Troubled (Roger) Waters: Why were Pink Floyd co-founder’s gigs cancelled in Poland?

The gigs were scheduled to take place in April in the Polish city of Krakow as a part of his international tour. AP

No “High Hopes” for Roger Waters. The Pink Floyd co-founder’s concerts in Poland were cancelled over his remarks on the Ukraine war. Live Nation Poland, the concert’s official promoter, confirmed the cancellation but gave no reason for it, according to a report by BBC.

However, some media reports suggest that the shows were cancelled by Roger Waters’ management. “Roger Waters’ manager decided to withdraw … without giving any reason,” said Lukasz Pytko from Tauron Arena in Krakow in comments carried by Polish media outlets, reports The Associated Press.

On Sunday, Waters denied that the shows, which were scheduled to take place in April in the Polish city of Krakow as a part of his international tour, were cancelled by him or his management.

Why were the gigs called off?

The trouble began when Roger Waters published an open letter to Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska on his website on 5 September.

In the letter addressed directly to Olena, he said, “BBC quotes you as saying that ‘If support for Ukraine is strong, the crisis will be shorter.’ Hmmm? I guess that might depend on what you mean by “support for Ukraine”? If by “support for Ukraine” you mean the West continuing to supply arms to the Kyiv government’s armies, I fear you may be tragically mistaken.”

He further accused Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy of not fulfilling his election campaign promises to bring peace to the Donbas region and “extreme nationalism”, urging him to end the war.”One can only assume that your husband’s electoral policies didn’t sit well with certain political factions in Kiev and that those factions persuaded your husband to diametrically change course ignoring the peoples’ mandate,” he added.

In a response to Waters, Olena Zelenska wrote on her Twitter that it was Russia which invaded Ukraine and is now destroying its cities and killing thousands of civilians. She said, “Roger Waters, you should ask for peace from the president of another country.”

Why is Poland irked?

Poland has been supporting Ukraine during this time of crisis. According to United Nations Refugee Agency, close to 1.4 million Ukrainians have registered for temporary protection in neighbouring Poland.

According to BBC, the open letter prompted Lukasz Wantuch, a Krakow city councillor, to urge people to boycott Waters’ concerts.

Councillor Wantuch wrote, “Roger Waters, an open supporter of Putin, wants to play at Tauron Arena in Krakow. On Wednesday we have a session of Cracow City Council and I will be speaking to the President and councillors to block this. Such an event would be a shame for our city. Let him sing in Moscow.”

City councillors have now drafted a resolution to declare Roger Waters a ‘persona non grata’.

How has Roger Waters responded?

The musician is visibly annoyed by the cancellations.

Waters wrote on Facebook, “It is true that a town councillor in Krakow, a Mr ?ukasz Wantuch has threatened to hold a meeting asking the council to declare me ‘Persona non grata’ because of my public efforts to encourage all involved in the disastrous war in Ukraine, especially the governments of the USA and Russia, to work towards a negotiated peace, rather than escalate matters towards a bitter end that could be nuclear war and the end of all life on this planet.”

He went on to say that if Wantuch achieves his aim, it would be “a sad loss for me as well as for Krakow residents”. “His draconian censoring of my work will deny them the opportunity to make up their own minds,” he added.

According to a report by Reuters, Lukasz Wantuch said on Sunday that he was in Ukraine and would comment on Waters’ statement later.

What are the other controversies involving Waters?

In the past, Waters has been in trouble over his remarks. According to a report by The Times of Israel, during a New York City concert in August, protesters outside Madison Square Garden called the musician a “Jew hater” for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

In 2019, he criticised a Live Aid-style concert in the Columbian city of C?cutato to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuela, saying that it is a US-backed effort to tarnish the socialist government.

In 2018, he spoke out against Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro at a concert in the country just before the elections, according to The Guardian.

With inputs from agencies

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