What Brexit means for music in London

What Brexit means for music in London


norman lebrecht

June 26, 2016

The consequences are becoming clearer.

1 No new concert hall

Neither the country, nor the City, nor its staff-evacuating financial institutions will stump up half a billion pounds for Simon Rattle’s vanity hall. Its chief sponsor, the unpopular Chancellor George Osborne, is struggling for survival.

2 Music colleges will lose EU students

They will be charged at full rates of up to £18,000 a year, instead of the present EU/UK rate of £9,000. Most will go elsewhere. Teaching jobs will be slashed. Two colleges will have to merge.

3 Blight on research

With the loss of EU research grants, universities will cut lecturer posts, starting with the arts. Music will suffer.

4 Less touring for orchestras

London orchs will lose their open market advantage in EU countries, starting with Spain. They will be replaced by Czech, Polish and German ensembles.

5 The upside?

There is no upside.



  • Stephen Maddock says:

    Lots of question marks over the recruitment of EU players
    Lots more bureaucracy when engaging EU conductors and soloists
    Pressure on their fees if sterling remains weak against the € and $
    And for the regional orchestras:
    All of the above plus the already crippling impact of local authority cuts – which will surely get worse in a new recession

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Indeed – that’s tomorrow’s episode, Stephen. Too much to take in all at once.

    • Anon says:

      Little point in worrying about any of that until more is known. If UK winds up a la Norway then very little of this will be an issue. GBP/EUR/USD fluctuations are a part of daily life, and it’s too early to know where these will settle for now. A weak pound is better for touring, a strong pound is better for paying non-UK soloists and conductors; no-one can have it both ways, though.

    • John says:

      Mr Maddock, are you speaking in a personal capacity or on behalf of the CBSO?

  • I don’t think, that most of the people, who voted for ‘leave’, go much to classical music concerts…

    • Anon says:

      I think that’s a shockingly broad brush to tar 52% of the voting population with. I can personally think of numerous people who I believe voted Leave who both go to classical music concerts and are big supporters of the art world, not just classical music.

    • Ruth says:

      Yes we do go frequently to classical concerts and my family potentially will loose between 95-100k a year on musical scholarships- I still voted out. Artists need to learn integrity not just to serve our patrons/sponsors in this case it’s like the Isrealites leaving Egypt- some complained in the desert missing the meat…Pharo decided to come back after them in anger… But they made it away from that slavery and entered a new land where they were reminded to be kind strangers & foreigners since they were once such. The Pharos of Europe are mad at us right now… Running after us- they miss what we have to offer- it’s not for our sake. This desert time will pass much quicker if we stop this bickering and build our new land and why shouldn’t the arts thrive? Either new sponsors who don’t enslave us or modern crowd funding and the like..

  • Luk says:

    1 is probable. 2 and 3 are almost certain (and that’s the real tragedy of the whole story). 4 I’m not so sure of, but it can be.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Presumably the EUYO, which is based in London, will move elsewhere. All the opportunities for young British musicians – and many of those in the London orchestras started off in that fine ensemble – will therefore be diminished. It can be argued that the European nations sleepwalked their way into the First World War. It would be one of the real tragedies of our time if the realisation took hold that the British people had sleepwalked their way into Brexit.

  • Bruce says:

    Interesting opinion piece written by a young lecturer in philosophy (comparable to the arts in terms of pay and societal respect) at the university of Essex: http://tinyurl.com/hbe6bh7

  • someone says:

    1. Some people will be happy with it, because not everyone wanted it.

    2. Oh my gosh…
    Is that really true?
    £18,000 a year?
    This is wholly crazy.
    Even £9,000 is crazy, too.

    I left college earlier so I never knew what has been going on with tuition fees.
    I think the fee for the UK and EU students were much much lower than 9,000.
    Wasn’t it much cheaper than that?
    I don’t remember as I’ve never paid attention to it, but anyway, it wasn’t that expensive.

    Will there be any EU students, who are gladly willing to come to the UK to study classical music paying 18,000 a year?
    England is not the strongest place for classical music education, though there are some nice schools.

    It seems like a disaster for the schools (not only music schools) and musicians in the UK.
    However, on the other hand, I understand other aspects.
    It just seems to be not a very good decision for musicians.

  • Anon says:

    The likely upside is a stronger UK economy, better able to support the arts if it wishes. Even before any changes have occurred, the UK’s credit rating is improved, and the cost of UK government borrowing is down to historic lows (i.e. an indicator that the markets see the UK as a safer place for their money than countries in the EU).
    Currency fluctuations will work their way through the system as various hedge positions unfold; looking at spot pricing in the immediate aftermath of the referendum tells us very little, as much of this has to do with the positions taken by large investors and funds beforehand gradually playing themselves out, rather than anything permanent.

    Given the current issues around the proposed new hall, it becoming less likely is probably a good thing. I see little real reason for it not to happen medium-term, though, as other than Osbourne I can’t see any real change in support or otherwise.

    As for students, no-one yet knows how this will work, so let’s not assume ‘worst case scenario’. Likewise UK orchestral touring (for whom a weak pound would be good news, by the way). If the Leave compromise is a situation much like Norway, say, then there would likely be precious little alteration in circumstance, so let’s not get too concerned too quickly.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “…better able to support the arts if it wishes”

      Hahahahaha!!! Good one, “ANON”. I almost broke a rib laughing when I read that!

  • sarah connolly says:

    The new hall will be mostly privately funded. That’s what I heard. It is not seeking government money.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Will Simon Rattle, the Missus, and his family even want to stay in Little Britain now?

  • Sue says:

    I don’t think Simon will be too rattled by any of this.

  • With the UK still in the EEA, 2 & 4 do not apply.

    • Ruth says:

      Dear Vovka, could you point me to where you have this information from about points 2 & 4? It would be helpful to know more about these rules, kind regards, Ruth

  • Steve says:

    1. No new concert hall.
    Do we really need one? London has the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall, St John Smith’s Square and many others. All these venues struggle to sell out on a regular basis (even when the world’s top soloists come to perform). Isn’t wanting this new concert hall a bit like demanding a rich chocolate cake before you’re able to finish your ice cream?
    I personally think the money could be better spent elsewhere. For instance, on scholarships for students at top conservatoires.

    2. Music colleges will lose EU students.
    I’m not sure. The U.K. Is already one of the most expensive places for EU students to study. They choose the UK at £9000 a year over virtually free education in Germany. The money doesn’t seem to be a deterring factor. It certainly doesn’t seem to be deterring non-eu students even. The best violinists from the RCM aren’t from the EU, but from Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and America. Actually, in the 2015 Queen Elisabeth competition, only three rcm violinists made the cut. Their nationalities? China, South Korea and UK/New Zealand. Students of the highest quality will always be attracted to the best institutions in the UK just like non-Americans will always be attracted to Curtis and Juilliard (despite the latter being outrageously more expensive).

    3 Blight on research.
    A disproportionately large amount of the world leading scientific research that originates from Europe actually comes from ETH Zurich. This isn’t from within the EU. The EU does fund research, but actually, the most successful research is always that which is independently and/or privately funded – I mean look at the USA (MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford etc.)
    This is not the end of the world.

    4 Less touring for orchestras.
    Doesn’t a weaker pound make British labour more attractive?

    5 There is no upside.
    Is that a truly necessary comment? This is an opportunity for Britain to musically not have its back so turned on the rest of the world. Money is now no longer an incentive to stay mostly in Europe. This can be a chance to expand our borders of cultural exchange.