Chris Smith, the organiser of Womad world music festival, has claimed musicians are refusing to perform in UK because the post-Brexit vote has led to “humiliating” visa process.
Smith said that the contributing factor of right-wing politicians has led to huge difficulties in booking major talent for this year’s Womad festival in the UK, saying the situation “genuinely broke his heart.”
“The world has never needed events like Womad more than it does now. It stands for tolerance and understanding and learning and openness but that culture is being crushed as politicians lurch to the right,” Smith told Radio Times.
Delving deeper yet, Smith offered his thoughts on the tightening up of visa controls, something he believes is a reflection of the political climate: “There are good people in the Foreign Office trying to help us make Womad work but the message is going out that Britain is a difficult place to get into or even closed. My fear is that the situation is only going to get worse.
“We’ve had situations where say an African artist has been due to come who plays a particularly rare instrument, and we’ll be asked, ‘Can’t you find someone in the UK who plays that instrument?’, which is absurd,” he added.
“The saddest thing is always the number of artists struggling to get visas to come and perform. What we’re seeing this year is unexpected and even more depressing, which is artists saying we’re just not going to tackle the immigration system, saying it’s too difficult and too expensive, and it’s humiliating. Artists have accepted our invitation and then looked into the visa process and told us, sorry we’re just not going to do this. That’s a situation we should be ashamed of.”
Smith continued: “It makes me worry for the future. It won’t put us out of business, but after this year’s festival, Peter and I are going to have to have a long conversation about what we do about this — how we can continue to support artists getting across our borders. We want to do everything we can to support them.”