A personal reflection from Marshall Arts’s Craig Stanley – chair, LIVE Touring Group.

For the past year, I have had a front row seat to the unfolding tragedy of what Brexit really means for the concert industry. Working with a committed group of industry leading lights to examine what politicians like to call ‘our new relationship with Europe’, we have seen a seemingly endless stream of problems come to light. Some fall into the category of simple irritation while others, unfortunately, pose a far greater risk.

Every single aspect of the touring industry has felt the detrimental consequences of Lord Frost’s last-minute Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), or they soon will do once international Covid-19 closures ease. What is certain is that we will all confront more complexity, cost, and confusion when tours start up again. We were promised a bonfire of Brussels bureaucracy – instead we have been saddled with a kerfuffle of red tape and needless friction at every turn.

It is deeply ironic that one of the biggest challenges from our leaving Europe is a French term ‘Cabotage’, or as we in the industry prefer to call it – ‘three stops and you’re out’. If strictly enforced, multi-date European tours will be no more for British operated trucks. Only three gigs will be possible before the truck has to return to the UK. The larger specialist hauliers have been forced to set up European bases and operate their trucks under a European flag while many others are no longer able to work internationally. We wait with bated breath to see if the transport czar, Grant Shapps, will introduce his long-promised solution of ‘Dual Registration’ as a partial work-around fix, but the cogs of power turn slowly in Westminster. It is looking likely that it will be too little and too late – the fate of touring this summer hangs in the balance.

“The destructive impact of Brexit on our sector is only just beginning to hit and we have now reached crunch time.”

What is so disheartening is that the Government has squandered the time available during the Covid-19 enforced shutdown to tackle the problems. The destructive impact of Brexit on our sector is only just beginning to hit and we have now reached crunch time.

The Prime Minister promised that he would fix the problems as early as May 2020, but little has happened. The UK Government simply can’t keep dragging its feet on the big issues.

At the very least, we now have a clearer picture about the mix of visas and work permits required to get us to where we need to be, but more needs to be done. LIVE and many other organisations propelled the issue to the top of everyone’s awareness. It is this coming together of all parts of the industry that offers hope for an enduring legacy to come out of this mess. It was industry pressure that caused the Spanish U-turn on their prohibitive immigration controls. It was the industry that first published accessible, practical, and informative guides to touring post-Brexit.

Meanwhile, we continue to wait on Nadine Dorries, head honcho at DCMS, to green-light her much talked about package of support that will be critical to help young and emerging artistes take their first steps overseas while beset by an incredibly confusing web of visas, carnets, and haulage requirements.

LIVE’s call for a Transitional Support Package sets out what she needs to deliver. The industry is ready and willing to work with her and officials across all departments to get a central information resource up and running. Government must provide the funding and back this essential initiative to get British talent moving again. Nadine – pull on your hi-vis jacket and be the emergency service to get the wheels turning and the show back on the road.

“Nadine – pull on your hi-vis jacket and be the emergency service to get the wheels turning and the show back on the road.”

Many battles have been won with incredibly successful campaigns such as those instigated by Carry on Touring, #LetTheMusicMove and many others. For LIVE and all our fellow colleagues from across the sector, the fight continues.

We are where we are. We solve problems, we find solutions – as an industry, that is what we do. We will come out of this crisis and find ways to tour again. Our closest and most important market is just twenty-two miles across the Short Straits. Nothing will stop us from keeping music live, but to do so, Boris needs to keep his promise and get these things fixed.