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Times Colonist

Island musician Allison Crowe and bandmates deported from U.K.


Vancouver Island musician Allison Crowe.

Photograph by: Billie Woods, Times Colonist

Victoria, B.C. - Vancouver Island based musician Allison Crowe and two of her bandmates were deported from London’s Gatwick airport this morning to Toronto after being held and interrogated Tuesday upon arrival, said their manager Adrian du Plessis from his home on Saltspring Island.

Crowe, 27, guitarist Billie Woods and drummer Laurent Boucher – both from Saltspring Island – had their passports confiscated when they arrived in the U.K. Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

A fourth band member, bassist Dave Baird from Nanaimo, was allowed to enter the country because he has dual British and Canadian citizenship.

Crowe told the Telegraph newspaper they were shut in a room for six hours and threatened she’d never perform in Europe again once her passport was stamped by the UK Border Authority as “barred from entry.”

“They weren’t allowed to contact anyone,” said du Plessis. “I was getting worried.”

The group was targeted because they had not obtained a Certificate of Sponsorship from the venues they were scheduled to play. The new visa requirement was brought in November 27, 2008 to fight illegal immigration and terrorism.

The band was about to embark on a month-long European tour of small venues. Crowe is an up-and-coming roots and soul singer, who has performed several times in the U.K.

Neither of the venues Crowe was scheduled to play knew about the new legislation and had not had difficulties with other international artists in recent months.

“We said ‘Tell us what to do and we’ll do it,’” but it’s not like we could just fill out a form,” said du Plessis. The new legislation requires the venue to obtain a certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office, which can cost hundreds of pounds. “That’s no problem for the big mainstream acts but it prevents independent musicians from playing smaller gigs – it’s hard enough to find a piano.”

Du Plessis has discovered a movement of European artists fighting against the legislation, led by British sculptor Antony Gormley. They say the new set of rules restricts artistic freedom and culture. Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov cancelled an April performance at the Southbank Centre in London because he didn’t have the visa documents.

Crowe and her bandmates will fly from Toronto to Frankfurt to complete the rest of their tour.

German officials said they would welcome Crowe upon arrival, without the sponsor documents.

“They thought it was ridiculous to not welcome visiting musicians with open arms,” said du Plessis, who plans to continue to lobby to have musicians perform on British soil without the new sponsorship documents. “I have a feeling this issue is only going to grow.”

For up-to-date information, visit: www.allisoncrowe.com


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