UK conductor warns of post-Brexit musicians’ exodus

UK conductor warns of post-Brexit musicians’ exodus


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2017

The Welsh conductor Owen Arwel Hughes has warned that European musicians will start leavign UK orchestras unless there is clarity about their future residency rights after Brexit.

He tells the BBC: ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen to them. Are they going to be uncertain and choose to leave the orchestra and go home, so everybody leaves the orchestra?

‘There’s the uncertainty of, ‘Do we stay, what is going to happen?’

‘Let’s say there’s an opera going on in Covent Garden and the singer goes ill, as often happens. Normally you can get somebody like that who can come from anywhere.

‘But if that freedom goes, you’ll never get anyone in time. They’ll be going through visa applications and goodness knows what.’

Read more here.



  • Halldor says:

    And yet all (very many) non-EU musicians in UK orchestras somehow seem to have coped for all these years…

    • Gary says:

      I’m not sure you’re aware of how many EU players there are in our orchestras.

      • John says:

        I’m not sure you’re aware of how many non-EU players there are in our orchestras.

        • Steve says:

          I am, and it’s relatively a tiny number. More I importantly it’s irrelevant, since their status isn’t changing.

      • Una says:

        Yes, and can’t get into their own orchestras.

        As for Covent Garden, make sure the understudies are well prepared. In my day that was what we were there to do – understudy with a view of going on if someone was sick!

  • Anon says:

    The current government has made it clear that those EU citizens who are already here will be welcome to stay. Non-story.
    (PS – Owain, not Owen)

    • Susanne says:

      I am sorry Anon but it is not a non story. The UK are refusing to grant EU citizens the same rights they have now as things stand currently, and this uncertainty has led to a 36% increase in the last year alone of EU citizens leaving the UK, with a further 47% saying they are very likely to leave. You may not have heard of the many, many incidents of Home Office letters sent to EU citizens telling them (wrongly) to go home – people who had been in the UK for decades and wanted to be prepared in applying for a residency permit ahead of Brexit. There is complete administrative chaos to do with the existing, possible soon-to-be scrapped but who knows, 85-page form which is impossible for musicians to fill in accurately (state every time you left the UK since moving here – would you be able to do that? We are talking 20, 30 years of living here in many cases), and I know of two top universities who have employed a special team of lawyers to try to ensure their EU academic staff can stay. The issue is not that non-EU musicians are doing ok. Would orchestras suddenly sort out visas and work permits for all EU citizens amongst them? Would they be able to for rank and a file players? And would EU musicians want to stay here amongst the uncertainty about their children’s future here? If you don’t believe me feel free to have a look on the 3 million forum….or any of the latest accounts of Brexit talks on the subject. And a final thought on the matter – UK orchestras and music colleges really can’t afford to lose EU players and students. It is not that the UK are doing them a favour by allowing them to stay….

      • Una says:


      • Ellingtonia says:

        “We are talking 20, 30 years of living here in many cases”………if they have lived here that long why haven’t they applied for British nationality in that time. Suggests little or no commitment to this country, its ideals and values, so why would they be bothered about having to return to the country for which they hold a passport? (and presumably have for the last 20 or 30 years). Seems to me that there is an element of “wanting the cake and eat it”

  • Holly Golightly says: