Conchita Wurst withdraws from Edinburgh International Festival after Syrian bandmates denied visas

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In 2014 she rose like a phoenix and ended Austria’s 48-year wait for their second Eurovision win.

But apparently not even Conchita Wurst can overcome the red tape and barriers put up by UK immigration authorities, who have prevented her Syrian bandmates from entering the country tonight for a planned performance at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

As The Scotsman newspaper reports, Conchita and her band Basalt were due to perform as part of New Europe Songbook, a set of concerts that highlight links between “established European artists like Conchita Wurst and…artists recently arrived in the continent.”

But the UK Home Office has denied each of their visas. Conchita has decided to stand in solidarity with her friends and colleagues and has withdrawn from the show.

She expressed her dismay on Facebook.

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 organizing the Festival a great evening. We’re with you in our hearts!

The news comes as The United Kingdom continues to negotiate its exit from the European Union, and will no doubt heighten perceptions that the UK is moving toward isolation and away from integration.

Each of the band members have lived in Austria for at least two years.

A source close to the band elaborated on Conchita’s position with The Scotsman. 

“This project is about co-operation, about people who start new lives in a new country. If Basalt cannot be there it would feel completely absurd for Conchita to fly without them.”

Festival director Fergus Linehan said the cancellation was completely counter to the ethos of the event.

“The point of this event was its symbolism. This feels awful. This is a very specific project to show the detail of people arriving in our cities, enriching our cultural life and being welcomed here. This is more than just ‘the bass player in the band didn’t get in’. It feels particularly painful because of the symbolism of the concert.”

However, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Conchita and Basalt performing together at next year’s event.

“We have had to give up for this concert, but we are not going to lie down on this. If it doesn’t come to pass this August, we will invite them to the 2018 festival. We are not going to give up.”

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