MP steps in to get Ukrainian violinist to concert with Islington orchestra

Emily Thornberry MP, Valeriy Sokolov, caseworker Katherine Males

Emily Thornberry MP, Valeriy Sokolov, caseworker Katherine Males - Credit: Emily Thornberry

A renowned Ukrainian violinist joined an Islington-based orchestra on stage after a last-minute intervention to secure a visa. 

Valeriy Sokolov performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Islington-based Aurora Orchestra on June 24 at the Royal Festival Hall. 

The artistic director of the Lviv International Symphony Orchestra watched in horror as his own home city of Kharkiv came under heavy bombardment during the Russian invasion.

The 35-year-old has used his international appearances to promote solidarity with the Ukrainian people. 

He was due to perform with Aurora on June 9 but his visa application was caught in Home Office backlogs.

John Harte, chief executive of Aurora Orchestra, asked for help from Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and after she contacted the Home Office, a visa was issued in time for June 24.

Ms Thornberry said: “It was such a joy to see Valeriy share his wonderful talent with a live audience here in London, and such a pleasure to support the fantastic Aurora Orchestra, who add so much to the cultural life of our borough and our city.

“Every day in my constituency office, we deal with dozens of pleas for help from people tangled up in Home Office bureaucracy and delays, and we do whatever we can to help. It is a constant struggle, but it is always worth it when we can get results like the one with Valeriy’s visa.”

Mr Sokolov left his native country aged 14 to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, and later enrolled at the Royal College of Music in Kensington.

Most Read

In an interview with Nicholas Collon, Aurora Orchestra principal conductor, Valeriy said: “The situation in Ukraine is so overwhelming and the scale of events is enormous so there’s not much than an individual can do apart from trying to find performance opportunities for my fleeing colleagues, as well help the younger generation of Ukrainian musicians.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “In response to Putin’s barbaric invasion, we launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history. This streamlined system is seeing applications processed as quickly as they come in.

“As of June 28, over 142,500 visas have been issued to Ukrainians. These give them access to healthcare and allow them to seek employment, and support such as benefits – including universal credit – from the point of arrival.”