By Helen Pidd, The Guardian | Key members of a Ukrainian state orchestra were refused visas to play a series of concerts in the UK this month in a “catastrophe” that the promoter claims cost it more than €100,000 (£88,000). The Khmelnitsky Orchestra was due to tour the UK this month with two shows: The Magical Music of Harry Potter, and The Music From the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit andThe Rings of Power.

The shows had been promoted on the UK government website as an example of British- Ukrainian relations. After the orchestra played the Harry Potter show in Belgium last year, the deputy British ambassador in Brussels, Chloe Louter, hailed it as “an incredible honour to have such an iconic part of British culture being performed by a Ukrainian orchestra”.

The promoter, Star Entertainment, has accused the UK government of hypocrisy.

“They made a big deal out of supporting the Ukrainians but when it came to giving them visas to play in the UK, they didn’t want to know,” said its chief executive, Jaka Bizilj, who is known in the UK entertainment industry after working with Richard Curtis on two film projects and with Bob Geldof on the Cinema for Peace Foundation, which evacuated the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny from Siberia to Berlin in 2020.

He called on the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, to stand down if artists keep being treated like this, saying the immigration difficulties experienced by an increasing number of foreign artists “damages UK citizens, culture and the relationship to Europe”.

A rising number of overseas artists are struggling to enter the UK because of post-Brexit red tape. One such was the German noise rock band Trigger Cut, who were turned away at Calais last week after telling border guards they had day jobs unrelated to music.
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Read the whole, similar to Trigger Cut’s, story here:

[Thanks to Alex Teitz for contributing this article!]

Photo: Screengrab from a video of a Khmelnitsky Orchestra performance. The first dates of its UK tour had to be cancelled.

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