Brexit, the topic that has dominated British news for the last two years, and the topic that we all love AND hate talking about.
With Parliament heating up about trade deals, back stops and the Irish border where does that leave the arts? What does Brexit actually mean for the British culture sector?
Well I wanted to find out.
Just a disclaimer: I voted to REMAIN in the EU, and am passionate about the UK being a part of the bigger European picture. However, this being the case I have tried to make this a balanced blog post, but I’m sorry to say that like with most Brexit topics, it doesn’t look great.
In an article, the British Council asked two arts leaders (one who voted to remain and one who voted to leave) what Brexit meant for the arts sector. Manick Govinda, who is in favour of the UK leaving the EU, said that although he was in the minority within the culture industry to vote leave, it shows that British arts is out of step with the public. With 52% of Brits voting to leave and 96% of art lovers wanting to remain, I can see where he is coming from. Traditionally theatre, art, music etc has been inherently middle class. With most ‘Brexiteer’ voting carried out by disenfranchised and working class groups, it’s no surprise that there is such a drastic difference between the two. So I guess in that sense the arts IS out of step.
However, I don’t see how the arts channelling Brexit vibes will include those who feel very far away from it. Without EU funding theatre companies are going to find it harder to take productions to Llanelli in Wales, or Solihull in Birmingham. With money and funding the backbone to the culture industry how do ‘Brexit Artists’ (a term I’m coining for this blog) propose to make art reflect the public?
The article by the British council included this statistic from the ISN –
“British musicians are now less likely to be called to auditions; concerts and projects were being cancelled or put on hold, and university and conservatoire students within the music industry were looking elsewhere for postgraduate courses.” (ISN report)
Isn’t that frightening? For a long time Britain has been at the forefront of creativity, with the arts sector contributing a lot too the economy and being “one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, growing at twice the rate of the overall economy.” (Ian Youngs, BBC) But now, because of Brexit, we’re at risk of losing our edge, and our talent, as well as the amazing relationships, initiatives and projects that Britain is linked too all over the world.
According to Arts Council England, English arts organisations received £345m from the EU between 2007 and 2016. That money was used to build community creative spaces, put art programmes in ‘special measures’ schools, not just your Saturday night in the West End. The money the EU gives (or gave us) filters right down to the far corners of of the UK, helping thousands of projects, centres and business stay afloat.
Lord Puttnam (the man who made Chariots of Fire) suggested that Brexit would mean that the UK could create work with a more ‘British’ voice. But isn’t the cultural influence from across the EU, and the world, what makes Britain so good at it? The different cultures that have embedded themselves within our communities gives a better, more inclusive, and more wide reaching cultural voice.
I think that Brexit is not only ruining Britain but is detrimental to the arts sector. I hope that when/if it actually happens we don’t feel the effects too much, but in all honesty I highly doubt it.
Till next time,