Brexit poses a real threat to our fes­ti­vals

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION -

✒ 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

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