edinburgh fringe brexit visa 2020

Director of Edinburgh Fringe Festivals Voices Concern Over Post-Brexit Immigration Plan

Historically, free movement and art have been two concepts that go hand in hand. European artists and performers have spent the last century leaping between cultural hubs – Paris, Berlin, Milan, London – to create and perform, learn new techniques, and meet like-minded creatives.

This sense of mobility has made space for some of the most innovative, poignant and important collaborations and results in the history of art, music, and theatre.  

Since its inception, the Edinburgh Fringe festivals have witnessed the products of some of these collaborations first-hand, with more than 8,000 artists flocking to the Scottish city every year to perform theatre, dance, and comedy. This feat has obvious cultural benefits for the UK, but this is not the only reason for which to praise or preserve it; annually, the festivals generate approximately £300m for the economy.

Interpretive dancer, Edinburgh Fringe, 2019
[Image, Janeanne Gilchrist, Edinburgh.org]

Now, with free movement set to end, the Director of the festivals has raised concerns over the future of the Fringe; suggesting that post-Brexit immigration plans are set to make it harder for European artists to travel to the UK to get there.

European artists and performers have spent the last century leaping between cultural hubs […] to create and perform, learn new techniques, and meet like-minded creatives.

Julie Armour, who sits at the helm of the umbrella organisation for Edinburgh’s major festivals, voiced her concerns ahead of a summit which is taking place today, in which Government and arts representatives will examine the issue of visas for international festivals.

“Edinburgh’s festivals were born with an international spirit at our heart,” Armour said. “So along with festival colleagues across the country we’re increasingly concerned that the complexity of visa rules can deter artists and we’re determined to protect the free flow of ideas at a time when people and countries need to be even more globally engaged with each other.”

Street mime artist, Edinburgh Fringe, 2014
[Image: Scotland Now]

The Government’s post-Brexit immigration plan, which was released last week, has caused several industries to raise concerns, including the care and construction sectors, who argue that it will result in a severe skills shortage. Now, members of the arts and culture sectors have added their voices to those calling for fast solutions.

“Edinburgh’s festivals were born with an international spirit at our heart…”

Julie Armour, Director of Ediniburgh Fesitvals

As well as Armour, the culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, has voiced fears that the proposed points-based-system will make the problems faced by international artists trying to take on temporary work placements in the UK even worse.

“Festivals across Scotland and the UK already face significant challenges when it comes to the mobility of artists and performers,” Hyslop argued, in a letter, she wrote to home secretary Priti Patel following the immigration announcement.

Street theatre performers, Edinburgh Fringe, 2018
[Image: Pixabay, used in STV News]

Members and representatives of the UK’s culture sector want the current Permitted Paid Engagement Visa route, which allows individuals to visit the UK for a temporary period if they have been invited to perform a specific role, to be expanded. They argue that the leave it grants for holders should be extended by a month, which would make it easier for artists, creatives, and performers to come to the UK for extended periods.

…annually, the festivals generate approximately £300m for the economy.

The sector also argues that a Permit Free Festivals Scheme would be hugely beneficial, to encourage European artists and performers, in particular, to still consider bring their talent and tourism to the UK once they are subject visa restrictions (and fees).

Backbonetheatre company, Underbelly Bristo Square, 2019
[Image: Jolene Campbell, Scotsman]

Whatever Johnson’s cabinet decides to do, they must bear in mind that the UK’s arts sector is not only of a huge economic benefit to the country but also a huge cultural one. It would be a genuine shame to lose out on the easy exchange of artistic talent and ideas; this has historically bought so much to our country and its movements already.  

[Header image: Edfringe.com]
Written by
Luna Williams