Ukraine’s Khmelnitsky Orchestra were forced to postpone some UK shows earlier this month after some of its members were refused visas to enter the country. Promoter Star Entertainment says that resolving the situation has cost it over €100,000.
The orchestra was due to begin a tour of the UK on 1 Apr with two shows playing music from the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’ films. However, the day before the first performance, several key members had still not been granted visas, Star has now revealed.
Three days later they were informed that they would have to pay €15,000 for emergency visas, which still were not issued in the 24 hour timeframe promised. Star says that it only managed to secure the visas after it asked the British embassy to provide a statement to include in a press release informing the media of the issues.
This situation is particularly irritating, the company says, because the British government had previously promoted the tour on its website as an example of how good British-Ukrainian relations are right now.
“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”, Star’s chief executive Jaka Bizilj tells The Guardian.
“Those responsible for cutting off artists and culture from the UK should be named and held accountable”, he adds. “Bands, musicians and orchestras will not come to the UK any more for risk of not being let in”.
It also emerged earlier this month that German band Trigger Cut had been turned away at the UK border, after border officials learned that all three members have jobs outside of music.
In a statement, a government spokesperson says: “Musicians and performers are a valued and important part of UK culture with the country attracting world-class entertainers and musicians from around the globe”.
“This is why we offer a dedicated immigration route for creative workers. All visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the immigration rules”.
“Where there are delays in the processing of applications, we will always endeavour to identify how such issues can be avoided in the near future through improvements to our back office function and capability”, they add.
In the end, the first night of the Khmelnitsky Orchestra in Portsmouth did go ahead, after temporary musicians were brought in to sight read the parts that would have been played by those members still stuck outside the UK.
This resulted in many audience members demanding refunds, says Star. Two further shows were then postponed.
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