James’ Brexit Arts and Culture Reader

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Brexit – and the debate that surrounded it – was profoundly cultural. Not necessarily in the sense of music and art etc. but in the ways that people express themselves and how they make sense of the world. Art and the arts are a big part of that. I’ve put together this un-ordered mini-anthology of links to various media that take a cultural stance on Brexit and what it all means:

Me, me, me

Unapologetically: my own OpEd in The Stage set out why I think Brexit signals that the UK is in a culture war. (Other Stage OpEds of mine are available from the merchandise stand, including one on the Culture White Paper, the Arts Council’s latest shift in strategy, and the fate of the Taking Part Survey).

My betters

Earlier this week I was at the recording of a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row – Brexit: The Cultural Response which is available to watch/listen and the debate may still be simmering on twitter via #culturalresponse

John Lanchester in the London Review of Books told the story of how we got here, and how globalisation’s discontents aint gonna get no satisfaction from this.

Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books spins out an autobiographical take on all this.

Why the romance of Brexit bloomed in Philip Larkin’s industrial suburbia

Lauren Collins in the New Yorker interviewed a bunch of people at St Pancras International including a couple of wrinkly Brexiteers on their way to see Les Mis for the umpteenth time. Hopefully they’ve thrown themselves in the Seine by now.

Mary Beard was on BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View reflecting on what Brexit means for our public discourse and the fate of experts.

There was a debate on BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters (skip to 13m30s) which focused on Brexit and its effect on classical music.

The Guardian harvested a list of illustrious culturati to set out the way that the arts hit back at Brexit: ‘I feel nothing but rage’.

Apollo canvassed opinion on what Brexit means for the art world. Headline: ‘concern and dismay’.

Again in Apollo, Robert Hewison wrote something which looked to the future of the cultural sector, post-Brexit.

Rosie Collier in the New Statesman had an article which brought together the practical funding and artistic consequences of Brexit, with a couple of European voices.

David Jubb (artistic dir of Battersea Arts Centre) blogged beautifully and tenderly about the divide that Brexit has exposed and what the cultural sector might want to do to heal the wounds.

Richard Evans (the chair of the Association of Independent Museums) blogged about his reaction. He ponders that perhaps not much will change?

Rufus Norris (artistic dir of National Theatre) explained to the BBC he was a bit sad about Brexit, to say the least.

Frank Cottrell Boyce in the Guardian asked what’s the point of culture in Brexit Britain? He spun back to the opening ceremony from London 2012 to answer the question.

In a similar vein, artist Mahtab Hussain and Skinder Hundal, Director of New Art Exchange, blogged for The Arts Council about how art makes space for empathy and understanding.

Lauren Wingenroth wrote in Dance Magazine about three ways Brexit could hurt dance (spoiler: talent, finance, cultural exchange). Wingenroth was following up Ismene Brown’s piece in The Spectator in advance of the referendum that canvassed opinion from some big dance cheeses.

Isaac Kaplan in an Artsy editorial said that We Won’t Know Brexit’s Real Impact on the Art Market for Years.

Fergus Linehan, the Edinburgh’s International Festival director spoke to the Herald about the “fright” of the Brexit vote.

Emma Sumner for a-n talked to Polish artists, curators and visual arts professionals.

Lloyd Evans of The Spectator was at the Edinburgh Fringe and reported that luvvie anger over Brexit is palpable at Edinburgh, in particular in the routines of comedians. He thinks it might be because they no longer get access to EU dosh.

Also at Edinburgh, John Kampfner (CEO of the Creative Industries Federation) wrote a piece for The Scotsman which looked inward to the sector, seeking resolve from them/us and reassurances from the government.

Norman Lebrecht in Standpoint magazine asks Is There A Bright Side To Brexit? His answer pongs a little bit, with its ‘British Jobs for Britishers’ tone, but ultimately he thinks the UK arts sector is tough enough to withstand Brexit.

Tony Butler (exec dir at Derby Museums) blogged some reflections on museums and Brexit. He returns to some familiar rebalancing arguments, and a call-to-civic-arms for museums.

Playwright Atiha Sen Gupta explores how theatre can confront Britain’s post-Brexit racism in the Independent, as she does with her play Counting Stars (at the evergreen Theatre Royal Stratford East until 17 Sept)

Lillian Edwards from the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy wrote a mournful piece in SCRIPTed called Brexit: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Stephen Follows, in typically encyclopedic style, thrashed out on his blog what Brexit might mean for the UK film industry.

Something a bit different here… An endeavour called New Narratives has 10 Pledges and it’s inviting architects, designers, planners, artists, creatives to come together to work out how to respond to a Post-Brexit world. For me, this combines the clarity  of Old Man Yells at Cloud with the charm of the Men’s Rights Activist brigade. But please, make up your own mind.

Institutional responses

The Museums Association: highlighting funding and cultural consequences of Brexit.

The National Museums Directors Council released quite a strong political statement in response to the vote.

The Society of Antiquaries (think art history/archaeology/museums types – many academics) invited responses from their fellows and followers. The results make for interesting reading.

The Council for British Archaeology: Post-referendum archaeology

a-n, the visual artists organisation, did a quick survey of their members in July about Brexit. The results suggest the impact has been ‘immediate’

[There must be more of these]

A trio (and a bit) of sociological responses that I like

Stian Westlake (research director at Nesta) blogged about Brexit in the context of our ‘intangible economy’ and how Brexiteers are struggling to cope in it.

Likewise, Eric Kaufmann (prof of politics at Birkbeck) has pointed out that Brexit was a marker of a divide in culture and values in this country.

I found Will Davies’ (senior lecturer in politics at Goldsmiths) analysis of why people might vote for Brexit, despite it being an act of reckless self-harm, rather compelling.

I feel there might be lessons in the recent work of Arlie Russell Hochschild and that’s where my attention is headed between now and the US presidential election.

A few final reflections on all this

On the whole the arts world is mad and sad about Brexit. Many have said that “the arts” are “out of touch”. Twas ever thus, non? And maybe this isn’t a bad thing. I think people in the arts can still be completely in touch and remain angry that people have voted to do this stupid thing.

My one genuine persistent head-scratcher is that I  don’t understand how, even if you hate muslims or foreigners, or want more sovereignty and control, or want to be listened to, or want investment in your community, specifically, voting to leave the EU helps achieve this. None of the vox pops or interviews seem to have invited/forced people to walk us through that logic.

As of 17 Sept I am closing the file on this page. Thanks to everyone who put things my way. Apologies it still lacks non-UK and non-English-language stuff.

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