Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Readers of the UK’s mass-circulation, Brexit-supporting newspapers have been spared the grim details of the reality facing hundreds of thousands of musicians, actors and artists who have lost the prospect of employment across the European Union.

A handful of paragraphs on an inside page – or a dismissive, jokey headline – gloss over the government’s catastrophic failure to negotiate a deal to facilitate future European tours by bands, orchestras, theatrical groups, and the rest of the artistic community.

The Guardian and the London Evening Standard are two newspapers campaigning on behalf of artists and cultural workers who now face layers of bureaucracy and visa costs.

At a hearing of the culture select committee, MPs accused the government of having abandoned the cultural industry to ‘endure a no-deal Brexit’ that had led, for example, to a bill for £600 in visa-related costs for a British pianist due to perform a concert in Spain.

When challenged, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports minister, Caroline Dinenage, admitted there are currently no negotiations with individual EU states over entry requirements, visas and work permits for artists, musicians, and technical crew.

‘Brexit rules are thwarting the next generation of British stars’ was the heart-felt warning from Elton John (The Guardian, 8.2.2021) who urged the music industry to establish a support organisation to help new and emerging artists to tour Europe and broaden and build their audiences.

Except for a few paragraphs on an inside page, the tabloids have ignored the artists’ plight and the Daily Telegraph’s contribution – ‘Musicians have created a Brexit storm in a teacup’ – summed up the dismissive response of the Brexit press.

In his Telegraph column, The Arts Agenda (21.1.2021), Neil McCormick, downplayed the impact of bureaucratic hurdles and visa fees arguing that the consensus among those who organised concerts was that ‘as long as European audiences want to see British musicians, promoters will find a way to keep the show on the road’.

In a letter from the performing arts union Equity, some of the biggest names in British theatre implored the government to return to the negotiating table to ensure visa-free work in the EU for artists, actors, and theatre workers.

Next day the National Theatre announced that because of Brexit it had been forced to shelve plans to tour Europe – an opportunity for a snide headline over a seven-paragraph snippet that at least revealed a knowledge of William Shakespeare.

‘Luvvies’ labours lost as European tours shelved’. (Daily Mail, 18.2.2021)