The failure to include an EU-wide cultural work permit and visa free travel for touring professionals and artists in the deal between the UK and the EU will have a catastrophic effect across all touring art forms – theatre, dance, circus, visual arts and music. How this issue is resolved will have a fundamental effect on our viability as an international touring company, and our ability to continue creating world-class work to take around the UK and the world.
At the time of writing at the end January 2021, very early in the booking process (with multiple leads still to follow), we are already in discussion about 56 performances at 20 venues in 11 EU countries to the end of 2022.
As one of the UK’s busiest touring companies of our scale, taking our dance-circus productions to theatres and festivals across Europe accounts for approximately 50% of our touring income. Over the past 15 years we have built up a strong network of European partners.
In 2018/19 and 2019/20 (2020/21 was hit by Covid), we toured 7 shows to 33 theatres and festivals, performing 125 times in 13 countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, The Netherlands and Romania) generating just over £280,000 in income. In 2017 and 2018 we were also commissioned to create and deliver large-scale outdoor events in Denmark and Romania, which generated a further £140,000.
Under current conditions, it is impossible to imagine how we will be able to do this now. The paperwork and cost involved will reduce our ability to be responsive to demand. We risk losing our connections with European promoters and festivals, who may in turn look to EU artists to avoid the complexities of working with the UK.
In the short term, one of the biggest challenges we are facing for bookings in the next few months is finding the information we need to do business. Each EU country has different rules for third country nationals working, and we are currently spending huge amounts of time trying to find out the information we need about requirements for work permits. Unfortunately, we are finding conflicting information and advice and even country embassies themselves are unable to give us clear information. Therefore, we are unable to proceed with confidence with any of our European partners. We are in discussion about bookings in the EU in summer 2021 (Covid-permitting), therefore finding this information in order to start the paperwork process is urgent.
We are currently already facing the impact of rebuilding after Covid, but despite the devastation of the pandemic, under the current conditions, Brexit will have a deeper and more lasting impact. Without the ability to tour in the EU with ease, at best we will have to drastically reduce our European touring, severely affecting our income; at worst the future of the company and its dynamic vision, extensive touring and contribution to UK culture will be at threat.