Church organises ‘From Russia with Love’ music concert in Novichok-hit Salisbury


A church in the city still dealing with the aftermath of Novichok poisoning is set to host a concert entitled ‘From Russia With Love’.

Organisers have defended their decision to carry on with the show, but have said they were ‘not best pleased’ with the poster design which has been displayed in Salisbury.

This comes as cathedral city has launched a bold plan to ‘rebrand’ itself by appointing a consultancy firm also hired by Chelsea Football Club. Senior figures in Salisbury, say they need to invest in repairing the beautiful city’s image, admitting it is now world-renowned for the wrong reasons and has suffered a worrying drop in visitors.

The new show, named after the classic James Bond tale about a secret Russian crime organisation, has been promoted throughout the city by posters emblazoned with Russia’s flag and a big love heart.

The show will take place on October 12, in St Martins Church in Salisbury, which is less than two miles from the home of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and not far from the bench where he and his daughter Yulia collapsed in March.

The concert will feature classical music from Russian composers, which pianists will perform.

A poster was displayed in a car park just metres from Salisbury Cathedral – the spire of which suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov admired, while denying any involvement in the attack.

During a television interview they instead claimed they were tourists. 

Gill Bolton, one of the organisers and performers, said she was ‘not best pleased’ with the poster design, admitting it was a bit ‘off putting’ but that no-one had complained.

She said the programme of concerts for the forthcoming season was planned about a year in advance and was not in response to recent events, adding: ‘It’s not really anything to do with the Skripals and that sort of thing.’

The design was created by someone who did not live in the area, but who took inspiration from the James Bond story of the same name, she said.

Mrs Bolton also added that the music was mainly composed in the 19th century and ‘well before any conflict’.

Pianists will perform the work of composers including Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

She added: ‘It’s a pity we chose that title.

‘The music itself has nothing to do with it [the current events]. It’s quite upbeat.

‘I hope people have looked beyond the title and instead look at the programme of music.’

Mrs Bolton said it had been ‘very tough’ in Salisbury in the last few months, adding: ‘I just think it’s very sad. It’s a shame for the city.’

In the original Ian Fleming novel, a wing of the Soviet military is tasked with assassinating western spies.

This particular theme was picked because Russian music was ‘really quite good’ and organisers hoped the choice of pieces from well-known ballets would appeal to a wide audience.

After former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on March 4, footfall in Salisbury plummeted by 20 per cent. 

The top brand agency Heavenly – whose strategy arm is led by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s wife – today revealed it could not yet put a timescale on the length of the project to repair the PR damage. 

Typical tourist hotspots including Salisbury Cathedral and its famous 123-metre spire, The Salisbury Museum and the Playhouse theatre have all reported a decline in numbers.

Councillor Pauline Church, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for economic development and Salisbury recovery, confessed ‘Salisbury is now world-renowned and perhaps not for the reason we would want it to be’. 

The chief executive of official tourist board Visit Wiltshire refused to reveal how much it cost to hire Heavenly, which boasts a number of high profile clients including Russian-owned Chelsea FC. 

UK authorities believe two Russians, using the aliases Petrov and Boshirov, smeared the highly toxic chemical on the door handle of Mr Skripal’s home, leaving the pair critically ill.

Dawn Sturgess was three months later exposed to the same nerve agent in Amesbury and died.

On Thursday, US authorities charged seven Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the organisation investigating the poisoning.

Earlier in the day British and Dutch officials revealed they thwarted an attempt by the Russian military intelligence service GRU to hack the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.


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