Freemuse, The World Forum on Music and Censorship cited a new report from Manifesto Club which reveals that more than 20 major arts events have been cancelled or badly affected by new visa regulations which were introduced in the United Kingdom in November 2008. The new regulations, with a points-based system, are intended to minimize illegal UK immigration but are also making it extremely difficult for dancers and musicians to obtain a UK visa.
“These rules will make it almost impossible to feature musicians from outside the EU,” one person told the authors of the report ‘UK Arts and Culture: Cancelled, by Order of the Home Office — The Impact of New Restrictions on Visiting Artists and Academics’.
According to the report, many arts organizations say that they can no longer invite non-EU artists. The report states: “These new regulations will do little to stop terrorists — who are unlikely to go through official channels — but are instead hampering UK arts organisations that are already struggling in a recession.”
The report was compiled by the Manifesto Club, which “campaigns against the hyperregulation of everyday life”. The organization “supports free movement across borders, free expression and free association” and is “a rapidly expanding group of free thinkers and campaigners.”
The group said that the report gives the first indication of how many organizations have been affected since the changes came into force. It found evidence that more than 20 major events had been cancelled or badly affected by the new system.
Meanwhile, the National Campaign for the Arts has led a delegation of arts industry representatives to meet immigration minister Phil Woolas, to reiterate concerns that the new system will lead to the ‘gradual erosion’ of the UK’s cultural life.
In November 2008, the United Kingdom’s Home Office introduced a new points-based system and visa restrictions, which has affected international artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, exhibitions, concerts or residencies.
With cancelled concerts, talks and visits across the UK, these measures have already had a disastrous effect on UK arts, writes Appleton and Govinda in the report.
Manifesto Club launched a campaign against the Home Office’s restrictions in February 2009, with a letter to the Observer signed by artists including Antony Gormley and Jeremy Deller, and heads of arts institutions including the directors of the National Theatre and National Portrait Gallery.
The campaign sparked an extraordinary response from artists and academics, in the UK and across the world. Nearly 6,000 people signed a petition. Many others have sent email testimonies, completed an online survey, or joined Manifesto Club’s Facebook group.
The case studies cited in the report include:
• Two cancellations of high-profile concerts by the Russian classical pianist Grigory Sokolov
• The cancellation of a visit by Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami, to direct Cosi fan tutte for English National Opera
• The closure of the Swansea-based Ballet Russe, whose dancers were unable to get visas
• The Canadian singer Allison Crowe was detained at Gatwick, then deported and told she would not perform in the UK again
Arts organizations who are reporting extreme difficulty include:
• Belfast Children’s festival
• jazz clubs
• salsa and tango dance clubs
• Georgian choirs
• community theatres