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Virtuoso American organist blasts UK border officials after being detained and deported just hours before a show

  • @PMGallagher1

A Grammy-nominated classical musician has raged against UK immigration officials who he said detained him for seven hours at Birmingham airport and deported him before finally allowing him back into the country the following day to perform.

Flamboyant American organist Cameron Carpenter said he was also questioned and fingerprinted by Border Force officials and kept in a short-term holding facility run by Tascor, the private security firm he described as “the creepy, vague, Orwellian detention subcontractor [HM Border Force] use to keep people awake in brightly lit rooms filled with tearstained children’s toys and assorted religious texts".

Having arrived from Berlin at 10.30pm on Monday for the latest leg of a 31-date global tour, Mr Carpenter says he was escorted onto the next flight back to Germany at 7am the following morning by armed police.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Carpenter said: “HM Immigration in Birmingham were totally unaware of the laws governing Permitted Paid Engagement - the three words artists entering the UK really need to know (in addition to Only Go Heathrow).”

Thanking the International Artist Managers’ Association who advised him on his rights, Mr Carpenter showered and returned to England only to be detained again for a brief period and arrived just in time to play at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on Wednesday, 19 March.

He said: “Finally the supervisor realized that I had the right to enter. Which I did, and I'm here in Birmingham, about 26 hours later. I’ve missed 66 per cent of my practice time, which isn’t fair to the audience, but I will appear.”

A keyboard child prodigy, Mr Carpenter signed a lucrative recording contract with Sony last year. He was in the UK with his International Touring Organ, which his website describes as “a monumental digital organ of his own design”. He is in England for another week and will play at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 29 March.

Keeping with his image as “the bad boy of the organ world” Mr Carpenter posted a picture online giving two fingers to his deportation notice. He said: “I got your majesty’s service right here, pal.”

Writing after the concert, Mr Carpenter said: “A huge thanks to Symphony Hall Birmingham for hosting me and hanging on through the uncertainties of the last couple of days - and for the against-the-clock all-day rehearsals today to pull together the recital under adverse circumstances.”

A spokeswoman for Tascor said: “While we do not comment on individual detainees, I can confirm that Tascor does not operate in the capacity of the UK border agency and plays no role whatsoever in the decision to detain particular individuals, in questioning or in fingerprinting.” 

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of Mr Carpenter’s case and are looking into the circumstances.”