Fairytale of New York: Radio 2 will play Christmas song without offensive slur for first time

The BBC has revealed that Radio 2 will play an alternate “Fairytale of New York” for the 2022 Christmas period.

Every year, when the festive season rolls around, the song makes headlines due to its lyrics, which contains the word “f****t”.

The 1987 track, which is performed by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues frontman Shane McGowan, is considered offensive due to the word’s use as a homophobic slur.

However, some argue that the context of the song means the word should be interpreted as traditional Irish slang for a “lazy person”.

The ongoing debate has led to several radio stations deciding to play a version of the track in which the line “you cheap, lousy f****t” is replaced with “you’re cheap and you’re haggard”, taken from a live MacColl performance from before her death in December 2000.

Until recently, Radio 2 had kept the original lyric, despite other BBC stations deciding to play the censored version. However, the station’s bosses have decided to play the alternate version this year.

The BBC told HuffPost UK: “On Radio 2 we are reflecting what we are hearing back from many of our listeners who love the song, but find some of the lyrics jarring in 2022, and playing an alternative version provided by the record company.

“We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.”

The Independent has contacted Radio 2 for comment.

In 2019, the BBC was criticised when the word was kept in during a karaoke scene featured in a Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

Ruth Jones performing ‘Fairytale of New York’ in ‘Gavin and Stacey’ (BBC)
Ruth Jones performing ‘Fairytale of New York’ in ‘Gavin and Stacey’ (BBC)

Viewers were left “offended” by writers James Corden and Ruth Jones’s decision to use the version featuring the word. It was sung in the episode by characters Nessa (Jones) and Bryn (Rob Brydon).

At the time, Jones defended the use of the word, arguing that the moment “stayed true to the characters”.

She said: “Characters in Gavin & Stacey are kind and big-hearted, I believe. So I think no one is going to be intentionally hurtful. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily going to be completely politically correct or be aware of political correctness.”

The BBC added: “[The track] is a very popular, much-loved Christmas song played widely throughout the festive season, and the lyrics are well-established with the audience.”

However, in 2020, the word was edited out of the episode during a repeat showing.

McGowan himself previously said he was “absolutely fine” with radio stations removing the word.