Womad boss hits out at new visa rules that sees many acts giving up on playing Womad and the UK

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 14.37.25For many years its been a given that UK performers trying to play in the USA are virtually locked out by a combination of high-cost visa agents, visa costs and slow paperwork that sees visas arriving too late to tour despite up to £5000 being spent. Running parallel to this has been an ongoing hiking up of visas for many acts from many countries going to the UK with the potentially poisonous Brexit situation making things even harder. An American manager looked at the new visa situation and claimed. ‘I just checked the tier 5 application. pretty ghastly. reads like amateurs cobbled together a highway robbery scheme’

Anyone in the music biz who voted for Brexit must be deluded or insane – the freedom of movement that is part and parcel of art and creativity is going to be hit very hard and UK acts that for generations have dominated the music world will be relegated to the kind of pre -Beatles backwater staus that the UK once ‘enjoyed’ but at least we can clutch our blue passports as we travel around ther UK in circles. Outside UK acts will give up on playing here and the world will get smaller.

The first victim of this freezing in travel has been the Womad festival which with its open and brilliant music booking policy was always going to struggle with any tightening up freedom of movement. The organiser of Womad world music festival has said that entering the UK has become so “difficult and humiliating” since the Brexit referendum that performers are giving up.

Chris Smith stated it’s become tougher to enlist performers to this year’s festival due to the impact the UK visa process is having on foreign musicians – something he says has “genuinely broke his heart.”

Smith told Radio Times: “The world has never needed events like Womad more than it does now. It stands for tolerance and understanding and learning and openness but that culture is being crushed as politicians lurch to the right.”

Performers from 128 countries are scheduled to attend this year’s festival, however, Smith claims that many were forced to withdraw from participation due to the visa process – a development he blames on politicians moving to the right.

“Artists have accepted our invitation and then looked into the visa process and told us, sorry we’re just not going to do this,“ he said, adding: ”That’s a situation we should be ashamed of.”

“We’ve had situations where, say, an African artist has been due to come who plays a particularly rare instrument, and we’ll be asked: ‘Can’t you find someone in the UK who plays that instrument?’, which is absurd.“

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