How will Brexit affect the arts?
Does EU membership benefit Britain’s cultural sector? How will it be affected by Brexit? FT arts journalist Griselda Murray Brown puts these questions to the directors of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and Association of British Orchestras.
Produced by Griselda Murray Brown. Filmed & edited by Richard Topping. Cover picture from Getty Images.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN (VOICEOVER): Before the UK voted for Brexit, the British Creative Industries Federation surveyed its members. 96% said they wanted to remain within the European Union. They cited access to EU markets, talent and funding, as well as the opportunities for partnerships and the importance of tourism.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: But what exactly does the UK's cultural sector gain from EU membership? And what could it lose? I've come to put these questions to the director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, in a town where 65% of voters opted to leave the EU.
ALISTAIR HUDSON: What MIMA is gaining from the EU, we can see right now, in a programme with a European Network of museums, called the Internationale. And this is a five year programme with 2.5 million euros of funding to develop new networks and new ways for museums to work in a civic way, as social contributors in society. And this is money that you won't get from other places.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: Something that the referendum result has revealed is the sense of frustration and anger that many parts of the UK feel. They feel left out, left behind. What part do you think the arts can play in a place like Middlesbrough?
ALISTAIR HUDSON: The Northeast of England has acute issues, probably more acute than other regions of the country in terms of its economics, its population, migration and so on. And obviously we had the steelworks closed down recently. And these are big global issues. And they're also cultural issues. Like all the issues we have are essentially about culture.
You don't choose whether you have culture or not. It's about what kind of culture you have and what kind of culture you want to develop. Is it inward looking or is it outward looking? So I think these are the things that art institutions contribute. They're one of the last few public places where you can develop a different kind of culture, encourage a different kind of atmosphere, a different way of thinking.
The frustrations that everybody has about the way global economics have, in a way, not listened to local communities or certain individuals or certain groups over the last 30 years or so, we all share those feelings. But this to me does not seem to be the way out. I suspect we will be back to business as usual in a very short amount of time, in terms of who has the power, who has control, who makes the decisions. And regions like the Northeast will not be benefiting, I suspect, from that.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: It's not just museums that worry about a future outside the EU. British orchestras too have voiced their concern.
MARK PEMBERTON: Lovely to meet you.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: So you are in favour of remaining in the EU. What do you think the benefits are of our membership to British orchestras?
MARK PEMBERTON: We've benefited from the fact there haven't been any borders in relation to the free movement of people and the free movement of our orchestras across all the borders of Europe. There is ever greater need for us to earn a living by picking up gigs at festivals and in concert halls across Europe at a time when we've got a contraction in public funding here in the UK.
But almost more crucial is actually the free movement of people. Because our job, of course, when there's a vacancy in orchestra, is to recruit the very best musician. Many, many people now work in our orchestras are European citizens. Of course, many are also non-European citizens.
And this is where we've got some experience of this. Because we are already bringing musicians and artists in under the points based system if they're coming from outside the EU. And we know that there's a lot of paperwork and a lot of costs for getting a visa that goes with that.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: Do you think there's an argument to be made that this could in fact-- this could be a positive thing. That actually, British musicians might be able to rise to the top--
MARK PEMBERTON: OK.
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: In a slightly less competitive market?
MARK PEMBERTON: Well, yeah. There's not very many positives that we can really find at the moment. There are two things I think that we might be able to say. One is, there are indeed some directives as the European Union that can make our life a little more complicated.
For example, the noise of work regulations, which set thresholds for exposure to noise, are difficult to apply in the context of an orchestra. In terms of opportunities for British musicians, well the British musicians have to be there in the first place. What I would say is, yes we could certainly nurture homegrown talent to be in a position to take positions in our orchestras.
But for that the government has to invest in music education, give us the tools by which we can nurture that talent and get it absolutely job ready, then yes. But in a situation in which we have a government that of course is using the [INAUDIBLE] to prioritise STEM subjects and exclude creative subjects, like music, I'm not optimistic that that is going to happen. [MUSIC PLAYING]
GRISELDA MURRAY BROWN: Our focus here has been the public arts. The art market, of course, is a very different beast. One arguably more affected by the economies of China and Brazil than by Britain's relationship to the EU. It's still unclear exactly who and what will be affected by Brexit.
Though, many working in the creative industries feel anxious rather than reassured. What is clear is that at times of economic uncertainty and social division, the arts can play a vital role in bringing people together and reflecting on the world in which we live.