Scots musicians flee France in fishing boat

Scots musicians flee France in fishing boat


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2020

The Dunedin Consort, a baroque ensemble based in Edinburgh, had gone to France last week for their first public performance since lockdown. Then the UK Government imposed a 14-day quarantine on people returning from France. It came into effect at 0400 Saturday. All conventional escape routes were overbooked.

The Consort decided not to cancel their Friday night concert. With great resource, they hired a fishing boat and crossed the Channel the old-fashioned way, arriving at Hayling Island in Hampshire at 03:50, with just 10 minutes to spare.

Good to see the spirit of Dunkirk is alive and well.

Full story here.

photo: Clare Stevens


  • Miko says:

    The spirit of Dunkirk?
    Oh do me a favour.
    How much were they paid for that gig?
    How much did it cost to charter a boat across the Channel?
    Isn’t this just re-enforcing the image of musicians as priviledged out of touch tits?
    Btw Dunkirk was an ignominious retreat dressed up as triumph for dwindling national morale in 1940.

    • Stuart L. says:


      No it isn’t. It suggests that the musicians concerned are not only extremely resourceful but go the extra mile to honour their commitments.

      As for your comment about Dunkirk – a lot of brave civilians risked their lives to rescue as many of their fellow countrymen as they could and turned a humiliating defeat (and yes retreat) into a demonstration of resourcefulness and courage which lifted the spirits of a nation under severe duress.

    • Robert King says:

      Having played Lessay myself in previous years, the fee to the ensemble will have been very modest. It’s a little unkind of “Miko” to suggest that these freelance musicians might be “priviledged [sic] out of touch tits” (I know almost everyone in that line-up, and none of them fits that description). 38% of British professional musicians have fallen outside the UK government’s income support schemes and have lived off next to nothing since March.

      These freelance musicians wanted to hold to their ensemble’s contractual agreement to give a concert, and not to let down the French audience – they also desperately wanted to give their first concert together in many months.

      The few hundred pounds each musician will have received for three days work (not to mention a shedload of extra travel) will have been very welcome. And their employers for these few days, the Dunedin Consort, having paid for an unexpected tourist boat charter (but what a brilliant travel solution), will have come out of the engagement well in the red. But the show still went on. Bravi to all of them.

      • Miko says:

        I said “it creates the impression” not that “they are”.
        It’s pure tabloid fodder: plucky (middle class) Brits taking it on the chin….when the reality is that such a silly “tour” with chartered cross channel evacuation is only a business model that can be justified by a self absorbed industry out of touch with its own image.
        But if it pumps your breast with patriotic fervour a la Daily Mail then do enjoy it while that lasts.

    • Bruce says:

      Mmmmm, delicious troll food…

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    Good for them, but the real issue is the chaotic way the quarantine was introduced with very little advanced notice. And how on earth did the UK government arrive at 04:00?! There seems to be no rhyme or reason why they couldn’t have given 48hrs notice. The terms of the quarantine are also bizarrely punitive: you are not allowed to leave your home for fourteen days, not even to exercise, walk the dog or go shopping – if you’re caught shopping you have have to prove that there’s nobody who could have done the shop for you; if you can’t you’ll be fined £1,000. This is more restrictive than the earlier lockdown conditions when you could shop – without a mask – and exercise for one hour each day and walk your dog, you could also go to work if it was deemed ‘essential’. It’s like they badly messed up first time round & have now gone to the opposite extreme. I don’t in the least mind following rules in the current circumstances, but those rules need to make sense, to be reasonable & proportionate

    • Maria says:

      Quarantine is different and has been all the time compared to the original ‘stay at home’. Go abroad, then you are taking a much bigger risk regarding traveling bug its a choice. France had been on the cards long before those rules came out very quickly.

      • SVM says:

        Whilst Maria has a point about the higher risk of travelling abroad, it is worth noting that a government minister, Grant Shapps, made a mess of announcing the change, saying that the deadline would be 04:00 on *Sunday*. This sort of factual error in announcing an urgent rule change with significant consequences for so many people is unforgivable, especially given that making public announcements can reasonably be considered part of a government minister’s job — in many fields where the stakes are lower, it would have resulted in the person being sacked (or reprimanded and relieved of any media-facing duties).

      • Stephen Diviani says:

        I accept that there is a risk, but it is for the individual to make a judgement call, as Ian Bostridge & Igor Levit did when they cancelled their recital in Barcelona. I’ve just done an online search and it would seem that the UK is the only country which has a quarantine for returning citizens. Other countries use testing/health checks, including Germany, and it is only if you test positive that you have to quarantine. That makes a lot more sense to me. Anyway, I have a hunch that the reason the quarantine rules are so punitive is because the UK government doesn’t check up on returnees. Several friends have returned from Spain and not one them has been contacted by those enforcing the quarantine.

        Anyway, best wishes to John Butt & the Dunedin Consort. I heard them first at the Lammermuir Festival and fell in love with their work. Thank you all!

  • Dragonetti says:

    Having been (probably quite correctly) censored in my initial rant, I have now calmed down a bit and can start again.
    Which planet does this troll inhabit if he assumes all musicians are overpaid, out of touch “tits”?
    Words fail, or get the better of me sometimes. There’s no huge fee for this type of gig, it’s just part of the increasingly tough way of earning a living. Far from hiring a private yacht or something, they made the best of a bad job to return to the UK so as to be in with a faint chance of fulfilling whatever else might be in their diaries.
    I think that Miko’s spelling ability gives him away a bit but he should find out what really goes on in the classical music business and hear the average fee for a rehearsal and concert for an ordinary player, not an international soloist or conductor.
    Next he should check out the full Dunkirk picture. As others have said here, it was clearly a defeat and was caused by lack of forward planning by the British military. On the other hand it was also an example of what a dedicated and
    co-ordinated group of people can do at huge personal risk to help their fellow human beings out of a dire predicament.
    We could do with a few more of them nowadays.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Stuart and Robert King have it right, as do Dunedin and these salty musicians. More power than contusions to their rowing elbows; a pox and confusion to their enemies! All will be worse confounded yet in Miltonian terms. A lighthouse for Hayling Island, Hamps., if one’s not there there already. As for Florence, she’ll make it next time.

  • JB says:

    And not a single call for the navy to stop this kind of passage? What has become of this once-great nation?