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Work Arrangements for UK Musicians in the EU: The Show Must Go On

In this blog, originally posted on Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE’s website and reposted here with his kind permission, he discusses how music is an important part of all of us – and a massive cultural export for the UK which must be protected.

Published: 25 January 2021 | 5:06 PM Updated: 26 January 2021 | 11:50 AM
Portrait photograph of Lord Holmes, he wears a blue suit against a plain grey background and a serious expression.
“Unforgivably, right now, intransigence and inflexibility is stopping all those amazing sounds, all those memories, unmade.”

I love music, it has got me through everything in life, the good, the bad, the lot. When I lost my sight it was a lifeline, music kept me going: Iron Maiden, Madonna, Magnum, more.

Before competing at Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney, it was my pre-race playlist that got me zoned. Now, I’ve finally got a smart speaker, training is transformed just through a word: this morning, Empire State of Mind, True Faith, Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag.

We know its power, we know its magic, we might not know that from the UK alone, we pump out around 10% of music production. A great listen, a massive cultural export.

So, more than fairly frustrating that musicians are currently caught in some utter international silliness, post Brexit, which needs to get sorted: Now.

It was this exactly which was the subject of a short debate in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday 19 January 2021) and the House of Lords this afternoon (Wednesday 20 January 2021). I was number 10 on the speaker list although sadly time elapsed before I could ask my question, which would have been:

“Will the minister commit to an overarching strategy to get live music thriving again, including a restart of urgent negotiations for a pan-EU musicians visa and the provision of Covid insurance for our festivals and live music sector?”

It doesn’t much matter whose fault this is, as colleagues pointed out during the debate, “we are where we are”. We need all of our ministerial and diplomatic efforts to be urgently put to sorting this out.

I don’t think the great groups of our past would have had quite the same ring if faced with this current restriction: The Stay at Home Wilburys or, The Stationery Stones! And those European gigs; the Beatles in Hamburg, oh to have been there. What of the international gigs of today, of tomorrow?

Music is part of me, part of us, it is why we put it at the very heart of our London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies. More than a tour, a musical, a magical tour de force. Unforgivably, right now, intransigence and inflexibility is stopping all those amazing sounds, all those memories, unmade.

It was similarly at the heart of our Olympic and Paralympic Bid. To all our officials, ministers and all those involved and to all those in the EU, “What have you done today to make you feel proud”. Get a deal for our musicians and let pride flow anew.

You can read this blog in its original format, further blogs and more information on Lord Holmes on his website.

Take action now

Add your voice to ours – write to the Prime Minister and your MP about how musicians must be able to keep working in the EU as they were able to before.

Even if you have already done this on multiple occasions, please consider doing it again. Your views are having an impact – as demonstrated by the increasing numbers of debates in parliament on this issue.

Write to the Prime Minister and your MP.

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