From Charlie Bennett, Artistic Director of the Chipping Campden International Music Festival, Gloucestershire:
We are saddened to have to announce that the Borodin quartet’s festival appearance has, through no fault of ours, or theirs, had to be cancelled. The members of the Quartet are devastated about this.
The reason is entirely down to the British Embassy in Moscow.
The quartet applied in plenty of time for a new long term UK visa (Tier 5) with the Wigmore Hall acting as their sponsor, but unbelievably they were denied entry clearance. Incidentally the application cost them £2000. They then applied (still in plenty of time) for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa for the Wigmore Hall in April and Chipping Campden Music Festival in May.
Normally this visa type lasts 30 days but when they went to the British Embassy in Moscow to collect their passports the PPE visa stated ‘Number of entries: 1’ instead of the usual ‘multiple entries’.
They have never before seen a single entry PPE visa. They were told that they would need to make another application for the UK visit in May. There was no time to do it then as they were about to leave on a tour.
They were touring most of April and didn’t get back to Moscow until May 1st (all applications have to be made in person) so the chance of getting another visa in time was nil as there is a minimum 10 day waiting time and added to this there are 3 public holidays in Russia in May.
Without wishing to be cynical, it would appear there is some policy in place to make life difficult for the Russians, which is outrageous in these sort of circumstances.
We, the quartet, and their UK agent, have tried everything we could think of to get the visas in time but we met with a ‘brick wall’.
We realise many of you will be disappointed to hear this news and we apologise sincerely for the cancellation, but hope you will understand that it was entirely beyond our control.
After a lot of searching, emailing, and various international phone calls, I have managed to secure the superb Endellion Quartet to stand in at very short notice for this date. They are one the finest quartets in the world, founded in 1979, with three of the original founding members still in it and the fourth has been with them 30 years.
They couldn’t offer the same works (an almost impossible ask at such short notice) but have offered the below, which is a lovely programme, and keeps two of the three composers from the original Borodin programme.
Charlie’s response may be overheated, and we know of no Foreign Office policy to make life exceptionally difficult for Russian artists, but it is getting to be much more arduous and expensive for non-EU artists to appear in Britain. See also here.