Did anyone else feel a bat-squeak of embarrassment, a ‘Not in My Name’ sort of feeling, at the barracking of a Russian composer at the Barbican last night? The only bit of the catcalls from the 60 or 70 protesters I could make out was ‘Shame!’ but it was vicarious shame I felt at the bullying of Valery Gergiev who was presumably here to direct the LSO at their invitation and who probably expected a courteous reception for his take on Berlioz, not sustained and disruptive harassment from Peter Tatchell and his acolytes. It was bullying; no more acceptable for being self-righteous, self-congratulatory bullying, and it has no place in a concert hall.
As it happens, Valery Gergiev has made clear that he is not prejudiced about gay people; ‘in all my work I upheld equal rights for all people’. Not enough for P. Tatchell though. In an (excellent) interview on yesterday’s edition of Radio 4’s The World Tonight, he declared that he was glad to hear it but would only get his boys off Mr Gergiev’s back (their phrase) if he made clear his opposition to Vladimir Putin’s human rights abuses and especially his approach to homosexuality. Mr Gergiev is said to be a friend or associate of Mr Putin. Which is his business.
Who does P. Tatchell think he is? By what right does he appoint himself the arbiter of British public morals to determine who shall and who shan’t be allowed to conduct their work freely here? In the interview he was asked whether he would be using the same criteria to campaign against other prominent Russians in London who didn’t dissociate themselves from the Russian president. I take it that meant people like Roman Abramovich the Chelsea football club owner…he’s meant to know Putin quite well too.