Just in: Sheku is refused a British passport

Just in: Sheku is refused a British passport


norman lebrecht

June 16, 2021

Message from the Nottingham-based cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason:

Applied for an additional British Passport with the approval of Home Office to assist with applications for visas and international work permits in this post #Brexit #Covid world along with my sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. Appointments 15 mins apart, identical paperwork submitted. She receives original passport and second one within a week. Mine comes back cancelled 10th June (expiry 2029). Since then, despite constant calls I have NO explanation, NO forthcoming assistance and NO way of playing the engagements I am contracted to play. Ideas appreciated.

Priti Patel needs to sort out her department asap. Everything is wrong with every aspect of border control and every traveller knows it.

UPDATE: Tonight the Home Office said: ‘We are in contact with Mr Kanneh-Mason to resolve this situation and apologise for any inconvenience caused. A replacement passport will be issued as soon as possible.’


UPDATE AM: Statement from the Home Office: ‘We apologise to Mr Kanneh-Mason for any inconvenience caused as a result of this incident, which was due to human error. We have now issued him with a replacement passport.’


  • John Kelly says:

    Well, he’s supposed to be playing in the US soon so this needs “sorting” as the British like to say……………

  • Jack says:

    I recall that Priti said complained a while back that everyone in her department is useless.

    • UK Arts Administrator says:

      But of course Mrs Patel is immensely competent, and is leadin’ her department brilliantly, isn’t she?

    • Donna Pasquale says:

      And she is an example of uselessness and vindictiveness

      • M McAlpine says:

        Added to which she is politically to the right of Lenin which makes her useless in your eyes!

        • Dave says:

          She is an evil piece of work. For someone whose family was admitted to the UK as refugees from the Amin regime back in the 1970s to lead the most vindictive anti-immigration policy this country has ever seen beggars belief. Your “politically to the right of Lenin” comment is tripe; she’s marginally to the left of Mussolini.

      • poyu says:

        and a bully too.

    • Gregor Tassie says:

      Correction – ‘fucking useless’

  • Music fan says:

    Sheer idiocy. The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      The bureaucratic mentality is often a huge problem, but we cannot judge any particular case without knowing the specifics.

  • Gustavo says:

    Nice piece of evidence showing that BREXIT is “messing up” and not “sorting”.

  • microview says:

    He should phone Prince William.

    • Patrick says:

      Sheku should contact Oliver Dowden via Twitter. He sorted the LSO opera residency in Aix, liasing with the French government. Sheku is a major British star and should be afforded this double passport. Or the idiot at the Passport Office hasn’t a clue…

  • Herbie G says:

    Why stop at Priti Patel’s department denying Sheku a passport? That’s only one small symptom of the parlous state of this country at present.

    What about the Post Office scandal? Still no proper settlement for the surviving victims ten years on. No prosecutions for the criminals who obstructed the course of justice to secure dozens of bogus prosecutions and no sanctions against the solicitors who advised their clients to plead guilty when there was not a scintilla of evidence to inculpate them.

    What about Grenfell Towers? No prosecutions for the criminals who colluded in manufacturing and supplying counterfeit cladding. Their victims must pay for the renewal work.

    What about the BBC? A bunch of obscure ‘suits’ who decide themselves what the listeners and viewers want and then wring their hands when they lose audiences despite paying ‘celebs’ exorbitant sums out of the licence fees that we are compelled to pay. Then there’s the forgery of documents relating to Martin Bashir’s securing the interview with Princess Diana. Has he been interviewed by the police – and have they questioned Lord Tony and his acolytes? No chance.

    Fair’s fair though – the police have their hands full at the moment strenuously denying the unfair allegation that they are institutionally corrupt just because some of their officers probably killed someone they didn’t like.

    And what about the Commissioner of the Met? How could that job have gone to the apty-named Cressida Dick, head of the team that slaughtered Jean Charles Menezes on his way to work just because his colour matched that of a suspect and (as an electrician) there was a cable protruding from his back-pack.

    Then there’s her public claim that the allegations of Carl Beach were credible and the fact that she sanctioned the wasting of 4.5 million pounds’ worth of taxpayers’ money on a botched investigation of allegations he made against public figures. Beach himself was finally prosecuted for these falsehoods and is serving an 18-year sentence. Dick merely apologised and remained in place. Next to her, the Pink Panther is a shining beacon of insightful perspicacity.

    There is some hope that she may not be in place for long; the first step towards the removal of any public figure has now taken place – the Prime Minister has expressed his full confidence in her. And her hapless deputy who went on air to deny the findings of corruption should follow her in short order.

    In a nation whose high-level institutions are rife with mismanagement and corruption, is it any surprise that one of our leading young musicians who played at a royal wedding is denied his human right to be given a passport? Sadly, it is not. It’s an absolute disgrace.

    I am about to set out on my daily walk and I shall be listening to my MP3 player, which is the size of half a bourbon biscuit and can hold about 600 CDs’ worth of music. Its cable will be visible from my pocket as I walk. In case I am accosted by a team of Dame Cressida’s executioners mistaking me for a terrorist, may I thank all the contributors to SD for their most erudite contributions and NL for setting up this blog – I might be playing a harp on a cloud this time tomorrow.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am not an extreme left, woke, Marxist BLM member who wants to de-fund the police, smash up statues and ‘cancel’ people who don’t share my own views or might have said something silly twenty years ago. I just want to see some decency, honesty, morality and accountability in our public institutions. Good luck Sheku!

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Great subjects for a reboot of Yes, Minister!

      On a more serious note, Sheku will no doubt get his passport, sooner or later – hopefully the former. But think of all other “commoners” who do not have the reputation of Sheku (well earned) and are in the same situation.

    • Marfisa says:

      It is not a human right to be given a passport! Allowable exaggeration, though. I hope you survive your walk.

      This sounds like a typical bureaucratic muddle (their system couldn’t cope with two Kanneh-Masons at once). I hope this is sorted out for him asap, and in any case he should write to his MP about it.

    • Althea T-H says:

      “…decency, honesty, morality and accountability in our public institutions.”

      That is precisely what people who are pressing for reparations for slavery want: people who believe that Black Lives Matter, and that keeping slave-trader statues in the exterior public domain – i.e. in the town square, rather than in interior public space, such as a museum – is the equivalent of keeping Goebbels on a plinth.

      They believe this, because they are well-informed about the atrocity exhibition that was Britain’s involvement in slavery. This contrasts with the large number of people know little – and care even less – about slavery; and who therefore rush to take umbrage, whenever slave traders and plantation owners are posthumously punished by having their statues removed.

      Certain British institutions that are still profiting greatly from slavery – such as Lloyd’s of London and All Souls College Oxford, to name but two – need to buck up their ideas and open their wallets fully and generously: two things which neither institution has yet done. The stingy, faltering steps that All Souls College has taken up to this point, for example, are an embarrassment. I refer to the handful of graduate scholarships, and the paltry contextualisation plaque outside the Library. These things represent a pitiful proportion of the College’s vast endowment: of the wealth and luxurious living that Fellows have enjoyed over the centuries.

      • Ellingtonia says:

        So if you find the UK such a distasteful place to live why not move to somewhere that you find more palatable, perhaps one of the many African countries mired in corruption and warfare. And if you arn’t British then I suggest you keep you nose out of other countries affairs. Like all countries we have a history, and we are not going to rewrite that history to satisfy the “victim mentality” of people like yourself who also indulge in virtue signalling and self righteous indignation. And do tell me why given our appalling record (according to you) so many people want to come and live in the UK?

        • Tony says:

          I cannot believe that so many readers of this worthy classical music review website have been led by the nose on this misleading and inaccurate posting. The passport office denies one request for a duplicate passport by an eminent musician and Britain is branded as a racist nation! Get a grip y’all!! If you are legally entitled to a UK passport then you will receive one for a modest £72 or slightly more if in a hurry.Brexit screws up the flexibility that allowed UK musicians to gig across the EU without visas but paperwork aside Kanyeh is free to do what he does best along with myriads of others.

    • Sisko24 says:

      Sadly, what you wrote is true in some degree worldwide.

    • Antiphon says:

      Favourite books?

    • Derek H says:

      That is quite a resounding speech with honest feelings!

      Some may dispute minor details, but I nearly stood up and applauded when I read it, particularly the last sentiments.

      (Please avoid any danger and leave the harp to the orchestra).

    • Barbara says:

      I really am still grieved about the death you mention and Cressida Dick’s part. Nothing to do with this music blog, but share your feelings

  • Rik says:

    I don’t understand what an ‘additional British passport’ is. Isn’t he a British citizen?

    • Bill says:

      To get a visa you often need to surrender your passport for a period of time. This is not a problem if you travel infrequently, but someone who is constantly traveling needs a second passport, so that they can continue to do their work while some country’s embassy takes their own sweet time about issuing a visa for a future trip.

      Here is what the US State Dept says about their policies for issuing second passports, the UK is presumably similar:

      If you have a valid U.S. passport and you meet several additional requirements, you may be eligible to apply for a second U.S. passport book. In limited circumstances, we will issue a limited-validity, second passport book to you which will be valid for up to four years.

      Examples of cases when we may issue second U.S. passport books include:

      A foreign country will deny a visa or entry to you because your passport has stamps showing travel to certain countries. Example: an Israeli entry or exit stamp in some countries in the Middle East.
      You need multiple visas on an ongoing basis because of frequent international travel. Example: you work for an international airline or a multinational company
      You need a U.S. passport for urgent international travel but your application for a foreign visa is delayed or cannot be processed in time for your travel.
      When you need a special validation for travel to a restricted country or area.

    • Mister Why says:

      People who travel frequently (such as musicians who tour internationally) often need to carry duplicate passports (issued by the same country) because they might need to submit one passport to the consulate or embassy of country X in order to obtain authorization for an upcoming tour, while they need to use the second passport for immediate travel to country Y for an earlier engagement whilst the first passport is sitting on the desk of some consular officer at the embassy of country X.

      Before Brexit, British musicians didn’t need to worry about visas and work permits to perform in the EU – and vice-versa.

      Now they do.

    • Londonmuso says:

      Rik. Many of us have two British passports, so can get visas (Far East, USA, etc…) whilst working abroad on the other passport. This is very common in London orchestras! The trick is to make sure you have the correct passport with the correct visa, otherwise a night detained at Seoul airport…

    • Dave says:

      Yes, he is. British citizens can have more than one copy of their passport – at a cost, of course – and with the additional administration caused by Brexit will probably need it if applying for visas or work permits in several countries at once.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Crazy. Brexit is denying the world of UK’s talent and the UK of the rest of the world’s. What is the need of that?
    This talented player (he is very good indeed) deserves much better.

  • PEPPA07 says:

    No surprises, total incompetence from the Home Office.

  • Ram says:

    For goodness sake Priti Patel, PLEASE SORT THIS OUT – why is this still happening, why are your department denying work to a genuine person, policy need to be sorted urgently for this kind gentleman.

  • Dragonetti says:

    So sad. It says a lot doesn’t it about the state of education within these government departments too.Surely even if they don’t recognise this name by now it might just have been worth asking someone else before doing this? Far be it from me to jump to too many conclusions but I really can’t help thinking that some jobsworth saw a ‘foreign’ name of probable African extraction and thought it worth chucking it in the compartment marked LTBW. (“Let the bastard wait”)
    Now it will clearly be sorted at speed as the brown stuff hits the ventilation system when someone a bit more in the know realises the terrible publicity this will generate, but what an indictment of our government and civil service.

  • Do they have interns in the “Home Office”?

    In the US, an unnamed intern is the usually named as the reason for the FU.

  • christopher storey says:

    Dragonetti, I think it is simpler than that : normally when you apply for a passport it is because the old one has expired, in which case it is cancelled and returned to you , as happened here . This additional passport was requested because it enables the holder to travel while the first passport is away with foreign embassies having visas added


    According to last night’s news (UK) it’s all been sorted. Further comment is therefore not required.

  • Graeme Hall says:

    It’s amazing how so many people are eager to see evil intent in what was clearly just an administrative error of the type that happens all the time in countries all over the world.

    • Bill says:

      One can have a sub-optimal situation (that could and should be improved) without need to invoke evil intent. Is a lack of evil intent reason not to strive to do better?

  • Tony says:

    Headline is misleading as he was applying for a duplicate passport not an original one.Britain is a more enlightened country than the US in relation to nationality and immigration, and postings of this kind are hogwash. Bureaucracy delays are common for passport applications everywhere. The only real issue not highlighted here is that post Brexit individual EU countries are making it hard for UK musicians to work on short term engagements by insisting on visas (some other members states are taking a more flexible approach).Hence the need for Kanyeh etc to have duplicate passports to send away for visa applications.