Peter Tatchell’s anti-Gergiev protest: first picture

Peter Tatchell’s anti-Gergiev protest: first picture


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2013


photo: Gianluca Mezzofiore


IB Times reports:  Up to 40 demonstrators held the protest outside the Barbican in London before a performance of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. Human rights protesters held up sparklers with the message: “Sparkle for freedom in Russia. Putin suppresses, we sparkle”, shouting “Gay rights for Russia”, “Some Russians are gay get over it”, “Shame on you Gergiev, stop supporting Putin”.  A minor scuffle erupted when a friend of Gergiev argued with the protesters.

The demo appears to have been fairly inconspicuous. Several people who attended the concert report that they failed to notice it.

A review in the Times this morning speculates that Gergiev may be asked to leave the LSO sooner than announced, in 2015, in order to protect the orchestra’s brand. As far as we can tell, this line of thought is completely unfounded.


  • Spen says:

    I’m getting tired of this. Can’t they just leave the man alone? If he wants to support Putin, let him. I think he get’s the message, now let him decide.

    • John Koen says:

      Yes, leave the poor man alone! He already got beaten, pissed on, set on fire for being gay — oh, wait, you meant Gergiev, not dozens of Russian homosexuals. Why should artists who support politicians be expected to stand up for morals? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. I wonder how the LSO feel about having him in front of them on the podium. Perhaps when he conducts Tchaikovsky he’ll impart the new Russian state insight (endorsed by his political allies) that the composer really wasn’t gay. It should bring new insight and a fresh perspective to his artistry!

      Well, let’s not think unpleasant thoughts. We go to concerts to relax in a warm bath of ‘nice’ Classical music — so easy to listen to. It’s Gergiev’s decision, after all – keep buying those tickets.

    • jon says:

      It’s not a demand that Gergiev stops believing what he clearly believes, which would be futility itself, it’s a demand that the Barbican as a quasi-public body takes more seriously their duty in their commercial activities to not support people who advocate the public harm, i.e. the persecution of homosexuals.

  • Hardnell says:

    Is Simon Rattle definitely going to be the next principal conductor, or is it just speculation? rumour has it that he might be taking over from Jansons at the Bavarian Radio Symphony.

  • While I admire the fight, he punching in the wrong direction.

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    This is patently ridiculous. Gergiev is a conductor, and a very great one at that, not a politician. Please leave the man alone! He shouldn’t have to account for anything but his music-making. It’s sad that many are worried about his political affiliations instead of recognizing his uniqueness as a conductor. Aiding one’s political cause would hardly justify hurting the musical career of one of the rare greats.

  • Jimbo says:

    Tatchell is coming across as the gay version of Anjem Choudary.

  • Lauren says:

    Good for Tatchell! I love great music but I love human rights more. Conductors can be replaced; once basic freedoms go, it is very difficult to get back. Putin is a thug and Gergiev is his lapdog – scumbags both.

    • Andrew R. Barnard says:

      Please be rational. Gergiev is a conductor, in a field that should be removed from politics. Why does everyone care more about his political motivations than his conducting? This is getting ridiculous.

  • The Shadow says:

    News flash, everyone: Gergiev IS gay! He’s scared to death (possibly literally) to come out of the closet, for obvious reasons.

    I know this FOR A FACT. And I’m not saying this to advance any personal agenda – he’s thousands of miles away from me and in a completely different economic stratum.

    Poster John Koen mentioned Tchaikovsky – and look what happened to HIM.

    Gergiev is a troubled, divided man. It his his life’s misfortune, as a gay man, to live and work in Russia.

    I hope he can find a way to resolve his problems.

  • John Hames says:

    There is something in that. I don’t doubt that Tatchell’s heart is in the right place, but for decades now he’s been more of a nuisance than a help to most of the causes he espouses. Quite often he can be heard lamenting the failure of his targets to do what he considers the right thing, when it’s pretty obvious that they just think *he* is a pain and they’re therefore more than even determined to wind him a up a bit! I know I would be, even if I agreed with him, as I often do.

  • Pixy Harris says:

    I see officializing homosexuality as the sign of a further loss of morality, a form of “anything goes”. After all, there’s no reason why a father shouldn’t marry his son or a son his mother. Perhaps they will be legalized next. What homosexuals do, as consenting adults in private, is another matter: that is entirely thier affair.

    • Lauren says:

      You are joking, right? What prevents a father from marrying his daughter within heterosexual marriage? Morality shifts era to era on the wings of religious whim. In the 21st century humanist societies there is no place for homophobia. Absolutist morality has been responsible for some of the worst horrors in history. What heterosexuals do in the privacy of their own homes (if consensual) is their own business but please don’t flaunt it in public. Sounds rather silly doesn’t it?

      • Andrew R. Barnard says:

        “Morality shifts era to era on the wings of religious whim.”

        So morality is based on whim but you’re certain that others are wrong for their homophobia? This doesn’t add up, no matter how you look at it.

  • jon says:

    My understanding of Tatchell is he wants people to not be condemned merely for saying or thinking some things, so they can be engaged in debate, however, this isn’t a protest at Gergiev’s thoughts, but at the commercial activity of the Barbican in employing someone who openly expresses support for the persecution of homosexuals in Russia.

  • Woe betide anyone who doesn’t lick the feet of Cause du Jour PC bullies.

    • Lauren says:

      What is your issue with human rights for all? Isn’t that the core of western concepts of personal freedom?

      • David H. says:

        OK, then human rights for Gergiev please… rights of freedom and rights of privacy. Freedom from bullying by self-righteous-clueless-about-actually-living-in-more-totalitarian-societies-so-called-LGBT-activists for Gergiev.

      • John Hames says:

        You won’t get much of any argument here (on what is a pretty liberal messageboard) about the desirability of “human rights for all”: it’s what I guess nearly everyone wants to see. In which case I feel it’s rather glib to toss it around as a slogan as if we’ve never thought of the concept, when what is actually being discussed is the problem of what we should do, how far we should go, who should be targeted, and using what arguments, to achieve them. I’m always suspicious of absolutist stances: they lead to smug and self-righteous PC bullying. Nor do I favour opportunistic and unfair targeting: we can’t hold Putin’s feet to the fire, so we go after any artist who has ever given him the time of day. From the safety of our western democracies some of us appear to believe that the way to influence Russian policy is to shout at them. Good luck with that one. As for “I love great music but I love human rights more” — if only life were made up of such beguilingly simple (apparent) choices! The real choices involved in achieving human rights are infinitely more nuanced, and harder.

      • PR Deltoid says:

        “western concepts of human freedom” is part of the problem. In most of the world (places like China, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, Asia), these concepts are not all that popular, and are often viewed as Western imperialism by other means.

        Even in the West, they’re not universally popular. In France, half the population is opposed to gay marriage.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Indeed, look what happened to Tschaikovsky. His “friends” told him or suggested he kill himself. Otherwise he had a financially stable life, fame, support from high places, and a considerable stipend to live well while composing to his heart’s content.

  • Will the time prior to the appearance of the conductor at the symphony now be thrown open to other causes: representatives of Tesco advertising ‘Two for One’; A Kwik-Fit song ‘n’ dance routine; the Pepsi Challenge? If one cause is justified, why not a slew of others? Who’s to say where this occupation of the public space has to end? And what opprobrium will they have to put up with if they do?

  • alexanderstrauch says:

    Also subject on the german Badblog of Musick: how can the official LGBT-friendly city Munich, the board of the city is dominated by a social-democratic, Green Party and one-seat-big-LGBT-party “pink list”, employ Gergiev?

  • Whilst I respect Mr Tatchell’s right to peaceful protest, the selectivity — I deliberately eschew the term “arbitrariness”, since I think this is being expertly guided by American propaganda — of all this vituperation astounds me, especially considering that our own government is currently lobbying to allow far more serious and wide-ranging human rights abuses to continue to be committed; see:

    (Will other countries start to ostracise British artists on account of this, I wonder?)

    Putin is not perfect, but his recent track record (notably, protecting a certain whistleblower and preventing an international escalation of the ongoing insurrection in Syria) eclipses that of Cameron and Obama combined. As for Gergiev, he is no political activist; he is simply doing his job as an artistic ambassador for the Mariinsky, a role that entails maintaining professional relationships with the incumbent politicians of the land, in order to secure state funding.

    I would be interested to know what the various anti-Gergiev commentators thought about Nigel Kennedy’s remarks on “apartheid”, and how they would react if, say, Roger Wright or Tony Hall were to make a big statement vociferously condemning the British government about policies not directly pertaining to arts funding or public service broadcasting (I hasten to add, lest anyone think that I approve of the curtailment of freedom of expression, that I was horrified by how Timothy Walker treated the LPO-4 on account of their having signed a certain petition, to the extent that I have purposely not attended an LPO concert since, despite my being strongly against the petition in question).