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What really happened at Gatwick: the orchestra manager’s story

We have received an email from the manager of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra confirming the orchestra’s detention at Gatwick Airport, and clarifying some of the details.

Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

 I have read your blogs about our problems at London Gatwick last Friday, and in the light of accuracy I would like to add some nuances and views to the events.
1. You cited Mr. Tait of He stated that our musicians were arrested (you repeat the word in your next blog). That is however not the case. Indeed they were prevented from entering the UK, and were held by the custom officers for about 5 hours, but an arrest is something very different. That would imply an offence or a criminal act executed by them. That was obviously not the case.
2. However, the way they were treated could be interpreted as a treatment of criminals. They were not allowed to make any phone call, they were not allowed to hand over their scores to our tour manager (who stayed at Gatwick until their departure), and they were not allowed to even speak to the tour manager. We are quite disturbed about this over-the-top treatment, and we will inform the authorities accordingly.
NL: An arrest in British usage does  not connote criminal activity. It means being detained by police, which is what happened here.
Ton Koopman indeed decided after fruitless attempts to alter the situation for the good, to head for Spitalfields to do the concert (slightly altered), leaving the tour manager at Gatwick, in order to try to solve the situation. That was not an easy decision as one can imagine, but the choice was made to not leave the Spitalfields audience empty-handed. We of course respect your opinion about what Mr. Koopman should have done, but staying at Gatwick, clearly without any possibility at that time to change the case of the three individual musicians would have benefited no one. Maybe it’s good to add here that there has been contact between the customs authorities and the Spitalfield Festival, who had certainly issued us all the paperwork we needed in advance, but unfortunately without any result.
At this moment we are trying to find out what exactly went wrong. But as you will have read, entering the UK for professional musicians, writers, and other artists, is very very complicated. Ploughing through all the regulations on the website of the UK Border Control, it is incredibly difficult to even find out in what category artists belong, and if they would actually need visa. Mind you: the passports of our three musicians are from countries (Japan, USA, South-Korea) that do not appear on the list of countries whose nationals would have to apply for a visa. Here is the link of an active lobby organization about these issues: We support their lobby fully.
Finally: Apart from finding out where mistakes were made, we are doing everything within our capacity to make sure that our colleagues will not have any problems entering the UK in the future, now that they have been denied once. For instance, we are trying to get an official letter from the British authorities, stating that they are not to be held personally responsible for their denial to enter the UK. Hopefully we will be able obtain this.
With my best regards,

Marco van de Klundert
General manager
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Ton Koopman

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  1. José Bergher says:

    Gorgeous justification of an arrest that took place but did not take place:
    “An arrest in British usage does not connote criminal activity. It means being detained by police, which is what happened here.”
    I wonder if the musicians were allowed to use the airport’s toilet facilities and, if so, how many pages did the required applications have and if it was necessary to list the names of all maternal great-grand-parents and their cell phones.

  2. Randolph Magri-Overend says:

    A typical bureaucrat’s shrug of the shoulder

  3. Burkhard says:

    I am not surprised that world leading artists such as Grigory Sokolov are latly refusing to give concerts in the UK in order not to get pestered by those border control jerks.

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