The founders and organisers of the annual WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) festival in Wiltshire, have said that attracting performers is becoming increasingly challenging. Invited acts are, they say, turning down invitations because they don’t want to go through the “difficult and humiliating” UK visa process.
WOMAD, by it’s nature, attracts performers from around the world; with a particular focus on Africa, Asia, and South America. Many of the artists attending will need to apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa, at a cost of £93. According to the Government, this visa allows them to undertake, “arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting.” This isn’t an immigration visa, and only allows the applicant into the UK for the specific event, and forbids study, other work, or extended visits.
In previous years, WOMAD has not experienced problems with artists going through the VISA process, however organisers say that this year has been exceptionally challenging. Chris Smith, one of the festival organisers, says that even through there are “good people” at the Foreign Office trying to help, the level of bureaucracy the festival and overseas artists have to deal with has become intolerable. The situation, he says, “genuinely broke his heart”.
The organisers of WOMAD have resorted to meeting artists in Paris or Rome, places which they say African artists can reach with ease, in order to support them through the UK visa process. While Mr Smith says that the current problems – which he blames on Brexit and the “unforgivable” actions of politicians, won’t put the festival out of business, he also says that Britain needs “to be very cautious about how it is viewed by the rest of the world.”
WOMAD is, of course, just one concrete example of what the creative sector has been warning of for many months: the negative impact of Brexit on culture in the UK. If you need expert advice on dealing with any aspect of the UK visa system, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.