"What's Brexit?" The Creatives Edition

Updated: Jun 16, 2019

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, the U.K voted to leave the European Union.

Swiftly after only a 2% majority of voters decided that the U.K was better off going it alone than being part of a 46 year old union, political chaos ensued. From David Cameron resigning, Theresa May becoming our Prime Minister, votes of no confidence, our second general election in two years, a minority government, politicians forming their own parties, political backstabbing, back-sliding and an overwhelming hysteria has lead the U.K, the rest of Europe and the rest of the world to think - in the words of Danny Dyer “What’s Brexit?”

Hard or soft Brexit? Deal or no deal? Freedom of movement or harsher immigration laws? What happens to when we want to go on holiday in Europe? What about the people that already live here? Is it better to have a Labour or Conservative government? What about an entirely new government? Should we have another referendum?

The short answer is – no-one really knows.

Can’t we just… you know… take it all back and apologise to the remaining 27 countries in the E.U, grovel, say we didn’t mean it, buy everyone flowers and chocolate, make 29th March an international bank holiday to make up for the nation-wide increase in stress levels and swear, hand on heart that we will never, ever ever do it again? The only thing we all know for certain, is that 11pm on Friday, March 29th 2019, we are due to leave the E.U.

Now we can decide to halt the process and stay in the EU at any time up until the deadline. We can even get some more time for our politicians to sort the country out only if all 28 EU members agree. But alas, none of these event decisions have been made so 29th March it is.

Brexit Inspired Art Illustration: @aliceandtheink

Political madness aside, what does this really mean for the British creative scene? Are we going to level up or take an L?

As it stands we’re not sure but let’s weigh it up from our perspective, the first week of February, all the big festivals released tickets and line-ups for summer 2019. From Wireless, Outlook, Freshwater, Primerava sounds, millions of people spent their money on the promise of a few days to see some of the favs take the stage.

However, with the bewilderment of what our travel and immigration, many are wondering - how easy will it be for artists such as Ghetts to perform in Croatia? Outlook line-up 2019? or Yxng Bane performing in Portugal this summer? (Afro Nation) Or even getting our European fam to perform at our festivals such as Wireless, Glastonbury or LoveBox?

One of the main talking points of Brexit has been the strength of the Sterling. Almost immediately after the U.K voted to leave, there was a sharp decline in value of the sterling, and since then it has been a roller coaster ride, with each political turn affecting its value. One thing that most of our party can agree on is that regardless of the long-term implications of Brexit, short-term, the Sterling will most likely weaken.

On a lighter note the EU is planning to launch an electronic application form, called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), for many non-EU countries, including the UK. It would involve paying a fee of €7 (£6.30) every three years in someway similar to the USA’s ESTA Visa Form. However we could travel visa-free but only one condition, the U.K allows visa-free travel for the E.U into the U.K.... basically we can’t go to their festivals if they can’t come to ours.

But where do we stand with countries outside of the EU? One of the major selling points of Brexit was the possibility of setting our sights further afield. It’s a big world out there and Britain are keen to share a piece of Brexit pie which would inevitably affect the culture. We are already seeing it in the film industry with international blockbusters such as Star Wars and Jurassic Park being filmed in the U.K largely due to the drop in the sterling. It’s cheaper. This may ricochet into other industries such as fashion and art possibly bringing more opportunities to the U.K. As for the creative sector as a whole; it is currently the UK’s largest sector worth a whopping 92 Billon. Billion. As the largest growing sector in the U.K a study by Nesta, predicts that the creative sector can produce around 1000 jobs a week by 2030. A WEEK! It is undoubtedly an exciting and profitable time to be a creative in the U.K, but what is the government attitude towards creatives?

Historically the arts and creative sector have been placed on the bottom of the funding totem pole. If we were to predict what impact Brexit will have on culture based on this alone, it would be easy to say the impact would be negative. According to the Arts Council, the amount of money the sector has received has declined steadily since 2011.

“But while English local government still spent £1.2 billion on arts and culture in 2014/15, the cuts are still significant and are likely to continue. They have fallen fairly evenly across each of those three areas: slightly heavier on libraries (the biggest item of expenditure) and slightly less so on museums and galleries (the smallest). Although museums and galleries may be smaller in terms of expenditure, the impact has been substantial. For example, one in-five regional museums has either closed, or plans to close.” ~ Arts council

If we follow this trend, and our cultural institutions close - it will mean less access for aspiring artists or creative’s. Less access means fewer resources. Fewer resources mean a smaller network. A smaller network means less collaborations, and connecting and collaborating are the lifeblood of culture and creativity. Due to this it probably isn’t a surprise that 92% of people within the creative industries voted to remain.

Already we are seeing the frustration and bewilderment of many people in creative industries, as in 2018 Bob Geldoff penned a public letter to Theresa May signed by many cultural influencers such as Ed Sheeran, Daman Albarn and Lily Allen. The letter read:

“Imagine Britain without its music. If it’s hard for us, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world. In this one area, if nowhere else, Britain does still rule the waves. The airwaves. The cyber waves. The sound waves. It is of us. It is our culture.

We dominate the market and our bands, singers, musicians, writers, producers and engineers work all over Europe and the world. In turn, Europe and the world come to us. Why? Because we are brilliant at it. No one quite knows why this should be but everyone understands it to be so. The sound and the words seem universal. It reaches out, all inclusive, and embraces anyone and everyone. And that truly is what Britain IS! That is proper Global Britain.” ~ Bob Geldoff

Bob Geldoff protesting against leaving the EU Source: The Independent

And Bob Geldoff was spot on, British music does offer inclusivity, and embraces anyone and everyone which is why throughout history, artists and creatives have responded to the socio/political landscape through their art, fashion, music and design. Recent examples are that of Drill rapper “Drill Minister” performing a drill song merging drill language with the current affairs of our MP’s to highlight hypocrisy within Parliament, or one that got the attention of the nation when Stormzy in his 2018 Brits performance mentioned the devastating Grenfell Tower condition, proclaiming ‘“Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell? / What you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?”

"Drill Minister - Brexit" Source: Link Up TV

As the creative industries become more impactful & influential with their arts we should be prepared for an influx of film, music, literature, plays, art, fashion & more all responding to or influenced by our current political climate.

All in all, wherever you sit on the Brexit debate… there is no real way of telling what the precise impact of Brexit will be on the culture. Our politicians don’t even know what Brexit is going to look like, so let’s just hope and pray the March 29th 2019, the U.K along with its creative scene isn’t flushed down the toilet!

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