Irish musician praised over withdrawal from Russian music festival over homosexuality laws

Monday 26 August 2013 20.35
Keith Pascoe said it was a personal decision taken after a lengthy discussion with his colleagues
Keith Pascoe said it was a personal decision taken after a lengthy discussion with his colleagues

Gay rights group, Action on Russia, has commended musician Keith Pascoe for his decision to withdraw from a musical festival in Russia over the country's new laws on homosexuality.

Russia's parliament unanimously passed a federal law banning gay "propaganda" in June.

Mr Pascoe leads the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, which played at the inaugural Irish Russian Chamber Music Festival last year.

He said: "I have decided not to join my colleagues in the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet on a trip to Moscow in December."

He said it was a personal decision taken after a lengthy discussion with his colleagues. 

Mr Pascoe said: "We felt it best to maintain the great links we have with the Russian-Irish festival over there and so I persuaded my colleagues to ask another violinist to replace me for the visit.

"Being gay myself I felt this the best way to highlight the pernicious laws that are in force now: a licence for homophobic bullying in schools and a green light to gaybashers all over Russia.

"I think many musicians will sooner or later realise what serious consequences these laws will have on Russians and on the safety of visiting LGBT people, whether musicians or not."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Action on Russia's Max Kryzhanovskiy described the new law as a "green light" for violence and homophobia in Russia.

He said he welcomed Mr Pascoe's decision to take a public stand on the issue.

Mr Kryzhanovskiy said: "I think it is an incredibly principled and brave decision and he is absolutely spot on in saying that this is a green light for violence and homophobia.

"We have seen an extraordinary epidemic of videos on YouTube, of gangs of thugs, neo Nazi youths setting up false dates with young gay men and videoing them being beaten, humiliated or kidnapped."

RTÉ said: "The Vanbrugh Quartet are an independent group with whom RTÉ has contractual arrangements.

"However, they also accept bookings in an independent capacity and the original agreement to perform at this festival is one such arrangement.

"It was never an arrangement in which RTÉ played any role and as an organisation it is not for us to make a statement on an individual's decision to withdraw."