Womad festival struggling to book artists due to Brexit uncertainty

World music festival director says acts worry they will face visa problems this summer

The organiser of Womad has said the world music festival is struggling to book artists because many fear they might have difficulties entering the country due to Brexit.

Chris Smith, the festival’s director, said it was getting harder each year to get people to perform.

“It is harder to book artists because of Brexit … We are struggling to overcome it and let artists know they are welcome here and [that] people still want to experience their great music,” he said.

“Lots of artists are finding they can get to Europe but fear taking the next step to the UK, particularly if there is there is no passport union. It will become more complicated. When we are out of the EU the passport arrangements will change, so artists coming from wherever will get into Europe but worry they then won’t be able to cross the Channel.”

While he noted their concerns may be unfounded because it was too early for artists to make official visa applications, he said there was a feeling this year of people asking: “Can we be bothered? Is this a process we want to put ourselves through?”

Smith, speaking as the festival launched a 2019 programme including Ziggy Marley and Orbital, said that audiences had also expressed their concerns about the issue and had asked how performers could be made to feel more welcome.

“Some artists are saying they might not bother applying [for a visa]. My programme manager is in regular dialogue, offering them reassurance, [but] recent events have not made that easier,” he said.

Smith described the fear that artists would overstay their visas as “arrogance”, because they were successful artists. “Why would they want to stay?”

Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) was founded by the musician Peter Gabriel in 1982. This year’s UK festival will take place from 25–28 July at Charlton Park in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

Last year Gabriel expressed his “alarm” at UK foreign policy after a number of international artists were unable to perform at Womad due to visa issues.

Gabriel said: “It is alarming that our UK festival would now have real problems bringing artists into this country … [many of whom] no longer want to come to the UK because of the difficulty, cost and delays with visas, along with the new fear that they will not be welcomed.”


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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