Cul­ture shock

Brexit threat to Fes­ti­val and Celtic Con­nec­tions

Sunday Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW WHI­TAKER

RATHER than “Bath­gate no more” and “Lin­wood no more” we could soon be singing “Fringe no more” and “Celtic Con­nec­tions no more”. The Pro­claimers – famed for their an­them Let­ter From Amer­ica – are among a host of Scot­tish mu­sic stars who are warn­ing that Brexit risks dev­as­tat­ing Scot­tish cul­ture. A new cam­paign by the Mu­si­cians’ Union is warn­ing that Brexit that will usher an era “dis­as­trous” de­cline for Scot­land’s flag­ship cul­tural fes­ti­vals. Pop­u­lar vents such as Glas­gow’s Celtic con­nec­tions and the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val face be­ing dev­as­tated by re­stric­tions on Euro­pean mu­si­cians vis­it­ing the UK af­ter Brexit, cam­paign­ers say. There are also con­cerns that the ca­reers of Scot­tish mu­si­cians will be da­m­aged by the lim­its put on them in terms of work­ing across con­ti­nen­tal Europe. Craig and Char­lie Reid of The Pro­claimers are among the artists who have sign­ing up to the cam­paign, along with Dea­con Blue front­man Ricky Ross, Pat Kane of Hue and Cry, Rod Jones of Scot­tish in­die band Idlewild and singer-song­writer Rab Noakes. Speak­ing to the Sun­day Her­ald, the Lei­th­born twins said that Brexit “will make work­ing across Europe much more dif­fi­cult and limit the chances for bands start­ing out to do their first gigs on the con­ti­nent. It also sends out com­pletely the wrong mes­sage to mu­si­cians from Europe who make a liv­ing in Scot­land. We both voted to stay in the EU and its be­com­ing clear that Brexit will be bad for mu­si­cians in Scot­land”.

The Mu­si­cians’ Union (MU) is al­ready or­gan­is­ing a pe­ti­tion for free move­ment for mu­si­cians post-Brexit. MPs and UK party con­fer­ence have also been tar­geted by the MU.

The MU says: “Be­ing able to tour and travel to work is vi­tal to many mu­si­cians’ ca­reers – and be­fore the EU gave us free move­ment in its mem­ber states, trav­el­ling in Europe was tough, ex­pen­sive, heavy on the ad­min, and time-con­sum­ing.”

Ricky Ross, the lead singer of Dea­con Blue has also signed up to the cam­paign ahead of the Holy­rood de­bate. Pat Kane is also among the sig­na­to­ries. He said “Mu­si­cians are free spir­its, or should be. And when it comes to be­ing in­spired by mu­sic or mu­si­cians, we pre­sume no bound­aries or borders. The prospect of Brexit lim­it­ing the move­ment of mu­si­cians across Europe is dread­ful – we must find a ex­emp­tion to this, for both artis­tic and com­mer­cial rea­sons.”

Rod Jones, Idlewild guitarist and song­writer, said: “Free­dom of move­ment for artists in Europe is more im­por­tant than ever.

“With live rev­enue mak­ing up the main share of most mu­si­cians’ in­come any re­stric­tion on tour­ing and ad­di­tional costs such as visas will hit artists hard. Mu­sic is about shar­ing ideas with peo­ple and adding more borders and bar­ri­ers will only make this more dif­fi­cult.”

Singer-song­writer Rab Noakes said: “On be­half of mu­si­cians I am ap­palled at the neg­a­tive prospect of the re­sult­ing forth­com­ing dif­fi­cul­ties re­gard­ing tour­ing, sell­ing records and cre­ative in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions.

“There is no clar­ity re­gard­ing such things as cross-bor­der con­di­tions, visas and work per­mits. In fact, there seems to be not an iota of thought given to such em­ploy­ment or trade and cer­tainly no re­gard for ex­ist­ing cul­tural ad­van­tages. It is ab­so­lute mad­ness, and ab­so­lutely mad­den­ing.”

A UK Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “Bri­tain has a world-lead­ing mu­sic in­dus­try and we want mu­sic in all its forms to con­tinue to thrive.

“We stand ready to help UK mu­si­cians and the wider in­dus­try max­imise the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by Brexit.The Gov­ern­ment is build­ing a truly global, open and out­ward-fac­ing Bri­tain. Af­ter we leave the EU we will have an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem which works in the best in­ter­ests of the UK.”

Prom­i­nent Scot­tish mu­sic stars such as The Pro­claimers, left, and Pat Kane of Hue and Cry, far left, have ex­pressed fears for the fu­ture of Scot­tish fes­ti­vals due to Brexit

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