This is not the time to play the blame game!

This is not the time to play the blame game!

I’m pleased to report that the petition has passed the quarter of a million-signature mark, it’s still going strong and the petition’s committee have informed me that it will now be discuused in Parliament.

This fantastic response from music lovers all over the UK has now reached into the very heart of Westminster. The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has taken to Twitter to in his view ‘set the record straight’ on the Brexit touring rules for the creative industries. He states that it was the EU “letting down music on both sides of the Channel”; but offers a glimmer of hope and says that “this outcome is regrettable, but it doesn’t have to be final”.

But the EU has responded that the UK “refused to include a commitment on visa-free short stay” in their agreement. – from the NME.

Whilst I welcome these statements, this is no time to play the blame game. We need to address the issue urgently and go back to the negotiating table to resolve the matter.

I thought it would be a good time to highlight how some of my friends and colleagues in the music touring industry have been affected by the changes that have occurred because of the UK leaving the EU.

I always take opinion polls with a large pinch of salt, but now that I find myself in the eye of a political storm, here are the findings of a straw poll taken amongst my professional freelance colleagues in the touring event industry.

‘Where are you on the whole permit / visa for EU music touring in the wake of Brexit?”

I’m really concerned that we will be unable to tour the EU27 without a permit. – 174 votes

I feel everything will be fine and I’m not worried. – 14 votes

I hold an EU passport, but I’m concerned for my friends and colleagues. – 12 votes

Okay, this is the unscientific view of 200 people who are in the same boat as me, but the findings are conclusive, with almost 9 out of 10 responses expressing genuine concern.

Here is a selection of comments from the poll:

“We have built a good following in France. I can’t create a budget that makes any degree of commercial sense or factor in potential delays to just pop over the 22 miles and play in France. One of our guys is a French national and is distraught that we won’t be able to play his homeland as we have done before.”  – Band member.

A record label I’ve worked for 15 years has relocated to Rotterdam for this reason.” – Freelancer

In 2018, I did an 87-day tour in Europe, followed by ten days in the UK followed by seven more days in the EU in one long 104-day leg.” – Freelancer

The lack of clarity has put doubt in the mind of European employers to employ British workers and companies for events in Europe.” – Freelancer

I’ve worked for an Italian metal artist since 2012. It’s a disaster… I’m now looking at moving me and the business to Germany because we need a working EU visa. The time alone will make it difficult to get permits needed. This is an all or nothing moment.” – Freelancer

“I moved to Vienna because of Brexit. With Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all within an hour of me, local work options between tours are now massively reduced because of the death of free movement.” –  Freelancer

As I see it, and the vast majority of my colleagues agree, the government have simply lumped music touring professionals in with general business travellers. Our lives aren’t like that and it simply won’t work.

Limiting our work travel to a maximum of 90 days out of 180 is wholly un-workable. Rust never sleeps in this game and freelancers like myself can often work on a short tour in the EU, then when that’s finished, we move straight to another tour for another band back in the EU, and then rinse and repeat again and again.

We are a square peg and the government is trying to hammer us into a round hole. We move, often overnight, from country to country, we do a gig and move on to the next, we go to sleep on a tour bus in one country and wake up in another country. That’s normal life on the road.

Our trucking operation faces the same dilemma. They don’t make just one or two deliveries, they follow us around 24/7, ferrying our gear from one venue to the next. Making them return home after two drops will never work, this is a special case, and it happens all year round.

I’m pleased to hear your comments Mr Dowden. But now we need you to rally to the aid of our specialist industry, and one that brings so much enjoyment to millions of people Europe wide and further afield.

Before it’s too late.

Sign the petition calling for the UK government to “Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists” now:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/563294

 

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