Conchita Wurst refuses to perform at Edinburgh’s International Festival after Syrian band Basalt are refused UK visas
According to a story in The Scotsman this morning, Austrian singer Conchita Wurst has canceled tonight’s Edinburgh International Festival appearance after Basalt, the Syrian band she was performing with, were refused visas to Great Britain by UK Visas and Immigration.
Conchita, who lives in Vienna, canceled her appearance for the New European Songbook — an event organized to highlight the importance of collaborations between established European artists and those new to the continent — as she refused to perform without Basalt.
In a statement released later in the day, Conchita said:
Due to the unfortunate fact that my friends Amjad, Noor and Almonther from Basalt were unsuccessful in their visa application to enter the UK, I am not performing at the Edinburgh International Festival tonight.
“We are all very sorry as we were looking forward to being there.
Alternatively, we’re recording a video message here in Austria today and we wish everyone performing, visiting and organising the festival a great evening. We’re with you in our hearts!
The three members of Basalt — Amjad Khaboura, Noor Eli Khoury and Almonther Alshoufi — fled Syria due to the ongoing war, and have lived in Austria for several years where they currently perform as a professional band.
In recent months, they have been working on a musical performance with Conchita that included new music both for the band and for the Austrian singer. It was a performance that was supposed to be heard for the first time tonight during the Edinburgh International Festival.
But, alas, due to the current bigoted political climate in the United Kingdom since the Brexit vote last year, tonight’s performance was not possible.
‘A Small House‘ video
A video of one of the songs that would have been performed tonight by Conchita and Basalt was released yesterday. Watch it below (and do be sure to hit the volume button as, for some reason, Facebook always mutes it).
The song is called ‘A Small House‘ and what is interesting, or ironic if you want to go that route, is that it is a song that is clearly about leaving your country with nothing but what you can carry when circumstances beyond your control force you.
With the hope, of course, that when you get to somewhere safer, you will be welcomed.
You would also hope then that, after fleeing a war, people like the three members of Basalt would be treated by the British government with the dignity and respect they deserve. Especially as they did nothing but ask for the necessary UK visas so they could perform with a fellow musician and for an important Scottish music festival.
Sadly, the bigoted British government does not agree.
Conchita and Basalt release a video message
But, not one to be silenced, or to show anger (even though, I’m guessing, she was probably furious in private) Conchita recorded a short message today for the Edinburgh International Festival along with Basalt. (See below)
In it, Conchita said:
Unfortunately, as you can see, Basalt and I are not able to be with you in Edinburgh.
The members of Basalt went on to say:
We sadly had to stay in Vienna because of an unsuccessful visa application. But we are with you in our hearts. We hope to join you the next time.
As for the chances of Conchita and Basalt performing in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival?
Festival director Fergus Linehan says if they can find another date between now and the end of the festival, and Basalt’s visa situation can be rectified, they will make sure Conchita and Basalt can perform.
That failing, they will make sure the Austrian singer and the Syrian band are invited to next year’s Edinburgh International Festival.
Let’s just hope festival organizers lobby the UK government before then as well as, with Brexit being even closer next year, my guess is the UK, which was always a bigoted country anyway (sorry, but I grew up there and I know that to be true), will be even more so by then.