Bishop of Chichester highlights impact on UK arts of EU withdrawal

On 11th October 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Bragg, “That this House takes note of the impact on the arts of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.” The Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Martin Warner, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, for the opportunity to consider the vital and pressing question of the impact that Brexit will have on the arts, in which we are internationally recognised as a world-class leader.

The arts can be misrepresented as an elitist and London-centric field. That view should neither pass unchallenged nor be allowed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a complex but demonstrable link between the arts and tourism, which in 2016 contributed £66 billion to the national economy. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, ALVA, has noted that across the tourism industry there has already been a fall in the number of EU workers, resulting in staff shortages and the use of staff who lack essential skills. ALVA has called for tourism to be considered favourably ​by government in any arrangement that would allow certain industry sectors to have preferential access to EU labour markets.

This makes sense for an industry dependent on soft skills—people skills—to ensure the quality of service. But, in recognition of the vital contribution of the arts to tourism and the creative industries, I hope that the Government will also ensure that there is a similarly preferential provision for free movement for those who work in music, theatre and the visual arts—as many other speakers have already indicated—to ensure that the UK sustains its place as the leading cultural centre of Europe.

The complex economic link between tourism and the arts is exemplified by Glyndebourne, in East Sussex, in the diocese that I serve, with its famous summer festival and equally important touring opera programme. The potential loss of free movement is one of the greatest threats to its capacity to plan long term and to sustain its international status and attraction. Securing the best singers requires forward planning of three to four years. The uncertainty of a Brexit agreement, with the risk of additional costs in administration and the impact of a fall in the value of the pound, add significantly to the potential damage that Glyndebourne faces in its future planning—and it is not alone as an opera company in facing this. Equally, the same concerns have been expressed by Opera North, which, like Glyndebourne, is an important counterbalance to the concentration of artistic resources in London.

The inspiration to live and work as an artist on the international stage is often sparked in childhood. Schools that participate in the significant financial investments of, for example, our cathedrals and universities in the teaching and making of music are an important supplier of future artists. In the diverse musical life that Chichester Cathedral is presently able to sustain, we are aware of the cultural cross-pollination from which we benefit in the contribution of musicians from the EU and the formative experiences of choir tours in Europe, with the result that many of our musical ensembles are regarded as the best in the world. Restrictions due to additional costs and administration would threaten our capacity to attract and perform at the levels that we do, which would be weakened by the loss of such tours at an early and formative stage.

It is inevitable that we should express our concerns through reference to statistics and to arts administration and some other external things that shape the life of this sector. But the arts challenge us to be more intuitive and capable of naming a reality that is not a commodity. So I wish to quote an artist, Maciej Urbanek, who wrote to tell me what the impact has already been on him personally. He is from Poland, he grew up in a mix of cultural influences and places and he is now proud to be teaching photography at the Royal Academy Schools here in London, where he graduated with the gold medal award in 2010. He describes the announcement of the referendum result as the immediate start of a new social order. In the RA Schools a colleague joked, “What are you still doing here?” He is an international artist—an emerging leader in his field. Like many of his peers in the creative industries, he senses:

“London is becoming gradually less important”;

​Glasgow is becoming popular, and definitely Berlin. To counter this, Tim Marlow, the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy, identifies the need for help with visas and travel for students, and the need for ways of circumnavigating trade barriers and borders for works of art being lent and borrowed. He said:

“I’m not as optimistic as I have been for most of my working life”.

The details of legislative process must not prevent us attending also to the noise of social discourse and its capacity to damage the culture and environment in which we sustain those who bring artistic and intellectual enrichment to us at every level of our society. I hope that government will be attentive to combating that noise with the provision of clear and hopeful signs for the future for those who work in the arts. Commitment to free movement would be one of the signs of government attention. Commitment to the retention of artists’ resale rights, which are like musicians’ royalties, would be another sign. Commitment to continuing our full participation in Creative Europe, which funds so many vital arts projects, would be yet another sign.

To conclude, the leader of a major art fund wrote to me to say that creativity is generally stimulated by adversity, and protest is a powerful muse. In the face of the adversity that the arts world is facing, I hope that the Government will commit to the arts as a muse that can continue to inspire us as a nation to be more expansive, inclusive and creative—and more fully alive.


Viscount Younger of Leckie (Minister, Con) [extract]…The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, raised the point about uncertainty. Her Majesty’s Government recognise the difficulties that the uncertainty about the EU exit brings. We acknowledge the uncertainty. But, as has been said by many of my colleagues, the negotiations are progressing and we are confident of an agreement this autumn…

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, said, along with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and the noble Lord, Lord Foster, funding streams such as Creative Europe are another key area of interest for the arts sector. We recognise that European money is clearly an important component of the funding landscape for the arts. Ultimately the decision on which programmes are in the UK’s interests will be decided as part of the future partnership negotiations which, as I said earlier, are ongoing…

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester asked whether the Government would commit to continuing the UK Artists’ Resale Right. It stems, as he will be aware, from the implementation of the EU directive on the resale right for the benefit of the author of a work of art. It will be retained in UK law through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which means that UK artists and estates will continue to share its benefits…


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