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Monday, 9 January 2012

Suspension of 4 London Philharmonic Players to be Challenged Legally

Those Who Support the 'Freedom' of The IPO Become Mute When It Came to the Suspension of 4 Musicians for Exercising Freedom of Speech

Some of you will remember the disruption that was caused by Palestine solidarity activists to the performance of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on September 1st last. The blog of the ultra-reactionary Norman Geras reports, though it is subsequently denied, that the IPO is unlikely to visit these shores again so upset were they by people protesting against the atrocities that many of them individually take part in as willing soldiers in the IOF.

Whilst this is an important victory for the Boycott campaign we should not forget the 4 London Philharmonic Orchestra players who were suspended for 9 months (later reduced to 6) for the temerity of criticising the invitation to the IPO. On this blatant attack on artists freedom of speech we hear nothing from the mealy mouthed ‘cultural’ defenders of ‘freedom to oppress’. The deprivation of their livelihood for 6 months for expressing their views in a letter to the Guardian has gone almost unremarked. Meanwhile the report below suggests that there is going to be a legal challenge in an Employment Tribunal against the suspensions.

Tony Greenstein

The first legal challenge to the suspension of four players by the London Philharmonic has apparently been instigated by violinist Sarah Streatfeild.

Streatfeild, along with three of her colleagues, Tom Eisner, Nancy Elan and Sue Sutherley, were all signatories to a published letter protesting the invitation of the Israel Philharmonic to the 2011 Proms. All four players named the LPO as their employer in the letter. The orchestra suspended the players for nine months, initially on the spurious grounds that for the LPO 'music and politics do not mix.' But chief executive Timothy Walker later admitted that the decision had been made as a direct result of pressure from individual donors, whose continuing favour presumably over-ruled any thoughts of loyalty to the orchestra's players at board level.
Sensing hostility to the decision from a significant proportion of its audience, the orchestra reduced the suspensions from nine months to six. Then, with gagging orders placed on the four players, and the orchestra's management hoping the incident would be forgotten, everything went quiet.

But an email I received this week suggests that at least one of the players plans to challenge the suspension in court. The message was from an anonymous source who claims to have connections with the legal world. He or she had heard that Sarah Streatfeild has hired the Bindmans law firm to represent her in an employment tribunal against the orchestra. The email also suggested that demands would include a full public apology and compensation for loss of earnings.

No doubt the orchestra took legal advice at the time of the suspensions, and Timothy Walker appeared confident in the legality of the move. Nevertheless, they will find Geoffrey Bindman a formidable opponent. He and his firm have an impressive track record, with clients ranging from Amnesty International to Private Eye. Geoffrey Bindman has already expressed his personal support for the players. A letter in their defence appeared in the Telegraph on 22 September 2011, and he was among its 117 signatories.

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