Festival of Brexit: Organisers say event will go ahead and 'bring people together'

Event was first announced by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 09 September 2020 10:48
Boris Johnson outside No 10
Boris Johnson outside No 10

The so-called “Festival of Brexit” will go ahead, it has emerged, after organisers called for “daring, new and popular” ideas for the £120m national event.

Initially announced by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018 as a way of lifting public spirits after Britain left the EU, the event now has a working title of “Festival UK 2022”.

May said she wanted the festival to celebrate “our nation’s diversity and talent”, and to mark Brexit as a moment of “national renewal”.

At the time, many questioned whether Brexit was truly a moment for national celebration, while others slammed the event as a waste of public money.

Recently, there have been calls to instead give the money to an arts sector facing disaster due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Martin Green, chief creative officer, is planning to pick 10 “big ideas” that can help heal the divisions caused by Brexit, and showcase British creativity.

A single project might last “a day or a year”, and could involve “one big act or 10 million tiny acts”.

“This project was conceived to happen after our exit from the EU and acknowledges that we have been going through, and are going through, a divisive time,” he told BBC News.

“Creativity has always proven itself brilliant at finding more of what we have in common than what we don't. So the idea that projects can bring people together is a really timely one.”

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Asked whether such an event can realistically heal divisions that have come to the fore in recent years as a result of political processes, Green replies: “I would say that I imagine it has a powerful role to play.”

Green was the head of ceremonies at the 2012 Olympics in London, and served as director when Hull was appointed UK City of Culture in 2017.

“Remember, coming together and bringing people together isn't about asking people all to think and believe the same thing,” he said.

“It's about understanding each other and appreciating each other's differences and commonalities.”

Green added that the pitching process will not be restricted to established names in the arts, and that new talent is encouraged to apply as well.

The deadline for submissions is on 16 October 2020, after which 30 teams will be awarded £100,000 to develop their ideas before the final 10 are chosen. 

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