ISM corporate members’ Brexit round table Jump to main content

ISM corporate members’ Brexit round table

The ISM held its first corporate members’ round table on Thursday 23 November inviting delegates to discuss the topic of Brexit and its potential (and crucially, impending) impact on the creative industries.

Deborah Annetts, the ISM’s Chief Executive, chaired the meeting, which comprised 11 delegates and three guest speakers from across the creative industries, including leading national conservatoires and music organisations throughout Europe.

The three guest speakers, Marshall Marcus, the CEO of the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) and President of Sistema Europe, Atholl Swainston-Harrison, Chief Executive of the International Artist Managers’ Association (IAMA) and Charlotte Jones, Chief Executive of the Independent Theatre Council (ITC), shared the view on Brexit from their side of the industry and their concerns about what it will hold for the creative sector as a whole. Henry Vann, the ISM’s Head of External Affairs, also gave the latest update on the Free Move Create campaign and the concern of flexible travel for many working within the creative industry.

Speaking from the European perspective, Marshall Marcus discussed the confusion felt by many Europeans that he meets around the uncertainty in the UK, stating, ‘Europeans can’t understand what has happened to the normally so sensible UK’. Restating that the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) will move to Italy next year, Marshall emphasised the value to UK organisations of forming an ‘alliance of various countries together’ to maintain cultural relations and ensure transnational co-operation, and also of not forgetting to be bold in a time of uncertainty. He identified 2018 as a particular opportunity strengthen relationships through the launch of the EU’s first European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Atholl Swainston-Harrison noted the importance of mobility for members of the IAMA and professional artists as a whole. Highlighting the ‘bewilderment about what is going to take place’, Atholl proposed the idea of a multiple entry visa for visiting artists, to and from the EU, for a length of 1-2 years to ensure ease of travel. The Chief Executive of the International Artist Managers’ Association strongly emphasised the need for negotiation around this issue. He recognised the possibility that more paperwork and bureaucracy for British artists to work abroad will harm their chance of employment.

Charlotte Jones also expressed her deep concerns around the issue of flexible travel for the theatre and performing arts sector. Stating ‘European touring is the lifeblood of our sector,’ Charlotte expressed her concerns about employment rights and flexible travel for work, declaring that some theatre groups are not able to book tours in Europe beyond 2019.

As the final speaker, Henry Vann updated the delegates about the progress of the Free Move Create campaign and the results of the ISM’s Brexit survey. The survey of ISM members, which took place in June 2016 immediately after the referendum, found that 70% of the ISM’s performers travel overseas for work and 56% of respondents put freedom of movement as their main concern. With 39 arts organisations on board so far, Henry then underlined eight aspects of a protected system of flexible travel for creative industry professionals. The system would need to:

  • cover all creative professions (including technicians, designers and producers as well as musicians, artists etc…)
  • cover multiple entry across all 27 remaining EU states
  • be reciprocal in nature
  • apply to work and study
  • apply to equipment and ‘stuff’ as well as people (including artworks for shows, fashion items, sets, equipment and musical instruments)
  • be low or no cost
  • be administratively simple and available at short notice
  • cover short periods of stay and longer runs (some musicians can be booked for 90 days at a time for example)

Drawing on Atholl’s suggestion for a multiple entry visa, Henry suggested the possibility of lobbying for an ESTA-style multiple entry pass for cultural professionals across the EU to cover work and study. Many of the delegates were in support of this, agreeing it could be a way to secure our position on the global stage and maintain the success of the creative industry.

As the discussion opened up to the table, three key concerns developed:

  • flexible travel for British musicians
  • Higher Education: attracting and retaining international talent and opportunities for British students
  • focus on forming international relationships

Representatives from the higher education sector voiced their concerns about no longer being able to attract international talent within both the student and staff bodies. Jonathan Vaughan, Vice Principal and Director of Music at Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Gavin Henderson, Principal at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama both expressed experiences of staff resignations immediately after the referendum vote in June 2016. In an analysis of higher education specialist music institutions, the ISM found that at undergraduate level, EU nationals account for 12.6% of all students and 18.5% at postgraduate. (Higher Education Statistics Authority)

David Milsom, the Head of Performance at the University of Huddersfield, acknowledged the ‘huge cross over between the education and creative sectors’ in the challenges they face and the need to protect, not only the highly skilled, but also everyone within these sectors. Delegates recognised more collaboration and communication between the education and creative sectors would be necessary to ensure their survival.

Closing with discussions around the possibility of forming relationships with equivalent organisations in Europe, the round table provided many considerations for the future of the creative industries. Much speculation developed around opening offices in other European territories as a way to uphold opportunities for UK creatives and maintain links with the EU. Deborah identified this as something that many arts organisations may have never considered before and acknowledged that it may be a necessary move as the UK leaves the EU to foster stronger opportunities for collaboration.

As the round table concluded, delegates left with a strong desire for change and collaboration in a post-Brexit world.

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