Ukrainians protest against Russian conductor Valery Gergiev at London’s Barbican

On 10 April 2014, Ukrainians and their supporters protested in front of the Barbican concert hall ahead of a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) led by the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, known as a supporter of Putin’s policy, in particular of the annexation of the Crimea and of the notorious anti-gay law.

2014-04-10 18.37.13Up to 50 Ukrainian migrants and their supporters gathered in front of the Barbican concert hall ahead of a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) led by the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev. This was part of the international #boycottrussian campaign calling for boycott of Russian goods and services. Gergiev is known for being a vocal supporter of Putin, having allegedly supported the infamous anti-gay law and most recently the annexation of the Crimea.

2014-04-10 18.52.04This protest was supported by the Ukrainian Institute and the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, as well as the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Earlier on, an open letter was delivered to the board chair and managing director of the LSO, Lennox Mackenzie and Kathryn McDowell, which stated the conductor was ‘unfit for LSO’ due to his support for Putin tyranny. Peter Tatchell himself, a political campaigner best known for his work with LGBT social movements, who had already campaigned against Gergiev previously, was present. Using a loudspeaker, he condemned Gergiev for backing Putin’s regime with its neo-imperialist ambitions and suppression of human rights. Mr Tatchell shamed the LSO for employing someone who, he stressed, is a great conductor but has a poor record as a human rights supporter due to siding with an expansionist tyrant.

2014-04-10 18.46.16The protest started an hour before the start of the concert. The protesters formed a sort of corridor in front of the entrance to the concert hall, holding flags and banners, so that the public would inevitably pass by them while entering the venue. A few people were distributing leaflets outlining the reasons for protest. One of the Ukrainians was playing an accordion; another protester had a tambourine.

2014-04-10 18.40.40After singing the Ukrainian anthem to the accompaniment of the musical instruments, the protesters chanted some slogans like ‘Gergiev, shame on you!’, ‘Gergiev, out of London!’, ‘LSO, shame on you!’, ‘Stop supporting Putin!’, ‘Putin, hands off Ukraine!’.

The public coming to the concert generally paid attention to the protesters and took the leaflets. Some of the concert-goers took photos. Few of them engaged in conversation with Ukrainians, though. While some of the people expressed their support and solidarity with the protesters, there were also others who indicated they were on Putin’s side, or expressed their disbelief in Gergiev’s pro-regime position.

2014-04-10 19.15.17At the end of the rally, Ukrainians shouted ‘Gergiev – out!’ for the last time as loudly as possible, so that, as Peter Tatchell suggested, ‘they could hear us inside’.

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