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An Open Letter to Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

1,600 Creative Industry representatives unite behind ‘get us back on tour’ message as new Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries MP, takes office.

Over 1,600 creatives have signed an open letter calling on new Secretary of State for DCMS, Nadine Dorries MP, to help get the creative industries ‘back on tour’, and campaigners say this should be her ‘first order of business’

The letter, coordinated by campaign group ‘Carry on Touring’, calls on the Government to fix the post-Brexit barriers preventing UK creatives being able to tour in Europe – including additional costs and red tape.

Signatories working across the creative industries, from music, fashion, theatre and performing arts. They include campaigners, professional bodies, business leaders, trade unions, musicians, freelancers, technicians and more.

The letter has received extraordinary levels of support from across the sector.

Artists, campaigners, trade unions and professional bodies have today spoken up strongly in favour of the letter. Comments include calling Brexit ‘catastrophic’ and warn that current red tape is ‘squeezing the life-blood’ out of overseas touring.

The letter rebuffs an August announcement from DCMS which claimed the Government had secured ‘visa free short-term touring in 19 member states’ ( ) .

August’s announcement has previously been accused of being ‘misleading’. (

The letter makes clear that ‘this is not a solution for UK touring professionals’ and states that ’we ask you [Nadine Dorries] for clarity not more chaos and confusion’ and goes on to highlight the example of Hungary where you need to apply for a residency permit for short-term work as a freelancer.

The letter calls for a ‘pan European EU visa and work permit waiver´. In May this year, over 100 organisations called on then Secretary of State Oliver Dowden to begin negotiating a ‘Visa Waiver Agreement’ but so far, the Government have refused the industry’s pleas. (

The stark reality of the situation is laid bare in the letter stating, ‘Right now, tours are still stuck on British soil, leaving countless careers on hold.’ Before calling on the Government to work with the sector and its EU counterparts to get solutions for the UK’s touring professionals.

Commenting, Carry on Touring’s Tim Brennan, asks the following question of government:

“How can the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport promote confidence within production managers and hire companies to use UK passport holding freelancers and creatives for their European events, given the extra risks, red tape and cost that it involves in obtaining the correct authorisation?
I hope that the new Secretary of State will consider touring as her first order of business and work with the sector to find the solutions we desperately need.”

ISM Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts said:

“For the good of the touring industry the Government should prioritise negotiating with the EU to secure a Visa Waiver Agreement and a better deal for the Creative industries.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, artists should be planning future tours but are finding their path blocked by Kafkaesque red tape and restrictions.

A new Secretary of State means now is the time for new thinking and we hope that she will put getting Britain back on tour at the very top of her to do list.”

Philippa Childs, Head of Bectu, said:

“The reality of the Brexit deal is a catastrophic impact on thousands of touring professionals including Bectu members working in tech, crew and touring theatre. This incredibly disingenuous announcement from DCMS has only served to make a bad situation worse. It has caused chaos, confusion and a brought a real sense that DCMS are more interested in managing media
headlines than dealing with the issues. This is serious for Bectu members and Government need to get serious.”

Equity General Secretary, Paul W Fleming, said:

“As British theatre producers look at ways to stimulate the return of a global audience to the UK, the shopfront of touring is critical. The power of British live performance, too, relies on international cultural exchange - especially in dance, music and opera. If we can’t carry on touring, the global strength of live performance in the UK and abroad will be in peril.”

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said:

“The new restrictions and regulations brought about by the UK leaving the EU are squeezing the life-blood out of overseas touring. Our government singularly failed to secure the frictionless mobility of musicians that we were promised in the run up to Brexit and it must now do everything in its power to restore this vital element of a musician’s working calendar.”

World-renowned mezzo-soprano, Dame Sarah Connolly, said:
“I am dreadfully worried about the future of all those whose work is inextricably bound to Europe. It simply cannot be ignored that musicians bring tremendous pride, wealth and soft power to the United Kingdom. We are respected and valued so highly in Europe. However, that value is slipping; this is terrifyingly true due to the lack of availability of British artists. It is vital that we confirm and re-seed our position as one of the greatest cornerstones of European music-making with goodwill and tangible results."

Andy McCluskey, lead singer and bass guitarist of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), said:
“Our country creates great music and touring shares culture, experiences, and joy. At a time when COVID-19 Restrictions are easing, making live concerts possible again, the current situation places prohibitive red tape and costs on touring artists playing in Europe.

I’m particularly concerned that these problems will prevent the pipeline that produces future stars from flourishing which would mean we all lose out.

The Government should back our fantastic music industry and work round the clock to sort this mess out.

You can read the full letter here:

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