The EU Referendum and Us: No man is an Island

By Amanda Rigali on

Claire Stone ProfileClaire Stone was Arts Fundraising Fellow for The Point, Eastleigh. Claire helped to raise funds from Trusts & Foundations and a new crowdfunding campaign.  Clare also worked with colleagues to develop new relationships with local businesses.

As the EU Referendum approaches (23rd June, please vote!), the irony of it coinciding with the London International Festival of Theatre is unmistakable.

Whilst audiences are invited into one-to-one conversations with a refugee through a wall in As Far As My Fingertips Take Me; or to watch veterans from both sides of the Falklands War in Minefield; we are simultaneously staging the closest run debate on national identity since the Scottish referendum.

Why this urge to separate?

The debate seems driven by dissatisfaction with decreasing standards of living, and poor information about what the EU is and does. There is a sense that if it is Us vs. Them – we’d rather choose Us, please.

What has the EU ever done for us?

Many – justifiably – ask. Both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ are running campaigns based on lies and fear – which are made possible because the public has been deprived of information on the EU for so long. (See for independent verifications of both sides’ claims.)

Michael Adamson has raised an important link between immigration and philanthropy in his blog on Brexit. As an arts industry professional, I’ll try to examine the issue through the lens of how the EU contributes to arts and culture in the UK.

Lift FestivalLet’s take LIFT Festival as a case study. LIFT received €980,000 in 2015 – and €1.75m in 2014. This is only part of the total €40m awarded to 230 UK cultural organisations in the first two years of the Creative Europe programme. (Their binannual reports are available to read here: 2014-2015.)

This supports the biannual festival to ‘transform the city into a stage’, bringing pioneering contemporary performance from across the globe to our doorstep.

This year alone, the line up includes director Lola Arias, a leading voice of Argentinian theatre; Andrew Schneider’s Off-Broadway award winning performance You Are Nowhere; innovative Australian dance duo Anthony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe; and our own theatre legend, Peter Brook.

These are artists who invigorate contemporary performance today.

A scene from Minefield by Lola Arias @ Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre, Downstairs. Developed by The Royal Court and LIFT. (Opening-03-06-16) ©Tristram Kenton 06/16

A scene from Minefield by Lola Arias @ Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre, Downstairs. Developed by The Royal Court and LIFT. (Opening-03-06-16) ©Tristram Kenton 06/16

Why does it do this?

Creative Europe’s aims are to:

  • Help the cultural and creative sectors seize the opportunities of the digital age and globalization;
  • Enable the sectors to reach their economic potential, contributing to sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion;
  • Give Europe’s culture and media sectors access to new international opportunities, markets and audiences.

The programme aims to provide funding to: 2,500 artists and cultural professionals, 2,000 cinemas; 800 films; 4,500 book translations; and a financial guarantee facility of up to €750m for small business active in the sector.

It also exists to support the development of a strategic cultural framework across a ‘Creative Europe’, to:

  • Promote growth; jobs; evidence base; stakeholder dialogue; intercultural dialogue; and transnational cooperation.
  • Encourage media literacy and digital distribution.
  • Support the skills exchange and mobility of artists across Europe, helping them to access new markets and finance.
  • Enable cultural organisations to trade with their neighbours and developing countries.
  • Finance the preservation of European cultural heritage, and the regeneration of European cities and regions.

Cultural exchange on this scale requires strategic financial backing – and that is what Creative Europe exists to provide.

Doesn’t that sound like a good deal?

Google picks a side.

Google picks a side.

As an example LIFT Festival is a classic success story of international cultural collaboration:

‘LIFT is proud to collaborate with partners across four European projects supported by the Creative Europe Programme and the Culture Programme of the European Union. This enables us to support artists, reach a wider and more diverse audience and create new work and initiatives.’

This includes collaborating with ten theatres and festivals in ten European countries to promote politically charged work (House on Fire); eleven venues and festivals in nine European countries to support work exploring the causes and effects of climate change (Imagine 2020); leading a network of eight theatre festivals in eight European countries to support artists engaging with urban areas and developing communities (Urban Heat); and an initiative to research and promote active spectatorship in contemporary performing arts (Be SpectACTive!)

I don’t know about you, but these are missions, and visions of culture that I couldn’t vote against.

How can we make an informed decision?

I believe it’s important to ask ourselves not just about how we could or could not benefit from remaining, or leaving, but what kind of country we want to be.

We are often asked, as arts organisations, to describe our mission and vision. As Kathryn Worthington expressed in her blog:

‘‘It is vital that we understand what we do, and why we do it. What is our mission, and what is our vision for the future? As the world in which we operate changes, so too do the ‘buzz words’ that we use to describe ourselves. Where does this leave us an organisation?”

Author: Dave Morris

Eddie Izzard. Credit: Dave Morris

Where does Brexit leave us, as a country? Is this trend towards nationalism, protectionism, and notions of self-sufficiency one we see as creating a hopeful future for ourselves and the people around us?

Eddie Izzard – “Isn’t it about humanity? We’re trying to move forwards in humanity, we’re trying to head towards a world where everyone has a fair chance. … Let’s head forwards not backwards.”

‘No man is an island.’ No country exists by itself. Let’s not be an island, when we have so much to gain from working together.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

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