Theatre News

Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and more send open letter demanding visa-free travel for artists

The post-Brexit rules for artists will usher in a ‘bleak time for British creative practitioners’

Patrick Stewart and ian McKellen
Patrick Stewart and ian McKellen
© Dan Wooller

Equity members including Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Miriam Margolyes, Melanie La Barrie, Emmanuel Kojo, Harriet Walker, Juliet Stevenson, Cyril Nri and Tanya Franks have signed a letter calling for new visa terms for artists.

Over the last couple of months, dire messages have been sent out by touring companies warning of the logistical nightmare now involved in touring productions across Europe – each EU member state having its own rules, tariffs and visa application systems that, pre-Brexit, were not an issue.

The rigmarole involved in touring post-Brexit is made plain in the letter: "Now we have to pay hundreds of pounds, fill in form after form, and spend weeks waiting for approval – just so we can do our jobs."

The consequences of the new visa rules has already been made plain: "Job advertisements and castings have even been asking for EU passport holders only to apply, which 29 per cent of Equity members say they have seen."

Speaking to the Prime Minister, the open letter calls for a renegotiation to give creative practitioners the chance to "travel to the EU visa-free for work, and for our European counterparts to be able to do the same in the UK."

The letter warns of "irreparable harm to the UK's creative workforce, our industries and to our standing on the international cultural stage." The creative industries are some of the most lucrative and (pre-Covid) rapidly growing sectors in the country – worth, as the letter highlights, £112bn to the economy each year.

This comes in a disastrous time for many, when a large portion of the freelance theatre workforce has not been protected by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and job opportunities are scarce.

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