Sunday 19 January 2020

Entering UK for Womad festival is ‘difficult and humiliating’ – organiser

The World Of Music Arts And Dance festival takes place in Wiltshire.

The Womad festival is struggling to attract performers due to the UK’s visa process, its organiser has said (Zak Hussein/PA)
The Womad festival is struggling to attract performers due to the UK’s visa process, its organiser has said (Zak Hussein/PA)

By Keiran Southern, Press Association Los Angeles Correspondent

Entering the post-Brexit referendum UK for the Womad world music festival has become so “difficult and humiliating” that performers are giving up, the organiser has said.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Chris Smith said the impact the UK visa process had on foreign musicians “genuinely broke his heart” as he partly blamed the situation on the 2016 decision to leave the European Union.

Peter Gabriel founded the Womad festival which takes place at Charlton Park, Wiltshire (Zak Hussein/PA)

Womad (World Of Music Arts And Dance) was founded by the musician Peter Gabriel and first took place in 1982. It is set to get under way on Thursday at Charlton Park in Wiltshire.

But ahead of this year’s festival, Mr Smith said it had become difficult to attract performers due to the visa process.

He told the Radio Times: “We’ve had situations where say an African artist has been due to come who plays a particularly rare instrument, and we’ll be asked, ‘Can’t you find someone in the UK who plays that instrument?’, which is absurd.

The Womad festival attracts musicians from around the world (Tim Goode/PA)

“The saddest thing is always the number of artists struggling to get visas to come and perform. What we’re seeing this year is unexpected and even more depressing, which is artists saying we’re just not going to tackle the immigration system, saying it’s too difficult and too expensive, and it’s humiliating.

“Artists have accepted our invitation and then looked into the visa process and told us, sorry we’re just not going to do this. That’s a situation we should be ashamed of.”

To get around the problem, Womad organisers are travelling to Europe to meet artists before trying to help them into Britain, Mr Smith said.

As well as Brexit, Mr Smith blamed the issue on the behaviour of politicians who he says are moving to the right.

The Womad festival is set to begin on July 26 and will finish on July 29.

PA Media

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