Peter Tatchell—LGBT rights activist and head of the Peter Tatchell Foundation—is making headlines for his minor disruption of the opening night of Marinsky conductor Valery Gergiev’s season with the London Symphony Orchestra, at the Barbican in London. On October 31, the British protestor barged onto the stage to unleash his wrath upon the artist for his support of the “tyranny” of President Vladmir Putin.
Just moments after the orchestra began to assemble on the stage, prior to Gergiev’s entrance, a tuxedo-clad Tatchell made way onto stage, initially causing members of the audience to believe that he was a spokesperson for Barbican, preparing to make an announcement.
Instead, Tatchell informed the concert audience of a different matter:
“Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally, and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladmir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.”
According to the Moscow Times, Gergiev’s name does in fact appear on the list of celebrity supporters of President Putin, and website Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise revealed that during the run up to the last Russian election, the artist publicly voiced support for Putin.
Following his speech, Tatchell was reportedly manhandled off the stage, before voluntarily leaving the concert hall; the human rights activist garnered much applause in the process.
“The protest was intended to send a message to Gergiev, Putin and all his apologists that homophobia and state repression are unacceptable—and that we’ll keep protesting until the abuses stop,” Tatchell told 429Magazine. “It is also important that we show solidarity and boost the morale of LGBT Russians; to let them know that they are not alone.”
The British activist wasn’t afraid to admit that this wasn’t the last that Gergiev and the Barbican would be hearing from him.
“It would have been very wrong to allow Gergiev to perform unchallenged. That would have sent the wrong signal. We have another protest planned for Thursday 7 November, when Gergiev conducts again at the Barbican concert hall.”