Saturday, January 06, 2007

Composer's gay Orkney wedding derailed

Today's Scotsman reports - Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (left), the Master of the Queen's Music, is considering legal action after he was banned from having a "gay wedding" on the Orkney island of Sanday. The celebrated composer, who has lived on the island for the past nine years, had planned to have a civil ceremony performed by his neighbour, Charlie Ridley, the registrar for the island, but has been forbidden by Orkney Islands Council.

Sir Peter, 72, and his partner of six years, Colin Parkinson, 52, a builder, had planned to tie the knot at the Sanday Light Railway, a tourist attraction built by Mr Ridley, 47, over seven years in the garden of his croft. They hoped to arrive by train, driven by Mr Ridley, who would then perform the ceremony. The composer, who officially opened the railway in August, was even composing a piece called Sanday Railway for the ceremony, which was expected to draw guests across the world of classical and pop music.

But when Mr Ridley applied for permission to perform the civil ceremony, he was told that only the registrar based at Kirkwall was authorised to carry out a civil partnership. This would force Sir Peter and his guests to travel 90 minutes by boat to the Orkney mainland. In the same letter Mr Ridley was told he now had to comply with public entertainment licensing regulations for his railway, which would cost £5,000 a year. As a result Mr Ridley, who spent £50,000 building the railway, has started to tear it down and insisted he would abandon the island.

Sir Peter, acknowledged as one of the foremost modern composers - and whose works, ironically, include An Orkney Wedding (below) - said he and his partner still wanted to marry on Sanday with Mr Ridley performing the ceremony. He said: "I am taking legal advice. We are under the impression that a local registrar can conduct civil ceremonies. Everybody can get married where they live except me, it seems. It would not have the same meaning to get married elsewhere, but I will not give the council the pleasure of me marrying in Kirkwall. We will do it elsewhere in the UK if we cannot do it on Sanday." He continued: "Everybody on the island is in a terrible state over what has happened to Charlie. If he leaves we will lose our main tourist attraction. Why has it taken the council seven years to throw these bills at Charlie?"

Meanwhile, Mr Ridley accused the council of anti-gay "discrimination" and said he was still determined to wed the pair on Sanday. "In the same letter they linked the need for a public entertainments licence even though I have never charged a penny for the railway. I cannot afford the £5,000 a year and all the other administration and regulations involved. So I have closed the railway and I am leaving. But not before I marry Peter and Colin here."

Orkney Islands Council (OIC) said that in common with all the other home-based registrars in its registration district, the Sanday registrar is not authorised to carry out civil partnership ceremonies. "The OIC has taken the decision, in line with guidance from the Registrar General, that the only registrar authorised to carry out civil partnership ceremonies is at Kirkwall Registration Office. OIC will be discussing this situation with all those concerned to find an acceptable solution."


From today's Scotsman - now listen to Max's Orkney Wedding.

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2 comments:

sfmike said...

Davies is going to have a (disputed) gay "Orkney Wedding?" Wow. Please keep us informed on the fallout.

Pliable said...

Mike, I sincerely hope there is not going to be any fallout from Max's Orkney Wedding.

Max wrote both Farewell to Stromness and Yesnaby Ground as a successful protest aginst a proposed uranium mine in the Orkneys!