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LPO violinist in discrimination claim

16 January 2012

A violinist suspended by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) for calling on the Proms to cancel a visit by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is claiming discrimination on the grounds of belief at an employment tribunal.

Sarah Streatfield, who had played for the LPO for 25 years, was suspended for six months without pay in September last year after she signed a joint letter to The Independent.

The letter was signed by 24 musicians, including two other violinists and a cellist at the LPO, two violinists at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a violinist at the Chillingrian quartet.

In the letter, the musicians said they were “dismayed” that the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra had been invited to the Proms. They said the orchestra had a “deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed ‘partnership’ with the Israeli Defence Forces.

“This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians of travelling abroad to perform.”

The letter went on to accuse Israel of deliberately using as the arts as “propaganda” to promote a misleading image of itself, before calling on the BBC to cancel the concert. The BBC later suspended live transmission of the concert after disruption by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Shazia Khan, employment solicitor at Bindmans, represents Sarah Streatfield. “Making a stand about the invitation to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was a question of conscience for my client,” Khan said.

“Mrs Streatfield is devastated that her career and livelihood was stopped by the LPO and in such an abrupt and public manner immediately after she expressed her beliefs.

“Notwithstanding this she is disappointed she has had to issue legal proceedings and invites the LPO to engage with her in an attempt to resolve the dispute outside the court arena.”

A spokeswoman for the LPO said the orchestra was not commenting on the case.

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