FOR AN ARTISTIC MOBILITY IN SPITE OF BREXIT
On 1st January 2021, following the 2016 Brexit referendum and the end of the transition period, the freedom of economic movement at the heart of the vibrant European arts sector ended. While some categories of professionals have been exempt from onerous new visa regulations under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, professional artists and musicians appear to have been left out despite urgent calls. More worryingly, it appears that a proposed exemption for 90 days from the cost and burden of work permits which continues to be rejected by the UK government during negotiations. This spells a future that is even less secure and less clear for a sector that is already struggling to survive the COVID-19 crisis.
REMA, the European Early Music Network, deplores this omission and its likely negative consequences on cultural cooperation between UK and EU organisations. The Early Music sector is particularly vulnerable to falling through financial and administrative gaps because of its abundance of small to medium-sized ensembles and many (often young) individual artists. For them, having to deal with the visa requirements may lead to a devastating loss of touring opportunities, a drastic reduction in employment, and a poorer cultural life.
Albert Edelman, REMA’s chair, comments: “For decades, festivals and other concert organisers could book and present EU and UK artists and ensembles without giving it a second thought. Inversely, many British ensembles, counted among the world’s best, have built their artistic identities and success thanks to artists from both sides of the Channel. Now that free movement has come to an end, we can only hope that the increased bureaucracy does not put a sudden stop to these carefully crafted artistic links. We owe it to our audiences and to ourselves to fight to keep artists moving.”
Richard Heason, director of St. John’s Smith Square, London, and a vice-president of REMA, adds: “Almost from its foundation 20 years ago, REMA’s membership has included British organisations, and speaking for the network I express our solidarity with these members, my colleagues, and with the artists and ensembles with which they work, wherever they may be based. REMA will continue to encourage international cooperation in Early Music by keeping the network open to any UK organisation that fits its criteria, by regularly organising events in the UK as before, and by informing our EU-based members about the administrative requirements for hiring UK artists.”
As REMA plans to open to more diverse types of organisations, including ensembles, the network will play its role in strengthening and fostering artistic partnerships. At the same time, REMA calls on the UK government as well as the European Commission to include professional touring artists in the visa exemptions.