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Articles [NAJP]

Fight for Your One-Worlder Party

Just when it feels like things are opening up a little comes the email I got a week ago from someone I knew through my long support of the trouble-making South African poet-musician Mzwakhe Mbuli. It reports that the British Home Office, citing border security, has set up a new series of requirements involving sponsor indemnification, rigid schedules, and impossible levels of capitalization, is effectively banning any but the best-fixed artists from outside the EU from exhibiting or performing in Britain.

In the American music world, this has been a battle for decades. Initially it meant in practice that conservative immigration officials kept Americans from seeing music said officials deemed dangerous--not for their political content, usually, but as sources of mongrelization, cross-fertilization, and other cultural contagion. Since 9/11 it's gotten worse. Taking Cuba out of the equation for simplicity's sake, the idea ought to be to allow American audiences to experience Islamic music, which is invariably either secular or peacefully devotional. The audience will obviously consist primarily of one-worlder liberals and immigrants hungry for a taste of home, who in truth could stand to rub shoulders more than they do. But there will be spillover, and more Americans will be able to look a little deeper into a few Muslims' individual humanity. Unless you're set on jihad American-style, you'd have to call this a good thing. But it's been hard to bring off. Last spring key principals from a troupe of Belizean women failed to pass muster with immigration and the concert was greatly diminished as a result. This is the kind of thing an Obama administration can change fast--assuming larger immigration issues don't prove too distracting, and also assuming the money to make the always marginal business of international touring will still be there.

No doubt reflecting the increased xenophobia of a place that's seen more bomb attacks than we have, the new Labour government in Britain has taken another tack. Now I understand why Les Amazones de Guinee, a band (not a jazz band) comprising female militia members that's been together for more than 40 years and put out one of my favorite albums of 2008, never managed their promised summer tour. I signed the petition you'll find on the jump immediately about a week ago and wanted to spread the word immediately as well. I was asked to wait until the initial splash described below had played out. This is worth spreading the word about. Do what you can.

Dear Signatory,

Hopefully you will have seen The Observer today and the excellent news coverage the campaign has received. The petition letter to the editor has also been published. You can view these on-line:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/22/immigration-arts-gormley>/p>

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2009/feb/22/9

This is a fantastic start, the list of signatories is growing and we're sending media releases to the wider press, radio and TV today. You can view the list of signatories on the petition website: http://www.petitiononline.com/MCvisit/petition.html

How can you help now?

The civil liberties group, The Manifesto Club along with myself and other arts groups are working hard to get the message across that these parochial and suspicious regulations need to be reconsidered, and re-affirm the vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to UK cultural and intellectual life. As signatories who launched the petition, you can do 3 things:

  • Encourage others to sign the petition
  • Gather more testimonies, news stories and case studies
  • Put pressure politically on the Home Office and lobby the DCMS to do so

A public meeting will be held in late spring/early summer to consolidate, discuss and co-ordinate further action on this issue. We are looking for a space to host this meeting, so any offers would be greatly appreciated.

The campaign website is up, containing further information and next steps of action: http://www.manifestoclub.com/visitingartists

Thank you for your support and please continue to spread the word.


Manick Govinda
Head of Artists Advisory Services & Artists' Producer
Artsadmin
Toynbee Studios
28 Commercial Street
London E1 6AB

Tel: 020 7247 5102
Fax: 020 7247 5103
Email: manick@artsadmin.co.uk
www.artsadmin.co.uk

Articles, Feb. 24, 2009


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