Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs


Carry on Touring’s Ian Smith tells us how easy it would be for the new Government to make a BIG difference in the first 100 days 


What’s the real deal with working in the EU, not just for those who are on tour - UK creatives and crew  - but also some for other non-EU peeps?  Let’s look at the “mess” we now find ourselves in and what would allow us to carry on touring without hindrance in the countries that form the EU.

Reality check … The creative arts touring industry out of the UK into the EU, is not just about musicians. Those who go on tour include a plethora of creative and cultural talent; dance, theatre, film, fashion,photography and the list goes on.  It also includes highly skilled support staff (commonly known as crew).   

Here a quick overview AND a solution to the problem the industry is facing which I proposed a long time ago which made headline news (see the Independent newspaper) in the UK and around Whitehall and Parliament and which Carry On Touring and others have echoed in their/our call for a visa waiver … Page Link to that article here

First, a small introduction: My name is Ian Smith. Having had a very varied career in music and associated arts, I hooked up with Tim ( Brennan ) and created Carry On Touring. Tim reached out to me after he saw the website I created, I’ve also spent over 40 years in the UK and world music and arts industries as Musician / Tour manager / Promoter / Manager and owner of two international music and allied arts agencies, working with people you’ve never heard of and agent to those you have from Phil Rudd of AC/DC to Francesca Gagnon of Cirque du Soleil fame .. For 11 years pro bono chair of one of the UK musicians union sections and it goes on ( and on ) 

I set up (non-political, non-commercial organisation) to create a resource for creatives and crew / management / agents etc, around the EU and the UK to guide and explain the reality of what would happen post-Brexit. Why? because governments were just not doing anything very constructive about giving clear, simple info .. then COVID-19 also came along, so the site and its associated YouTube channel grew (a lot). I also ended up as an unintended “go-to” for mainstream radio/TV interviews and, yes, even giving evidence to  cross party committees and providing briefings to MPs and Peers in Parliament.  

So why tell us all this, Ian? Well, it provides context  and provenance for the information given.  Whilst my advice and the sites remain non political… I am NOT, lol!  This is not intended to be a gigantic moan, rather it sets out a simple solution to the mess that’s been created.

So BREXIT, happened .. until then UK citizens as members of the EU had the same limitations on how long they could work, stay etc in the Schengen area as others who were citizens of EU countries (Spoiler alert, there were still limitations such as reporting to local authorities in a country if exceeding certain time lengths in another country).

We now know that EU countries are not as readily accessible as they used to be before Brexit.  But what you may not know is that not all third-country nationals are equal! 

Eh, what ? … before I explain, let's look at what each EU country is still able to do. Even as a member of the EU they all retain sovereignty. For example, allowing non-EU citizens varying amounts of time without the need for a visa if working in creative arts. Yes, that’s right, each country has a different allowance. You can find the full list here with backlinks ..

Cool you say! Well, yes, maybe? But this brings me to a remarkable point in the story (not really, when you  realise how the Government has spun the yarn).  This Government are, of course,  the architects of the “oven-ready Brexit deal” which has created such mayhem for everyone.  Consecutive Secretaries of State and Ministers at the DCMS have repeatedly told us that the UK Government has negotiated bilateral agreements to accommodate UK touring. What they failed to say is that those agreements were already in place for ALL third-country nationals. Oops!  There is ONE -  and only one - change which came about as the result of some intervention, and that was in Spain, where the rules (temporarily) were changed to bring creative arts allowances in line with those provided for the international film industry. Lobbied for by LIVE ( ) and others including UKMusic .. and the UK Government  BUT sorry that’s just about it. 

Now, the limit for the amount of time allowable to stay in the Schengen area sits on top of these allowances.  Simply put, if you run out of your allotted time (90 in 180 days, see explainer video here), then you cannot take advantage of these visa-free work periods for creative arts workers. Ouch! … 

Next up is the point that we are NOT ALL EQUAL - some are more equal than others -  in the way in which citizens are treated across the globe. Tim (Brennan) and I were talking recently about an American friend who wanted to spend more time in Europe (EU) after his touring gig had finished. Remember that the 90 in 180 day allowance is for ANY purpose, thus he would have had virtually nothing left in his allowance - would he?

When I was researching allowances some time ago, I found that various countries have DIFFERENT bi-lateral allowances, with some countries allowing the individual to stay for longer in a specific country.  Why is that possible if the country is in the EU?  Well remember that on some things EU member states retain the sovereign right to have bi-lateral agreements and some have in place historic agreements which pre-date Schengen. So there ARE definitely exceptions to the general rule which add to confusion and mayhem.

Actual enforcement of those agreements by border control forces  - when exiting or entering the Schengen area  - may be out of line with what is actually laid down by law.  

As recently as 2017 the EU Parliament reaffirmed that the Schengen Agreement does not impede upon a member state's right to extend beyond 90 days in a 180 day period an alien's stay within its territory due to a) exceptional circumstances, or b) bilateral agreements entered into force prior to the conception of the Schengen Agreement. (, CHAPTER VIII)

So where does all this  leave us? 

It is this … we now need to find solutions to the predicament we are all in - including EU citizens AND other third country nationals wanting to work in the UK. The UK Government’s long trumpeted “we have generous allowances for EU citizens etc simply does not stack up with border force agents using their interpretations of the law relating to work stopping musicians and other creatives on tour entering. See the articles on Trigger Cut and Krank from last year! LINK HERE 

And this horror story of an established Czech band detained for 3 hours and only getting in when arranging emergency documents. CZECH Band refused link HERE 

So UK touring isn’t working - it’s a mess.  Carry on Touring believe there should be an exemption and a waiver to allow creatives and crew/support staff to move freely when they are working on tour, which would then allow them to take advantage of the allowances ALREADY in place within the countries that comprise the EU  for creative work. Thus no infringement on sovereign rights AND that the UK make an allowance within the same context. 

The UK and the EU are both implementing their own pre-entry systems called ETIAS and EES. The idea is that by demonstrating that you are a creative worker (such as by being a member of a trade body or having other accreditation), you can register on these systems through a bilateral agreement between the EU and UK. This registration would then preauthorize you to enter for a longer period.

This is a simple move and mirrors the nature of the work us creatives do which can be so ephemeral - sometimes a day here, a day there, or the need to stay for longer periods of time, but essentially we are on tour and working and a unique case.. This solution does NOT argue for no visas at all; for longer-term work in a territory, of course, visas shall remain as the argument for protecting the local labour force is totally understandable but usually not applicable for the creative arts (for crew as team players and essential for the performance).. 

The problem we have at the moment is that the very allowances that EU countries have in place CANNOT be used in some cases because of the overriding Schengen limit, in effect undermining the sovereign decisions of those EU countries to allow workers in for that job. 

Lest we forget, Johnson, Truss and May curated ridiculous negotiations which led to this mess.  Lord Frost later  admitted the following:

In March 2022, Lord Frost, who had resigned as Brexit Minister in December 2021, said in his Churchill Lecture that concerning mobility issues the UK had been “too purist” during the negotiations. He said problems affecting mobility of creative artists, young people and others “can be solved without compromising the general policy”, that free movement does not apply”



Ref House of Commons library … Touring Artists and the UK- EU economic partnership  ( click HERE for document 

The General Election on 4th July provides the first real opportunity to secure change and sort out the mess left behind.   We need to get those who rely on touring for a living back doing their job. Let’s vote for those who want to see positive change!

It’s time to unlock this vital part of the UK economy by bringing in a touring exemption/waiver.  Join us and vote for change and let’s put this right so we can unite the positive noises coming from the potential Labour Government and the EU who have indicated they are open to change. 

To paraphrase .. let the 4th be with us and beyond. The creative arts are vital for all: vote to get the creative economy working(in both directions), use the soft power of nations and listen to the cultural heart and soul of all those creatives and to let them be free to do their job.

Thanks for reading,


Ian Smith

Co Founder - Carry On Touring

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