Louise Richards, Executive Director of Motionhouse tells us about the threat faced by Motionhouse of losing their ability to tour in the EU.
Over to Louise:
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. In February 2021, we are already in discussion for 56 performances at 20 venues in 11 EU countries in the next 15 months, with multiple leads still to follow.
We’re supporting the petition for a cultural work permit and visa free travel for touring professionals and artists in the deal between the UK and the EU because it is vital to the continued success of our 33-year-old touring company. Like our colleagues across the cultural sector, we’ll need to rebuild after Covid, but under current conditions, Brexit will have an even deeper and more lasting impact. Without the ability to tour in the EU with ease, at best we will have to reduce our European touring, reducing our income; at worst the future of the company and its contribution to UK culture will be at threat. In the short term, our biggest challenge is finding the information we need to do business. Each EU country has different rules for third country nationals working. For our bookings in the EU in summer 2021 (Covid-permitting), finding this information is urgent.
To give some background: in 2018/19 and 2019/20, we toured 7 shows to 33 theatres and festivals, performing 125 times in 13 countries. In 2017 and 2018 we were also commissioned to create large-scale outdoor events in Denmark and Romania.
Under current conditions, it is impossible to imagine how we would be able to do this with the paperwork and cost involved. We risk losing our connections with European promoters, who may want to avoid the complexities of working with UK artists.
Under the present deal, we will be limited on the time each performer or crew member can travel within the Schengen area and then within each country – we will have to navigate the different country requirements regarding waivers, visas and work permits and maximum working days. Touring to the EU will become an administrative and logistical burden, adding significant costs, potentially pricing us out of the market. Last minute bookings will be practically impossible, and if we exceed permitted working days, we will have to turn down work. With up to 5 shows on the road at any given time, the cost of producing ‘carnets’ to move our equipment (sets, lights, costumes) and additional time spent queuing at ports, will push up our prices. And ‘Cabotage’ rules make longer tours challenging if not impossible.
The cultural sector contributed £32.3bn to the UK economy in 2018. Allowing cultural exports to take place unhampered will allow UK cultural professionals to continue to be respected contributors in the creative and cultural sectors across the world.
We ask the government to renegotiate. Livelihoods are at stake, but so is the outstanding status of UK professionals as key players in an international market.
Louise Richards, Executive Director of Motionhouse
17th Feb 2021
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