In the weeks around our ÉMIGRÉ concert series, we’ve been collecting stories on the theme. While our concerts explore the journeys composers and musicians have made across the world, this blog series, ÉMIGRÉ STORIES, focuses on the journeys made by the individuals that join together to make City of London Sinfonia.
Our fourth émigré is violinist Vladimir Naumov, who has been playing regularly with CLS for almost 15 years! Moving to the UK from Russia as a teen to fulfil his ambition to study at the Royal College of Music, he talks about the difficulties of integrating into an entirely new city and the transition to calling Britain ‘home’.
I came over to Britain from my native Russia in September 1994, aged 19. Initially, my goal was to study for a year at the Royal College of Music as a postgraduate student, with a possibility of extending it by another year. It has to be said that this was not an official exchange scheme, and I therefore did not have any financial backing by the Russian (or British) authorities. All I had was a 50% “discount” kindly offered to me by the RCM towards my tuition fees, the rest I had to raise myself which I eventually somehow succeeded in doing. In other words, I arrived in London completely penniless, with hardly any knowledge of the English language, no friends to turn to and virtually nothing to show for it but sheer enthusiasm. I guess, this is a typical story of an émigré in a big foreign city.
Gradually, things started to improve: after a while my colleagues started noticing me as a player, and I no longer had to go busking in order to support myself. The prospect of going back to Russia did not appeal to me, so I started looking into various possibilities of obtaining some sort of residency in the UK. Eventually I was granted the Work Permit by the Home Office – you are a complete “non-entity” without it! Soon after I auditioned for some extra work with City of London Sinfonia and, in January 2001, took part in my first ever concert with this wonderful orchestra.
Now, having spent over 20 years living in London, I can safely say that it feels very much like home to me practically in every department. I still go back to Russia quite regularly to see my mum, I do occasionally watch the Russian TV and read some Russian papers. But it is definitely Britain that I now firmly associate myself with and, although I am not a British citizen, this does not stop me from calling Britain my home.