Thursday, 8 March 2018

Drumming Up Support: Artists For Brexit

Drumming up support for 'Artists for Brexit.' Painting by Stephen McLean

'Artists for Brexit', a brand new arts movement, was created recently in a Wetherspoon's pub in London. It's not the first time inspired artists have created new collaborations in a pub, but I have a notion this gathering of individuals just might merit a mention in future annals of history.

Not all that long ago it was the poets, painters, songwriters and playwrights who were at the forefront of social and political change. Artists and artisans were there at the forefront in Renaissance and Enlightenment periods: since the early 19th Century, bohemian cliques were always assumed to be lurking in the wings to question and challenge the status quo.
Throughout the 20th Century, along with unorthodox students and journalists, they could always be depended upon to confront orthodoxy: to hold the elite to account when they abused their power over wider society. They were the free-thinkers: outside-the-box thinkers at the cutting edge of social and political reform.
Not any more it seems. So, what happened?

 I reckon we need to consider the impact of the last significant bohemian-style revolution in Britain. In the 1960's a massive Counter Culture Movement developed in North America, Britain and later across Europe. It was fueled by an explosion of exceptionally gifted folk and rock musicians and enthusiastically supported by creative artists from across the spectrum.

This period not only provided us with the richest period of thriving creativity in recent times, it actually was also very successful in changing mindsets - in opening up many minds to positive change. There has been nothing like it since. The later more aggressive Punk Rock Movement, did have validity in it's message and offered a timely release-valve for a youth frustrated with the status quo, but didn't have the same lasting influence on society.

When the dust settled after the peaceful 60's revolution, I think it is fair to state that many of the young leading lights of this movement went on to excel in life: particularly in the fields of the arts, education, media and politics. So, here's my theory.

It dawned on the Establishment, at some stage, that the best way to prevent further bohemian-initiated revolutions would be to get the practitioners of the Creative Industries, the University Industry and the Media Industry: all signed up as bona fide members of the Establishment. Indeed, I think they have very successfully designed a culture of dependency and the, almost absolute, shutting down of dissenting voice: masterfully sustained via a deliberately complex muddle of bureaucracy.

Their success can certainly be attested and connected to the process of Brexit.

 Before the 2016 EU Referendum the Creative Industries Federation conducted a poll on the referendum among its 1,000 affiliated organisations. 96% of the 200 respondents said they would vote Remain. Of course this does not necessarily mean that only 4% of those engaged in a creative industry voted to leave the EU. There are thousands of individual artists not affiliated to the Arts Establishment, working quietly away in various art-forms, whose opinion was not sought. What is much more significant however, is that it does mean that only 4% of the respondents dared to admit that they would vote against the wishes of their line-managers and superiors in the industry.

It's not that Brexit created a mass-solidarity within the Arts Establishment: it already existed. A culture of co-dependency between those holding the public purse strings and the regular recipients of public funding was already well established.

What Brexit did was to highlight and affirm this solidarity. In this respect the Creative Industries are no different from the industries of corporate business, university and media; and indeed from any aspect of the Public Sector. Senior and middle management in all of these sectors instructed those further down the pecking order to vote Remain to safeguard their careers.

I have come to understand this scenario by considering the sophisticated inter-dependency of it all. It is easy enough to understand that if you want to climb a ladder you shouldn't do anything to damage the rungs above the rung of the ladder you currently stand upon. But it is also necessary to understand that there is actually a whole system of ladders, inter-connecting on various levels that branch out to other systems: and if you are responsible for interfering with any of those inter-dependant rungs you cannot be part of the system.

So in other words if you voted to leave the EU system, and openly admit to it, then you can no longer be considered part of that system. It then follows,  understandably, that you will not be welcome to step upon any of the rungs on any of their ladders.

I'm not making this up: there are countless stories across the UK that confirm this situation. I could give account of many relevant stories from Northern Ireland as well, but I think I've probably said enough for now.

That is why movements such as 'Artists for Brexit' will become crucial for artists who don't have a foothold on any EU ladder.  But this movement is also for any artists currently on those EU ladders - who felt for reasons of survival they had no choice but vote Remain - who can now envisage exciting new pathways, new voyages of discovery and other newly-created ladders to climb. It can even be there for artists who currently stand tall upon one of the existing ladders, who see new opportunity for collaboration with big business and new potential in other parts of the world that a post-Brexit UK will reach out to.

More importantly for me: this new movement is clearly a clarion call-out, from the freelance avant-garde visual artists who have initiated this, to a broad church of creativity.  They can expect support from a multitude of grassroot writers; musicians, singers, songwriters, script writers, playwrights, composers, dancers, choreographers, mime artists, clowns, jugglers, street performers, artisans,  craft-makers, instrument makers, designers, actors, directors, producers, photographers, film-makers, freelance journalists, authors, publicists, animators, crafters of fine food and beverage.

 I fear I've left somebody out. I'm sure I'll hear about it.

And very significantly I sense this arts movement embraces all shades of political leaning: from the so-called political Left to to the so-called political Right. Even arts practitioners who relate to the the so-called political Centre will no doubt be welcome.

Many are the practitioners of all these art-forms who have already grasped the potential for collaboration with small business and community. They understand that their creative industry can be an important player in the development of community self-confidence and pride. They understand that creative hubs can help sustain and promote local economies by helping to develop such markets as cultural tourism.

All this is already happening on some scale but the post-Brexit transformations within the Establishment should open up new opportunities for those of independent mind. So fair play to Manick Govinda, Michael Lightfoot and the other founding members of 'Artists For Brexit' who have seized the moment and grasped the nettle.
Challenging times lie ahead as they will be obstructed and systematically silenced at every turn: but also exciting times for those free-thinking creatives as they head off down their new road to freedom now.

Follow @artists4brexit on Twitter and help drum up some more support.

By Willie Drennan

No comments:

Post a Comment