Brexit poses a real threat to our festivals
✒ I WAS delighted to see Alex Chalk volunteering yesterday at the Summer Fiesta in Montpellier Gardens, and I hope he enjoyed the vast array of local talent, including me trying my best to look like a dancing cat.
I also hope he had time to wander down to Imperial Gardens to the second day of the Cheltenham Music Festival, where the free stage featured a string of outstanding musicians.
Cheltenham is a town internationally renowned for its festivals, and not least its three music festivals.
The UK produces world class musicians, but many of them achieve excellence by studying and working throughout Europe, perfecting their technique and musicianship alongside the best that Europe also has to offer.
Brexit threatens to undermine all of this; losing freedom of movement for musicians, whatever their genre, severely reduces their opportunities to work and study across the nations of the EU, with its wealth of musical and cultural traditions, while also making it much more difficult for European musicians to come to the UK to work and perform.
Young musicians have already lost the opportunity to participate in EU wide schemes, such as the European Union Youth Orchestra, founded in Britain in 1976 to ‘represent the European ideal of a community working together to achieve peace and social understanding’ but which moved from the UK to Italy in 2018 as a result of Brexit. Such developments are not only a tragic loss for our cultural life; there are likely to be significant economic consequences too.
A letter to Theresa May in 2018, coordinated by Bob Geldof and signed by an array of eminent musicians including Howard Goodall and Ed Sheeran, claims that ‘Britain’s departure from the EU threatens the “vast voice” of the cultural industry, which is
worth an estimated £4.4 billion a year.’
A more recent article on Pitchfork describes the possible administrative nightmare of being outside the EU for touring groups, fearing that they will face the need to acquire ‘individual visas to enter each EU country, and the introduction of the carnet, a document detailing every single piece of equipment on deck, to prevent the import or export of products without paying VAT.’ All of course, pushing up costs.
Not good for musicians, and probably not at all good for the future health of Cheltenham’s much cherished music festivals.
So come on Alex – do the right thing, support a People’s Vote, or at the very least fight to keep us in the Single market as well as the Customs Union, and give us a chance to keep the doors open to protect our stellar music industry, and the music that it brings us, which, to quote Plato, ‘gives a soul to the universe.’
Julie Farmer Cheltenham