Priorities for the UK creative industries workforce post-Brexit: Deborah Annetts

The UK and the global talent market: freedom of movement, safeguarding, an internationally competitive workforce and new market opportunities, Thursday 30 March 2017

'As we know yesterday, the Government invoked Article 50. In her speech to Parliament, the Prime Minister said:

“We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union that allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states.”

She went on to say that the UK will no longer be a member of the Single Market and that the UK will need to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.

And while the Prime Minster talked a lot about security and science, education, research and technology there was no mention of the creative sector, something which is concerning.

As we all know on 23 June 2016, the UK voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (EU). We immediately sought to reassure our 8,000 professional musician members at the ISM that in the short term they should not change what they do since we are still part of the EU.

However, we immediately started getting worried phone calls from our members. This is perhaps not surprising given that 91% of the music industry backed remaining in the European Union.

The reason for this is not hard to find. The EU accounts for 42.5% of creative industries exports. Our creative industries are worth nearly £90 billion to the UK economy, comparable to financial services or the construction industry and there are 2.8 million jobs in this sector. Music generates £4.1 billion of this £90 billion. It is precisely these sectors that will generate the workforce of the future, and will generate new economic growth.

Given that so many of our 8000 members work as performers, we launched a quick review of the impact of the referendum in October asking our members how they thought they were going to be affected.

We received more than 500 responses from music professionals in one week. And whilst it is true that we have not yet left the EU, 1 in 5 musicians had noticed an immediate impact on their work.

Here are some of their stories:

A performer told us: “One group I play with is considering disbanding as other members who are EU nationals are considering leaving the UK.”

Another said: “We were planning to work towards applying for a major EU grant via the Creative Europe Desk UK in the next couple of years as part of our long-term strategy. This has been put on hold. I am currently wondering whether to move to the EU with my new Irish passport and seek work there.”

From a conservatoire teacher: “One of my best piano students, from Greece, withdrew and entered a University in the USA instead.”

56% of musicians placed ‘maintaining freedom of movement’ as their number one priority. As one of our members said “the UK does not generate enough work for its musicians” who often ‘live out of a suitcase,’ sometimes working in Europe twice a week if not more.

The music sector has voiced concern at the bureaucracy involved in securing visas for travel to the US and there were concerns that this would also happen for musicians touring to EU countries.

And when looking at new markets, 36% of musicians have had difficulties when working in the rest of the world - the most common issue being visas.

Leaving the EU is not just going to impact on performers. It is also adversely affecting higher education with students and staff already discussing plans to study or work outside the UK.

British conservatoires and music colleges benefit from membership of the EU both in employing staff and securing students and additional funding from overseas. There are approximately 125,000 EU students studying at UK universities, making up 5% of the student population. At conservatoires the figure is generally much higher – at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, 200 students are from the EU, and 42 students out of the orchestra’s 109 members are from the EU.

We launched a further survey this week on where musicians work, to dig deeper into the realities of a working musician. In just 24 hours, we have received more than 400 responses. The picture so far is that:

  • Musicians most commonly tour to France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy.
  • Some musicians travel to Europe upwards of 26 times a year
  • The average tour length is seven days but some members are there for 60 days at a time.

So the consistent message coming out of the ISM surveys, our discussions with industry professionals, is that freedom of movement – or at least time-limited exemptions for professional musicians and all the staff who support them – will be critical to our live music industry.

And for the ISM, this means:

  • The right to remain for EU citizens working in our creative sector to ensure that we can continue to be global leaders in the music industry and wider creative industries.
  • An agreed position on travel for musicians and creative professionals across all 27 states.
  • As far as possible we need a cultural exemptionfrom visa rules for artists, directors, performers, composers, authors to continue to travel within the EU.

In the House of Lords debate in January 2017 on the Creative Industries and Brexit, Lord Taylor of Warwick said:

“There needs to be an audit of existing EU funding to the UK creative sector, to identify old funding streams that should be replaced by the UK Government when the EU funding ends.”

This seems to me to be a critical point. We need to make sure that there are no obstacles to musicians getting properly paid work in the UK – and this means we need to look at a whole range of policy issues and make sure that they are working in tandem with the direction of travel of the Brexit negotiations.

We have already seen large high profile industries such as the car manufacturers, agriculture and the city putting pressure on Government to ensure that regulations remain favourable and that funding is put in place to replace EU funding. We need to be doing the same for the creative industries.

For instance the UK currently receives €40 million from Creative Europe out of a total pot of €1.3bn and Arts Council Wales organisations have received £4.8 million in funding in recent years.

For one ISM composer, 80% of their commissions were partnerships with organisations within the EU. This is to say nothing of the €600,000 of funding to the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO). So we need to persuade Government to look at funding or at the very least explore other mechanisms such as improving tax breaks for the creative sector.

And we need to make sure that there is no erosion in the current levels of copyright protection which is so central to working as a musician or indeed a creative. As and when we are outside the warm embrace of the EU, I am worried that Government may become the focus of increased lobbying by the likes of Google to deregulate copyright for their own purposes to the detriment of the creative sector.

We also need to tackle what is happening to music venues at the moment. It is estimated that over the past ten years, a 40 per cent of London’s music venues have closed, reflecting similar patterns around the UK. All sorts of reasons have been the cause of these closures from licensing, noise, residential developments, prices. Only yesterday we heard that The Forge in Camden would be closing. So we need local authorities to be actively promoting live venues rather than allowing them to close which will further undermine the ability of artists to find quality work.

It is also vital that we have skills and education policies which will support the creative sector as they shift their focus from Europe to working further afield. We will need funding, copyright, visa and tax regimes which will support our creatives as they work globally coupled with a domestic policy agenda on issues such as venues which can incubate and promote creatives as they develop their talent for this brave new world.

If we do not link up the policies dealing with the immediate challenges with Brexit to these other policy areas then I fear that our creatives will not be fully equipped to make the most of these opportunities whatever they may be, emerging from the decision of the UK people back in June 2016.'

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