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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

UK theatre industry appeals for Brexit clarity and more funding

European tours face planning problems until visas, social security and transportation issues are resolved

The English National Opera. The UK theatre industry said Europe was a hugely important market for performing arts.Getty Images
The English National Opera. The UK theatre industry said Europe was a hugely important market for performing arts.Getty Images

The UK theatre industry has urged the government to resolve uncertainties related to post-Brexit touring provisions and appealed for funding to overcome added costs and lost work.

Performing arts in the UK are in a precarious state because of Covid-19. Productions that were able to reopen in the UK were only able to do so briefly in the autumn before new restrictions were introduced to stop the spread of the virus.

The industry highlighted issues and restrictions with visas and work permits that have been introduced in the European Union’s 27 countries because of Brexit. It also noted additional pressures and costs involved in transporting items such as props and musical equipment.

Julian Bird, the chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said Europe was a hugely important market for performing arts.

Kash Bennett, the managing director of National Theatre Productions, which delivers all live productions performed outside the NT, said international tours took a long time to organise.

“We are often planning tours 18 months to two years out. It’s the same with all touring really, trying to line up venues and trying to get everything cohesive takes an enormous amount of time and energy,” she said.

Ms Bennett said the lack of clarity meant she was unable to plan future tours to Europe because issues such as visas, social security and transportation were unresolved.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t be able to at some point in the future and we really, really hope to be able to as soon as we can. But at the moment we simply cannot plan and that is what’s really holding us back.

“While playing in Europe is only a part of what we do at the NT, a lot of our colleagues across the performing arts industry rely on international touring and especially touring in Europe to survive."

A letter sent last week to the UK government by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Theatre highlighted that the arts and culture industry usually contributes about £10.8 billion ($14.7bn) a year to the UK economy.

But arts and culture “provide more than just economic value to the Treasury. They create a sense of pride and belonging in, and bring joy to, our communities,” the letter reads.

“They are also a significant contributor to soft power, promoting the United Kingdom, including its values and international trade, to the rest of the world, through the exchange of human capital, ideas, culture and language,” it adds.

Updated: February 5, 2021 09:23 PM

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