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Theatremakers denounce effect of Brexit on Edinburgh festivals

Anthony Alderson Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance
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Leading Edinburgh Fringe performers, venues and producers have issued a rallying call to the government to protect the flow of international artists appearing at the event post-Brexit.

Figures including Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance, have joined Edinburgh Comedy Awards producer Nica Burns and international theatre companies in calling for a visa waiver scheme to be protected when the UK leaves the EU following June’s referendum result.

Alderson told The Stage that the festival needed to remain “borderless” so that companies from overseas can continue to perform at the fringe easily.

He said that the short-term impact of the referendum could be positive for the festival, because people are staying at home while the value of the pound is weak.

However, he expressed concern about the visa waiver that allows free movement between EU member states and what might happen when Britain leaves the EU.

“The thing that concerns people the most about the Brexit situation, the one thing the fringe and the festivals as a whole have to protect, is the visa waiver. That really could have a damaging effect on the festival if suddenly people had to start providing visas. It would means there was another cost, another hurdle to get over,” he said.

His comments echo those of Burns, who said the scheme needed to be protected to ensure the festival remains open to everyone.

“Whatever government we happen to end up with, we need to preserve this visa waiver, as talent has no borders and they are all welcome as performers at this festival,” she said.

Circus performer Thomas Monckton, who is from New Zealand and based in France, is currently performing The Pianist at Assembly Roxy and Only Bones at Summerhall. He said, “The ease of my future living and touring depends on the agreements made between the UK and the rest of Europe.”

“I just have to wait and see, like the rest of the world, and then deal with whatever the consequences are.”

Ailin Conant from Theatre Temoin, which is staging The Marked at the festival, described the referendum result as a “huge cultural step backwards”.

“Brexit will have a profound effect on international artists studying, working and contributing to the UK arts scene. With Brexit in place, it will likely mean that most Europeans will be unable to pay their way as students here. This will mean less internationals in our training programmes and therefore less international voices in emergent and new work,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gianni Bettucci from theatre company Familie Floz, which is producing Teatro Delusio at the Pleasance, said there was “no Brexit plan”, which he said made the planning for future gigs in UK difficult.

“There is a sense of uncertainty, which is lethal for business and art. Not to mention the economic loss we will be facing with the bad exchange rate of the euro and pound,” he added.

Responding to the concerns, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said its role was “to support the continuation and development of the arts based on our principle of open access”.

“The Fringe Society will be working alongside the directors of Edinburgh’s other festivals to ensure these world renowned events continue to provide a platform for international artists to meet and showcase their work,” it added.

This week, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival signed formal agreements with their counterparts in Adelaide, aimed at boosting collaborations between the two cities.

The Home Office did not respond to a request for a comment.

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