Musicians refusing to perform in UK due to 'humiliating' post-Brexit vote visa process and right-wing politicians, says Womad festival organiser

Chris Smith described the situation as something Britain should be 'ashamed of'

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 26 July 2018 15:05
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Fly-by tour of the WOMAD 2018 Arena

The organiser of Womad world music festival has said that entering the UK has become so “difficult and humiliating” since the Brexit referendum that performers are giving up.

Chris Smith stated it's become tougher to enlist performers to this year's festival due to the impact the UK visa process is having on foreign musicians - something he says has “genuinely broke his heart.”

Smith told Radio Times: “The world has never needed events like Womad more than it does now. It stands for tolerance and understanding and learning and openness but that culture is being crushed as politicians lurch to the right.”

Performers from 128 countries are scheduled to attend this year's festival, however, Smith claims that many were forced to withdraw from participation due to the visa process - a development he blames on politicians moving to the right.

“Artists have accepted our invitation and then looked into the visa process and told us, sorry we're just not going to do this,“ he said, adding: ”That's a situation we should be ashamed of.”

“We’ve had situations where, say, an African artist has been due to come who plays a particularly rare instrument, and we’ll be asked: ‘Can’t you find someone in the UK who plays that instrument?’, which is absurd.“

Smith continued: "What we’re seeing this year is unexpected and even more depressing, which is artists saying we’re just not going to tackle the immigration system, saying it’s too difficult and too expensive, and it’s humiliating.”

Peter Gabriel founded Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) in 1982. The Womad Festival runs from 26-29 July at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. Its headline acts include Amadou and Mariam, Django Django and Leftfield.

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