Simon Rattle demands UK visas for Afghan musicians

Simon Rattle demands UK visas for Afghan musicians


norman lebrecht

October 03, 2021

The outgoing music director of the London Symphony Orchestra today tops a list of music worthies calling on the British Government to offer asylum to Afghan musicians.

As a global champion of freedom of expression, the United Kingdom has given sanctuary to many refugee musicians over the years, who in turn have enriched our musical life. In light of this, we call on the government to offer urgent humanitarian visas to Afghan musicians so the UK can play its part in ensuring they — and their invaluable cultural heritage — are not lost for ever.

Other signatories in a very long list include Mitsuko Uchida, Ian Bostridge, Stephen Fry, Julian Lloyd Webber and the Kanneh-Mason family.

Unfortunately, Rattle’s name will not carry much weight with the new culture secretary Nadine Dorries (pictured). She will say something like ‘he’s a German citizen now with a German job, isn’t he? why’s he telling us who to let in?’

Maybe he should be asking the Germans. Has anyone?



  • Matias says:

    Yet another “demand” from the arts world?

    They should be careful, I suspect that tolerance is wearing a little thin. I suspect that most people have more immediate concerns.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      They just lack sociological imagination, that’s all. But they’re very good at making music.

    • Gill says:

      Don’t you think the arts world in this country has suffered hugely as a result of Brexit? And don’t you think that musicians in Afghanistan (where music is banned by the Taliban who kill people who play instruments) might be grateful for all the help we can give them? Or do you just not think?

      • Matias says:

        I “think” that there’s a limit to how often people in ordinary jobs wish to be lectured by people in the rarefied arts world.

  • christopher storey says:

    Entirely consistent with the usual vacuity of any pronouncement by Rattle

  • Don Antonio says:

    Politics out. And, stay out. Instead, just focus on your 4/4.

  • Althea T-H says:

    Shouldn’t you ask Ms Dorries about her position on this matter, rather than putting words into her mouth, Mr Lebrecht?

  • miko says:

    Nadine Dorries in charge of UK culture.
    How low this country has fallen.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      “Born in Liverpool to a working-class family, Dorries began work as a trainee nurse and subsequently became a medical representative. During her early career, she spent a year in Zambia as the head of a community school. After returning to the UK, she founded Company Kids Ltd; which provided child day-care services for working parents. She sold the company in 1998.”…… goodness someone who is “Oxbridge free” and has done real jobs so knows what the world of work is like. My goodness how the maggots crawl out of the classical music snobs……………

      • Matias says:

        OK, she’s done well, but I don’t see anything there that qualifies her for the job.

        You mention snobs. Seems to be a lot of inverted snobbery going on here.

        • Ellingtonia says:

          Nope, no inverted snobbery, just a clear statement of facts challenging the assumptions and stereotyping of the “open minded and non judgemental” miko ……….but then again he is not very bright is he!

    • Ms. Dorries is not in any sense ‘in charge of culture in the United Kingdom’. Firstly, Ms. Dorries’s remit only covers England. Secondly, Ms. Dorries is not ‘in charge of culture’ in any sense. That would be a horrendously Totalitarian Authoritarian Socialist viewpoint. Ms. Dorries is simply a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politician. The only people who are ‘in charge of culture’ are the practitioners, the people who create culture. No Tsar of Russia was ‘in charge of’ Rachmaninoff when he composed his Second Piano Concerto, and no President of the United States of America was ‘in charge of’ Rachmaninoff when he composed his Fourth Piano Concerto. Rachmaninoff was obviously solely and completely ‘in charge’ on both occasions.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    The fact that Nadine Dorries – of Jungle fame – is the sort of individual that Bojo sees fit to appoint as the new Kulture secretary is laughable. Keep it up Sir Simon et al and stick it up ’em.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Her boss thinks everything is a joke and spends all his time garnering cheap laughs. So why shouldn’t she?

    • Weslay says:

      You do know that’s the sort of thing many of us Brits think when we see that Ursula von de Leyen is still (laughably) President of the EU Commission (which appears to be nothing more than a rest home for clapped out, rejected and failed politicians from member states)?

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Q. Why was it deemed necessary to display two photos of said Kulture Secretary? In case nobody knows who she is? Her innocent looking white attire may signal the garb of the Angel of Destruction for the high arts in good old blighty. Still, it’s the Tory ‘nasty’ Party in charge; what more can we expect?

  • The Only Anonymous says:

    Rattle? A German conductor now, go back to the Philharmonie. After all what the UK has given him, his musical education and career, it seems he lacks decency in any form.

    • Tamino says:

      So, in your „logic“, someone raised and educated in the UK, ought to stay there for the rest of his life, otherwise he is lacking decency? Wow, people…. tssss…
      No wonder your country is in such a shitty situation now.

      • The Only Anonymous says:

        Tamino. It’s the fact he relinquished his British passport, but has held onto his knighthood. And yes, us Brits love performing concerts worldwide!

        • Tamino says:

          A passport is not a holy relique, but a very practical device. You have too much nationalistic hot air in your head. Afaik Rattle did not „relinquish” his British passport. He simply now has two passports, which comes in very handy in his particular life situation.
          Or do you suggest he should uproot his children and whole family and move them to London, so you can feel good about good ol’ Britannia?

      • Hayne says:

        “No wonder your country is in such a shitty situation now.”
        Sorry, but authoritarianism is almost everywhere now.

        • Tamino says:

          Brexit is not so much a result of authoritarianism than of mob rule. Of the stupid having the majority and using it, given the opportunity.
          And the drama for England just began now. Wait until Scotland breaks away from the Union and rejoins the EU.

          • Helen says:

            No, it’s about people with mortgages in ordinary jobs who are sick and tired of seeing their wages plummet because people from lower cost economies, with lower expectations, are prepared to work for less. But only for so long.

            Those who benefit temporarily from cheap labour, and those in professions which are not affected, don’t care. Nauseating self interest.

            There are empty shelves in Europe and a worldwide shortage of drivers. Facts.

            The UK (where I don’t live, BTW) will be fine, which is precisely what you’re afraid of.

          • Tamino says:

            Why should I be afraid of the UK doing fine??? To the contrary.
            You forget, that nobody in the UK WANTED those jobs anymore. (lorry driver, slaughterhouse, picking strawberries etc.)
            There are no empty shelves or empty gas stations in continental EU. Fact.
            Get in touch with reality.

          • Helen says:

            You want facts? There are shortages of lorry drivers within Europe and elsewhere. From memory, around 43,000 in Germany and 40,000 in France. If deliveries were being made, there would be no need for these extra drivers, would there?

            People in the UK didn’t want these jobs because pay had been reduced to a level which wouldn’t cover their costs, for the reasons I stated above. Less than £20/hour for driving an HGV? That is not sustainable for a parent with a home to run.

            There is no overall shortage of petrol. The press cynically caused panic buying exactly as they did with toilet rolls last year. The “shortage” is localised, and will pass when people’s tanks and jerry cans are full.

            Lastly, Scotland will not break away from the UK. The SNP’s policies are in tatters.

          • Robin Smith says:

            That simply isn’t true Tamino. What actually happened was that employers saw the opportunity to switch out higher paid locals and recruit Eastern European people through agencies. I was a Management Accountant in the Warehousing & Distribution sector for some time and was a witness and part of that process.

      • Gary Freer says:

        no, isn’t the suggestion that when a person decides (as Rattle is indeed entirely free to do) to become a citizen of another country and make his home there, his political posturing about who should be permitted to live where might be more sensibly and appropriately directed to the government of his new homeland rather than to that of the one he has freely chosen to leave?

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    I propose a new four-movement symphony to celebrate Nadine Dorries’s appointment as Kulture High Kapitan:
    1st movement – Allegro con Bojo e destructio,
    2nd movement – Adagio molto mesto,
    3rd movement – Presto con malizia (sorry Walton!),
    4th movement finale – Allegro giusto get her outta!
    I better start composing.

  • Alexander T says:

    Gavin Williamson was in charge of the country’s education (thankfully, no longer), so why the surprise when the likes of Nadine Dorries is appointed Culture Secretary?