How British orchestras will struggle after Brexit

How British orchestras will struggle after Brexit


norman lebrecht

November 06, 2019

Mark Pemberton, director of the Association of British Orchestras, sees trouble ahead:

Touring is intrinsic to the orchestral business model, and the imposition of work permits, carnets, and other tariffs and barriers after a No Deal Brexit when touring into the European Union will damage British orchestras’ ability to serve as cultural ambassadors for the United Kingdom. Additionally, artistic exchange and cross-cultural musicmaking will su er. European orchestras and ensembles will face possible delays and additional costs when touring into the UK. And EU soloists wanting to perform in the UK will have to navigate whatever new visa system the British government imposes…

US orchestras, on the other hand:
The good news for American orchestras is that they will see little difference if touring directly into the UK. For example,the visa system will stay the same. But they will need to factor in delays and extra paperwork if arriving in an EU country before travelling into the UK, or departing the UK to tour within the EU.

Read full article here.



  • Calvin says:


    Fill in the blank, or not, as you will. Still true.

  • John Rook says:

    Or maybe not.

  • Gustavo says:

    What about music tourism and the record industry?

    Getting to and fro Glyndebourne / Bayreuth may become less attractive.

  • John G. Deacon says:

    Oh, dear, here we go again. This is hardly worth a comment but, for sure, it’ll be a tough time for everybody since before the EU there was, manifestly, NOTHING.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    I am reminded of Tommy Beechams comment “it will save us from listening to so many shitty third rate European orchestras when we have so many second rate ones in the UK”………..or words to that effect!

  • Kevin says:

    There’s also the dread spectre of carnet forms, which must be separately checked at each border: a time- (not to mention money-) consuming nightmare. They’re not just for instruments, but also their accessories – every string, reed, chunk of rosin – as well as any related merchandise, recordings, souvenir books, T-shirts, and the like. Just because we did it in the fabled Old Days doesn’t mean that returning to it would be a good thing. They had hanging and flogging and disenfranchisement in the old days too.

  • NNN222 says:

    British orchestras have had it too good for too long, mollycoddled along by outrageously large funding from the Arts Council and other sources of public funding.

    Other countries manage to deal with touring – so why would British orchestras find the concept so difficult?

    The orchestras worry about not being able to employ so many musicians from overseas, and that they won’t be able to get overseas soloists so easily.

    Wake up call and some honesty needed here:

    British orchestras have consistently appointed foreign musicians for way too long – at the expense of massive numbers of equally good Brit musicians who remain unemployed or living on next to nothing. There are more than enough fine British soloists and orchestral players.

    Let’s stop this political correctness, where UK musicians have to self-sacrifice in order to allow jobs and slots to be taken by those from overseas. Let the orchestras, so proudly brandishing national and regional names, actually prove they are worthy of using those names.

    Post Brexit, since money may be tight, a future Tory government would hopefully realise that Arts Council England needs to go. The self-serving ‘liberal’ Arts Council, a quango of cronyism, corruption and hypocrisy, has never sat comfortably with Tories.

    A future Labour government should come to the same conclusion.
    Run by champagne-socialists, Arts Council England haemorrhages the big money into the accounts of a mere few organisations. No room for such inequality in a Corbyn government, surely.

    Brexit will probably be the best thing to happen to these orchestras. The orchestras may finally get the management they deserve.

    Meanwhile, management and ABO people, stop with your bleating, grow a pair, and deal with it.

    • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

      Kippers for breakfast again, I see?

      A laughable jackbooted screed.

      • NNN222 says:

        So, in other words, anyone who says it as it is – that the UK profession is saturated with musicians from overseas, that there are countless equally good yet unemployed UK musicians, and that (public) over funding has become corrupt and toxic – is a UKipper?

        Yours stance is, indeed, the exact reason why the profession will die out unless something is done rapido.

  • Thorstone says:

    How much of this is based on the assumption of a “No Deal Brexit” – which was never particularly likely and has now been definitively removed from the table by every political party with a cat in hell’s chance of achieving power in the UK?

    Might it be time, perhaps, for some updated reassessments based on political reality, rather than scaremongering based on an outdated worst-case hypothetical? Yes, we get that the ABO is upset. Most UK orchestra bosses and their spokespeople are sincere and committed Remainers; which is not especially surprising – the profession is overwhelmingly middle-class. They know the correct line to take in public, and evidently enjoy repeating it. But, back in the office, where they deal with reality, anyone close to the industry knows that they’re busily planning European tours well into the future with any anticipated disruption either priced in or heavily discounted.

    It’s time to abandon this narrative, which at this stage is little more than a ritual incantation for Tribe Remain. Projections about “No Deal Brexit” are about as meaningful at this point as Charlie Brooker’s proposed documentary “What If…it started raining hammers?”. Please, let’s move on.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er…”no deal” is rather more likely than you imagine; certainly if Mr Johnson gets elected with a Parliamentary majority. Additionally, any deal is unlikely to include “freedom of movement”, which is what is required to avoid hassles at the border.

      Of course, some would argue that the benefits of leaving are sufficiently large that they do not care too much about the difficulties musicians will have travelling to/from the EU zone for work. But to pretend these difficulties will not exist is just dishonest.

  • Hilary says:

    I’ve heard valid critiques of the EU but have yet to encounter a vaguely compelling reason why we should leave.

    • John G Deacon says:

      It’s an ever-declining left wing driven economic deadzone and restrictive of trade. Return of our sovereignty, corruption, lack of democracy, federal government system ruling EU from a Berlin/Paris axis, creation of an EU army, the approaching demands of the Lisbon Treaty – have not time for more …. the list is endless. Indeed – and in spite of many requests over 3 years – we wait to hear ONE good reason for staying. And now, if we were to stay, what would they do to us now they’ve been rumbled ?

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The Left in Britain view the EU as a capitalist plot against the workers. The EU economy has consistently outperformed the EU, and it is designed to facilitate trade. It is unclear if existing EU trade deals with third parties will be extended to us once we leave.

        The EU is democratic, and all its constituent countries are democratic. There is no EU army, and unlikely to be one anytime soon.

        Sovereignty for small countries is largely illusionary. In practise, once we leave, we will have a lot of EU regulation largely imposed on us with no input into what those rules are.

        We can change the colour of our passport though.