Art versus Brexit: can we brush it up?

Despite the 51.9% majority who shocked us all by voting to leave the EU earlier this year, it comes as no surprise to us creatives that 96% of members of the Creative Industries Federation voted remain. Seeing as the single market in the EU accounted for our largest creative export – totaling 56% of overseas trade – what does Brexit mean for us now?

Is it only down from here? With the looming prospect of a loss of €1.46 billion EU funding to UK creative industries, it highlights the undeserved cuts the industry has already faced. According to the Art’s Council, local government spending cuts on culture between 2010 and 2015 fell by 16.6%, hitting areas outside the capital hardest. Newcastle-upon-Tyne threatened in 2012 to cut the culture budget by 100%; eventually it dropped to 50%, but this still saw the city’s organisations, such as Live Theatre, being forced to reduce spending by 70%.

And now, post-Brexit, the North-East continues to suffer. Abigail Pogson of Gateshead’s music venue Sage fears that “economic uncertainty” will drive down audience numbers, and that they will have to “redouble efforts” to enable dialogue across artist communities.

“For creatives post-Brexit will be even more of an uphill struggle”

But it’s not just about money, Brexit hints at loss of opportunities in arts academies across the Channel as well as artist exchange. It halts the free movement of creatives; for example, first non-British winner of the Turner Prize, German-born Wolfgang Tillmans, has been based in London since 1995. Vice-versa, Berlin hosts over 20,000 artists, but Brexit now sees them swap talent and ambition for Visas and paperwork.

And sadly, literature too is hit. Our translation industry is vital, worth over £1 billion and 12,000 jobs, and was promised stable development within the EU. However now following the exit, English as a staple language in Europe even has its relevance questioned. Furthermore, with border tariffs on the incline, enticement to do business with the UK could dwindle.

“But it’s not just about money, Brexit hints at loss of opportunities in arts academies across the Channel”

Is it really so bad? Culture secretary and Leave-voter John Whittingdale, builds his belief on the foundation of “extraordinary talent” in our country, as well as “amazing cultural heritage”, all of which encourages creative growth. With control of our own spending, Whittingdale now wants us to “take advantage of new opportunities” with business worldwide. Rufus Norris, artistic director of the National Theatre backs this, believing the vote could be a stimulus to “spur an increase” with global collaborations, since “there is no way we are going down [the] path” of cultural isolation. Novelist Dreda Say Mitchell voiced to The Guardian that ‘a decade down the line, there would be an increase regional representation in art, synonymous of the Britain we live in’ – perhaps a result of diminishing European competition?

What is being done? The Creative Industries Federation as well as the Art’s Council claim to be doing as much as possible to “safeguard the future of the UK’s cultural education”, and the European Commission has told us that at current, the referendum does not affect eligibility of UK industries or universities to compete for EU funding. But is there any certainty at all about relationships after the official departure? No.

And so it seems, that the future for creatives post-Brexit will be even more of an uphill struggle than it already was.

But I think we knew that anyway.

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