The Herald: Scottish music festival warns UK culture of being left out 'in the cold' after Brexit

THE departure of the UK from the European Union could leave its music "out in the cold", a leading Scottish music festival has warned.

Fiona Robertson, the director of the Sound festival, which comes to an end this weekend in venues in Aberdeen and the north east, fears that the kind of international musical collaborations vital for large music festival will be stymied by Brexit.

Access to international artists and companies, and increased travel visa difficulties could scupper musical interactions in the future, she has warned.

The annual festival of new music, which runs until 4 November, has premiered a new work by Raphaële Biston, a French composer.

The music festival has also worked with partners in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere.

The French work, for example, was co-commissioned by Sound Festival and the French festival Musiques Démesurées in Clermont-Ferrand.

Another European group at this year's festival are Ensemble Klang, from the Netherlands, who have premiered a new work by composer John de Simone.

Ms Robertson said: "We were only able to commission Raphaële to write her new work with cross country support.

"We have huge concerns that Brexit could impact on our ability to commission new work such as this."

The Scottish festival has been working with the French festival to co-commission five new works from Scottish and French composers, and given platforms for composers in both countries.

It has also worked with other festivals in Europe, including the Germany event Donaueschinger Musiktage with which it co-commissioned a new work for viola and ensemble from Oscar Strasnoy this year.

More complex visa conditions after Brexit could impact such festival collaborations, Ms Robertson said.

Already several festivals, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Celtic Connections have experienced difficulties in getting visas for artists from outside the EU, due to an apparent clampdown by the UK Home Office.

Ms Robertson added: "Contributions by international performers have enriched sound over the years,.

"At the moment if we want to bring in a performer or group from outside the EU the visa process is hugely challenging, and there is no guarantee that the Home Office will actually grant a visa as has happened to Sound in the past.”

"For EU performers no visas are currently required, and we have been able to bring leading groups to Sound such as Ensemble 2e2m who are with us at the moment.

"Collaboration across borders is essential to foster creativity and open horizons – essential to good new work and to giving our own musicians and composers opportunities to discover new work and tour.

"We are very concerned that after Brexit, a complex, time consuming, expensive and uncertain visa process will make these projects much more difficult to facilitate and leave the UK in the cold."

David Simpson, a cellist and a member of Ensemble 2e2m, based in France, said: "International exchange among musicians has been extremely important throughout history, beginning even before the Renaissance.

"We were invited by the Sound festival and Aberdeen University to participate in concerts and workshops with students and Scottish musicians.

"These direct exchanges are vital to our art.

"We are very worried that Brexit will make these exchanges much more difficult, if not impossible, for purely administrative reasons.

"It would be very unfortunate if these exchanges ceased."

Phil Miller
Published 3 November 2018

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