Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs

For those not so visible!

For those not so visible - images of a writers desk

Ian Smith & Nick Gammon give their opinions on the not so visible parts of the creative industries that will be affected by the post Brexit creative touring issues.

Ian Smith

Those who follow the campaign will know that we've always tried to include all within the creative family and that essential infrastructure that enhances the quality of the presentation of live performance and its essential delivery; yes, this is, of course, support staff/crew. This encompasses everything from Music / Dance / Theatre / Film / Comedy / Fashion and much more. This is also true of what I did when creating in early 2020. It's totally essential to understanding the impact of the new reality we all now live with and try and find solutions. It matters not a jot what happened in the past, now is where we are and how we move forward to whatever the future holds. It's now we have to deal with facts on the ground. 

I've learned a lot on this journey, and though I have over 35 years in the live music industry in many roles, I learn something new regularly. It's with this in mind I'm doing this introduction to a simple, obvious area I had overlooked until recently, and this is the hidden side of the problem. Or at least the least talked about aspect of this new post Brexit reality for everyone in the UK and the EU. It's this! We haven’t yet included those that are not so "visible" like the crew. Who, I hear you ask? Well how about Authors on Book tours / Photographers / Visual Artists / Painters / Sculptors / Video installation / Arts installations / and yes, even journalists (I know some would argue that the latter maybe not "creative" I'd seek to differ)

Yes! all now require work permits/visas etc., to continue to work, well why do sculptors need that or painters, touring exhibitions, sculpting in situ. I just had a request for help for an EU sculptor coming into the UK as I'm also a UK registered sponsor for Certificates of Sponsorship, the quickest, easiest, cheapest route now into the UK for someone under the creative and sporting concession route. Yes, all these people are affected. As such our, economies, our creativity, our very cultural fabric of shared experienced is potentially diminished for everyone is affected. Not to mention the economic impact this all has.  

My point is this, many that are affected we've not thought of, neither has Brexit encompassed the work they do and the work they need to do to survive and create the fabric of our society and the cultural richness.

So, whilst the campaign remains focused on touring, we should not forget that touring also includes the ability for creatives to go work in what are usually very time-limited circumstances. It's not about freedom of movement for residency; it's the unique mode of work that creatives have to do as a means of existence as their raison d'etre and their own economic survival and that of the society they are an integral part of. 

I’ll now pass to Nick Gammon for his take on this!

“As someone who might feel they’re included in the forgotten “

For those not so visible - images of a artists studio

Nick Gammon

 “Don’t Look Back” sings John Lee Hooker “Gotta live for the future not the past … those days are gone by ….stop dreaming…”. But here’s a thing – Brexit is done but it’s definitely not dusted. Frankly the dust hasn’t even settled yet. Yep, we have to move on, but how do we do that if the way ahead is so murky?

As Ian says in his post For those not so visible! not only are UK touring artists and performers being strangled by the new challenges of costs, red tape and bureaucracy, so is the rest of the British culture and media sector. Whether we are based in the UK or the EU, we are facing similar problems as the 40 years’ relationship between the UK and the EU unravels like a mid-life crisis.

I’m a painter and a photographer and a UK national living in Amsterdam – I began showing in the early 90s with exhibitions in cities across Europe, from Brussels to Barcelona and Milan to Munich – at one point even being paid to be Artist in Residence to the City of Munich*. To begin with, exhibiting in Europe mostly involved filling the car and loading the roof-rack with work and hitting the road. That led to a career that allowed me to live first in the west of Ireland and then in Biarritz in SW France – as long as I could get the work to the exhibitions. I don’t see how a young artist could do that in this climate. 

The story will be familiar to everyone who reads this blog. Since the culture and media sectors somehow got “forgotten” in the recent UK-EU trade agreement, we now have to find out and comply with the complicated and different rules for each and every one of the 27 EU countries, not to mention EFTA and Switzerland. And we’ve been “forgotten”, despite a fat contribution from the cultural sector of £32.3bn to the UK’s economy, and that was just for 2018!

I worry most for those less well-established artists and writers. You might have heard of the #artistsupportpledge – it’s a small but very successful scheme to support visual artists who’s shows have all been cancelled during Covid19. Basically, you post work for sale for not too much money on Instagram along with the tag. And you promise if you sell 10 pieces, that you’ll then buy something from another artist in the scheme. My partner who’s an artist too, got involved and in due course bought a piece from a British artist. But unlike what had happened prior to the transition period ending, this time she got a notice from Dutch customs requiring her to pay VAT on the artwork and shipping, and a customs handling fee – all of which added almost €100 to a €200 price tag. While Britain was still in the EU, the tax didn’t have to be charged because the artist wasn’t VAT registered. Now the tax had to be paid. So, the next time it was her turn to buy something, my partner didn’t choose a piece from that or any other British artist. 

Ok it’s a small thing. But it’s a real example of the chilling effect of the situation we’re now in. It’s a ‘sliding doors’ thing where the big question is how many missed opportunities will there be, how many lost chances?

If you are a painter bringing work for exhibition into the Netherlands you’ll be pleased to know the duty is 0% on original artworks, but unless you’ve been able to organize a VAT deferral, either you or your gallery will have to pay the VAT at the border, or risk having your work impounded. There are ways round this but be careful and make sure to have all the necessary paperwork completed in advance – a good gallery will be able to handle this, if not you’re going to need advice. You can assume, if Dutch border guards are monitoring ham sandwiches, that they will want to know about what’s in your van. Other EU countries will have different rules and may, or may not impose duty on artworks, and may or may not defer VAT payments.

For those not so visible - images of a writers desk

The other arts will face similar issues – I say ‘will’ because Covid19 travel restrictions are masking the full effects of withdrawal at the moment. But just think about it – from now on, it’s going to be harder for writers, poets, painters, dancers, singers, sculptors, actors, clowns and choreographers to give performances, or readings, or workshops, or teach courses, or give signings, or attend residencies, or give talks at literary festivals, or at art fairs, or at film festivals throughout Europe.

I don’t believe anyone really wanted to throw a bucketful of grit into the UK’s cultural motor. Nobody would want that surely? But until the political climate changes, I don’t see how the engine can run smoothly - just one thing though; I don’t buy the “stop dreaming” bit in John Lee Hooker’s song. Keep dreaming, that’s what artists are good at. Reach out across the borders, keep the channels open. There will be workarounds, you will find a way.

There are also practical things you can do – check out this list of networks and resources put together by former MEP Julie Ward – there are organisations out there that you can join or support and which still link the UK and Europe.

*Oh, and another thing – a UK artist could be Artist in Residence to the City of Munich. That’s because Germany has one of the most open-minded set of rules for visiting artists of all types – you can go and work there as an artist or even as a journalist for three months out of every twelve. Wouldn’t that be a good template for the UK to follow?


Nick Gammon is a member of the Cross-Border Services group

Ian Smith is a co-director of Carry On Touring and, in his own right, Agency owner / and pro information activist with

 Latest YouTube video on this subject here from

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