Renowned LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell organised a protest outside the Barbican on Thursday 7 November to greet the audience of Valery Gergiev’s latest appearance with the LSO. Tatchell had also protested alone the previous Thursday, at the first of the LSO’s Berlioz series with the conductor, by making a short statement to the audience before the concert.
‘Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders,’ Tatchell said last week, before the conductor had appeared on stage. ‘Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians … I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.’
Tatchell was referring both to Gergiev’s endorsement of Vladimir Putin’s re-election campaign, and his refusal to distance himself from the law enacted by the Russian government in June banning ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors’. Comments attributed to Gergiev by Dutch newspaper Volkskrant in September, that ‘this law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia’, were described by Mr Tatchell in the Guardian as ‘a misrepresentation of homophobic legislation and blurring of homosexuality and child sex abuse’.
Gergiev had also faced protests at recent concerts in New York, but at the time did not make any statements. On Wednesday 6 November, however, he released the following:
‘I am aware of the gay rights protest that took place at the Barbican last week prior to my concert with the LSO. I have said before that I do not discriminate against anyone, gay or otherwise, and never have done, and as head of the Mariinsky Theatre this is our policy.
‘It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries from all walks of life and many of them are indeed my friends. I collaborate with and support all my colleagues in the endeavour for music and art. This is my focus as a conductor, musician, artist and as Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.’