Abi Collins is a Street Performer who has for the last 25 years made a living from performing her art worldwide. Here she explains how the post Brexit creative touring issues will affect her.
Abi Collins Street Performer - Photo by Gerda Verheeke
"For the last 25 plus years I have toured globally as a solo performer. Using comedy, circus skills and lots of audience participation, my work has taken me to Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Colombia, Australia and The Seychelles. But most of my performances have taken place in Europe; Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Croatia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, Romania, the EEA countries of Norway and Iceland plus Switzerland via its membership of the single market. 18 countries where no visa was required."
"After more than a decade spent in Australia, I returned to the UK in late 2008, excited to be able to perform in my home country and access the 27 other EU member states. My summer touring seasons were spent bouncing around Europe, and every single Euro, Kroner and Franc I earned was paid into my UK bank account and taxed in the UK. On average I was paid twice as much in the EU, sometimes thrice. Very rarely was the money taxed at source, and even if it was, I still paid 9% Class 4 National Insurance in the UK. Brexit has not only cost me a third of my income but also the UK Treasury."
"After the 2016 UK referendum I noticed my EU bookings began to fall off a cliff. My Dutch agent told me plainly, “I can't take on any more UK artists until we know what Brexit looks like.” So, we all waited. And we waited some more. After nearly 4 years in limbo the pandemic hit, and all cultural traffic came to a hard stop. We are only just beginning to understand what Brexit means for artistic exchange; the full effect will only become apparent as borders reopen, travel resumes, and large-scale events can take place again."
"Not only are UK performers now denied a multitude of earning opportunities which directly benefit the UK economy, but British audiences will be starved of brilliant European artists. With time-consuming, costly visa requirements and complex carnet paperwork, companies like Royal de Luxe would struggle to bring their incredible show 'The Sultan's Elephant' to the UK. "
"And solo artists like myself will find it extremely hard to survive – I have never been able to make enough as a performer from UK engagements alone. As a one-woman operation I will not be able to bear the costs that applying for visas will bring, and European festivals will not be able to engage in the extra expense and paperwork now involved with booking me."
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