Celtic Connections fears for future of Scottish music being ‘shut out’ of Europe after Brexit

MUSICIANS could be ‘shut out’ of European culture in the wake of Brexit, the leader of one of Scotland’s biggest festivals fears.

Donald Shaw, the musician and creative producer of CelticConnections, the roots, folk and traditional music festival which opens in venues across Glasgow today, said he fears that Scottish musicians will find it much harder to play in Europe after the UK severs the cord with the EU.

The extra paper work and bureaucracy that may be required to book UK musicians for European tours and festivals could work against them, he said.

Celtic Connections begins tonight with its opening concert, Syne of the Times at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, which will feature more than 120 musicians, including around seventy younger musicians taken from the Feisian organisations.

It also features the Galician folk orchestra, SonDeSeu – and it is the festival’s links with Europe after Brexit that is a concern for Shaw.

However, if Brexit happens, he foresees problems both for Scotland’s musicians playing in Europe, and with musicians coming to Scotland.

He said: “My issue is that as a festival we have to be very pro-active in engaging with European artists, not only culturally – because the more we understand about their cultures, the more we learn about our own.

“But also because for folk musicians in Scotland, a lot of them have made their living touring in places like Spain, Italy and France and Germany, all over Europe and Scandinavia as well.

“And the reality is that whenever Brexit does happen it is only understandable that there will be element of us being shut out by European festivals in those countries.

“They might say: ‘It is a bit of a pain bringing in a British artist, you have to fill in all these forms’. I think that is going to happen whether we like it or not.

“So we have to counter that by being particularly welcoming, and show our colours – that we are an inclusive, international festival and being very pro-European, which we always have been.”

Last year Mr Shaw spoke of how two artists, from Mali and Senegal, had withdrawn themselves from consideration for the festival because of the difficulties with obtaining Home Office visas – an issue which has vexed other festival directors.

After Brexit, he can see more issues for Scottish artists.

He said: “It is my concern that after a while, we get forgotten about, because it is a hassle.

“And that was my point with international visa issues.

“We found that several high-profile African artists that we had approached to play in Celtic Connections, who initially were very positive about playing, they pulled out not because they had their visa refused, they just didn’t particularly like the process in front of them.

“They were being asked so many questions, they said: ‘Look, your country doesn’t really want me to play, I don’t need this, let me know when it’s easier to get into the country.’

“The other side of that, is that Europan festivals and tour promoters will say: ‘It used to be easy, phone the Scottish promoters and bring them in, but now we are not sure we want to do that.’ That is definitely a concern.

“It is like everything in this Brexit argument, when you start to realise the impact that culture has economically on the UK- and it is extraordinary industry – who knows what the effect will be.”

He added: “I do think it is important that we make an effort as a festival to shout from the rooftops that we want to be recognised and not forgotten about.”

The Glasgow festival, one of Scotland’s most successful and beloved annual music events, is to stage concerts at the city’s Kings Theatre for the first time, and will mark the ten years since the death of revered Scottish singer-songwriter John Martyn.

The festival will run from January 17 to February 3 in venues across the city, including a series of high profile concerts at the 1800-seat King’s, which is usually the home for theatre shows.

The festival will use the venue across seven nights, and will include performances by Karine Polwart and Kris Drever, Gretchen Peters, Eddi Reader, Blazin Fiddles and Karen Matheson, the US singer John Grant and, on the final night, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay.

Mr Shaw said that ticket sales for the festival were “very good”.

He added: “There is a great old Gaelic quote that says, ‘The world might end but love and music will always carry on.’

“In terms of traditional music, we can look back at times of adversity, it wasn’t so long ago, after the ’45 [Jacobite rising], that the establishment was repressing people for playing music.

“We’ve dealt with quite a lot, so I don’t think the change in the politics of borders will stop traditional music surviving.”

Source: Celtic Connections fears for future of Scottish music being ‘shut out’ of Europe after Brexit

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