The National Trust has told volunteers at an 18th Century Palace to don face paint and glitter to mark Pride month despite growing backlash from members over it’s "woke" policies.
Volunteers at Ickworth in Suffolk have been encouraged to dress up in colourful clothes, don rainbow flowers in their hair, wear multi-coloured make up and go to have their face or body painted when they turn up at work on Friday.
It is part of celebrations across the National Trust, which is encouraging its houses to support Pride and says on its website that they will be “inviting the teams at our places to wear their rainbow colours”.
It is not the first time that the charity has been criticised over its requests for staff and volunteers to wear the gay pride symbol.
In 2017 it was forced to U-turn on an instruction that those working at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk who refused to wear rainbow lanyards and badges had to take on backroom roles.
The National Trust team at Ickworth tweet their support for Pride month
The Trust said last night that all requests to participate in Pride were entirely optional and though it had sent guidance to its properties, the celebrations at Ickworth were being organised locally.
In a letter, seen by the Daily Telegraph, volunteers were told that they would be “bringing the Pride celebrations to Ickworth” as marches are still limited by coronavirus restrictions.
Volunteers are “invited” to get involved if they are working at the Georgian Italianate Palace on Friday, June 18.
The instructions state: “Dress up, put on that rainbow scarf, wear your rainbow lanyard, add all the colour of the rainbow to flowers in your hair, wear that rainbow tie or bow tie.”
Volunteers, many of whom are elderly, are also invited to “rainbow up your make up – nails… eye shadow, lipstick” or to ask for a “National Trust Pride T-shirt”.
The suggestions continue: “Face paint and biodegradable glitter! I’ll have this available in the gallery between 09:15 – 11:00 & 13:00 – 14:30, with a fresh brush and water per person, a mirror and some ideas that might work above your face mask! I can also be available to help paint on your permission”.
The message concludes that “by the property showing their support by getting involved means not one of our colleagues is singled out for wishing to celebrate”.
But it is understood that some volunteers are uncomfortable at the request and with having to work on the day.
It comes as morale is said to be at an all-time low amid concern that the trust is too focused on a “woke” agenda and not on preserving historic houses.
Workers have complained to grass-roots campaign group Restore Trust that the charity has embraced political agendas without taking the wishes of the volunteers or wider membership into account.
Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense group of Conservative MPs, said: “The National Trust haven’t so much lost the plot as left the planet.
“They are neither speaking for the nation nor deserving of our trust given the ludicrous series of decisions that they have made in recent times.
“Unless they change and change quickly then I suspect that their members, the visitors to their houses and all those that believe in Octavia Hill’s original vision will continue to be deeply disappointed by the National Trust.”
A Trust spokesman said that “like many organisations” they have been celebrating Pride month for a number of years as “part of our wider drive to create a welcoming place for anyone to work or volunteer”.
They added: “It is entirely optional if staff, volunteers, visitors and supporters wish to join in these celebrations.
"We have issued a guide to Pride to properties to give them some background about the month, and offer some ideas about how they might get involved. Some properties are using this to plan their own celebrations.”