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British rapper Kate Tempest cancels Berlin concert

September 20, 2017

The spoken-word artist was scheduled to play at a hangar of the former Berlin airport Tempelhof as part of the new Volksbühne theater's program, but she decided to cancel the show due to "personal threats."

British performer Kate Tempest
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot/R. Pope

British poet Kate Tempest was to perform accompanied by a choir and an orchestra in a hangar of Berlin's former airport, Tempelhof, on October 6, but her management has cancelled the event, citing "personal threats," said the Volksbühne concert organizers on Wednesday.

Tempest has received threats via email and social media, "and this is not a conducive environment in which to present our concert," said Tempest's London-based management in a statement.

As part of the 1,220 signatories of a 2015 letter by the network "Artists for Palestine UK," Tempest is among the artists associated with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is opposed to international support for Israel and shows solidarity with Palestinians.

Read more: Anti-Israel musicians boycott Berlin music festival

A setback for the new Volksbühne

"I very much regret that Kate Tempest decided not to perform in Berlin. That is a huge disappointment for us and the many patrons who were looking forward to the concert," Volksbühne director Chris Dercon said.

Read more: Chris Dercon says he's not staging plays for the fan club

"While I can understand her unease in this situation, I wish that the artist would have opened up a dialogue with the audience. That's why we make art," he added.

Chris Dercon
Volksbühne director Chris Dercon is disappointed that the Tempest show will not go onImage: picture alliance/dpa/J.Kalaene

The cancellation is a major setback in Dercon's first season's program of the leftist Volksbühne theater, as Tempest's act was one of the highlights.

Dercon has received his own set of threats since his appointment to lead the theater. The Volksbühne has been characterized for decades by the signature productions of the theater's former director, Frank Castorf.

Read more:  Curtain comes down on Frank Castorf's era at the Volksbühne

Now Dercon, who previously directed London's Tate Modern, aims to establish a new profile for the Volksbühne, as an international art platform going beyond theater and including dance, performance and experimental acts.

Read more: New Berlin theater director Chris Dercon responds to poo protests with dance 

BDS movement controversy hit Berlin's mayor

At the end of August, the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that Berlin's Mayor Michael Müller could be included on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of the "top 10 worst cases of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity in 2017," because the mayor has not taken a clear position against the BDS movement.

Berlin's funding of the Volksbühne – and Kate Tempest's concert – was one of the elements the Jerusalem Post mentioned to illustrate how "Berlin's mayor has failed to crackdown on a rising BDS movement in the city."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center ultimately did not include Müller on its list.

Tickets to the Kate Tempest concert can be exchanged for a refund until October 20.

eg/als (dpa, epd)