Edinburgh festivals director raises concerns over visa rules

Julie Armour spoke out ahead of a summit in Edinburgh later on Wednesday.

Edinburgh festivals director raises concerns over visa rules Pixabay

The complexity of immigration rules can deter global artists from coming to the UK, the director of Festivals Edinburgh has warned.

Julie Armour, who heads up the umbrella organisation for the city’s major festivals, highlighted concerns about the process performers sometimes have to go through to take part in events.

She spoke out ahead of a summit with the UK Government and representatives from the devolved administrations in Edinburgh later on Wednesday, which is being held to examine the issue of visas for international festivals.

With members of the culture community also taking part in the event, Ms Armour said: “Edinburgh’s festivals were born with an international spirit at our heart so along with festival colleagues across the country we’re increasingly concerned that the complexity of visa rules can deter artists and we’re determined to protect the free flow of ideas at a time when people and countries need to be even more globally engaged with each other.”

Some 8000 artists from overseas flock to Edinburgh every year to take part in the capital’s arts festivals – which attract audiences of around 4.7 million and generate more than £300m for the economy.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop raised fears that Westminster’s proposed new points-based immigration system could exacerbate the problems artists face when trying to get permission to work in the UK.

Industries such as the care and tourism sectors have already spoken out about the potential impact the changes could have on Scotland.

Ms Hyslop said: “Festivals across Scotland and the UK already face significant challenges when it comes to the mobility of artists and performers, and the UK Government’s new immigration proposals, including ending freedom of movement, will exacerbate this.”

She stressed “Scotland’s festivals are world-leading and we welcome cultural exchange and participation”.

The culture secretary added that “key to this is the ability to host international visitors for festivals and gatherings”.

Ms Hyslop has already written to home secretary Priti Patel, urging her and UK Government ministers to work with the devolved administrations to find practical solutions to the challenges facing festivals and performers.

The culture sector wants the UK Government to expand the Permitted Paid Engagement scheme to a period longer than one month, making it easier for performers to work in the UK for extended periods.

They also wish for the Permit Free Festivals scheme, which allows overseas artists to take part without needing a certificate of sponsorship, to be expanded to include smaller festivals.

The application process should be made more streamlined and less expensive, they said, with passports no longer retained while visa applications are being considered.

A UK Government spokesman said:  “Musicians and performers are a valued and important part of UK culture. The UK attracts world class artists, entertainers and musicians and that’s not going to change under the new system.

“The rules already permit performers from around the world to take part in events, concerts and competitions without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa and that will continue to be the case.”

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