against.’
The sisters took a 15-minute break and then returned to the venue, hoping to receive a fuller explanation, but they received the same one-line answer.
On asking for refunds and the contact details of the theatre owner, the assistant manager only agreed to take down their information and promised to contact them the next day.
Sam later took to the theatre’s Facebook page to describe her experience.
Giving the venue a one-star review, she said: ‘I feel treatment by the staff was out of line and discriminatory [sic] towards me and my child.’
Several mothers rallied around Sam and claimed the treatment was illegal in comments on the post.
Another user claimed to cite a note from the management team, which suggested Sam had received three complaints in the space of just ten minutes.
Finally the theatre’s executive director of arts, Louis Hartshorn, commented saying he’d like to meet Sam to discuss what had happened and stressed that the theatre was very supportive of breastfeeding.
Two weeks after the incident, Sam claims she has yet to receive a proper explanation, apology or refund.
She is now in contact with solicitors and is planning legal action.
Sam said: ‘We are serious about this and we will sue if we have to.
‘I am in contact with a solicitors’ firm at the moment.
‘Breastfeeding is the most natural thing and breast is best for nutrition and immunity.
‘The fact that breastfeeding rates are so low in this country is probably down to incidents such as these, in which women are made to feel embarrassed and ashamed.
‘I’m upset because I have had so many experiences where cafes and hotels have been so accommodating with my breastfeeding.
‘I want a full explanation for what happened, an apology and a refund, especially for my sister who didn’t even have a baby with her.
‘But the number one priority is making sure other mums don’t have to go through this same experience.’
Louis Hartshorn, Executive Director of the Arts Theatre, denied that Ms Lucas was asked to leave because she was breastfeeding.
He said: ‘The production of American Idiot has a 14+ age restriction and that is the reason that she was not permitted to watch the production with the infant and was granted a refund.
‘We are not aware that at any point she breastfed on the premises.
‘At the Arts theatre we pride ourselves in having an open and inclusive environment for our staff and patrons.’