Letter to our Newcastle MP, Chi Onwarah and a response from John Glen, the Minister for arts, Heritage and tourism
I’d like to tell you a little story. We are a small arts organisation based in Charlotte Square in the city centre. We have been creating projects connecting our city to European and international communities for over 25 years.
We have been more successful than most at bringing Creative Europe funds into the city and although we are not a large institution, nor a large employer, we are often in the position of promoting Newcastle as a cultural centre, presenting our programme at international conferences and events. (In November I will speak on Brexit in Paris, at the Centre Culturel Irlandaise. My 8th such presentation in the past 18 months. )
We know the value of culture in contributing to fairer, kinder and more confident neighbourhoods. We have made great connections all across Europe using art to bring people together. Newcastle’s international cultural standing is stronger for it.
But I am worried.
Yesterday’s leaked report on the Tory plans for immigration is, I recognise, not policy, but it generated little response from the Opposition. I am immensely proud of our achievements, yet these proposals would be a disaster for us. Our artists, producers and colleagues flow seamlessly from European state to European state. They are highly qualified and interesting individuals, yet we can rarely award long-term contracts.
I was pleased to finally hear Kier Starmer support the UK’s continued membership of the Single Market. It is vital for our survival. Now we need to hear of the value that free movement brings to our country. It’s not just about fruit pickers or bankers. The cultural sector needs free movement for artists and cultural producers or Britain’s thriving cultural world will slowly die.
We are already struggling with the negative press the UK is receiving across Europe, and the blustering jingoism of our chief negotiator further diminishes our reputation.
I’d like this story to continue as a story of hope, hope that Labour will show the leadership we need in these damaging times. Hope that Labour will consider its domestic policy in a European context, where the work we do is as much about creating fairer, safer and more generous societies as it is about free trade. There is so much more to our relationship with the other 27 states than the lining of our pockets.
Arts and culture underpin our sense of identity and our understanding of each other, from music to television they reveal the hidden and celebrate what we share. Yet we are so often overlooked in political debate. The arts play a vital part in our region’s profile in the world. Please help support our ability to keep cultural exchange alive.
Executive Director, ISIS Arts, Newcastle