Campaign against UK Home Office Restrictions on Non-EU Artists and Academics

The Home Office recently introduced new restrictions on international artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, temporary exhibitions, concerts or artists’ residencies. Visitors now have to submit to a series of arduous and expensive proceedures to get their visa, and then more bureaucratic controls when they are in the UK. Already a series of concerts and residencies have been cancelled.

The Manifesto Club is coordinating a campaign against these regulations. The campaign is led by Manick Govinda, artists’ adviser at Artsadmin, and has won support from artists, musicians, gallery directors, academics and students. Together we call for these parochial and suspicious regulations to be reconsidered, and affirm the vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to UK cultural and intellectual life.

The petition was launched with a letter in the Observer, signed by high-profile arts figures including artist Antony Gormley, Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, and Nicholas Hytner, director of the Royal National Theatre. See the news story of the petition launch.

The regulations, which were officially put into effect on 27 November 2008, have meant a number of artists have been refused entry. Read testimonies below, and email visitingartists@manifestoclub.com to post a comment.

  • The Russian artist and academic, Dmitry Vilensky, was invited by The Showroom Gallery and Afterall Journal in London to give a seminar on his work on 17 January 2009. The gallery was forced to cancel the seminar when Vilensky’s visa application was rejected, on the grounds that he was not allowed to be paid a fee for participating in the seminar. A further appeal, with the proviso that he was not to be paid, was also rejected. Vilensky had never faced such restrictions on his many professional visits to other European countries.
  • The Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov’s show at the Barbican was cancelled because of the necessity for the new biometric visa. For years Sokolov was able to apply for his visa by proxy, but the new regulations meant he would have had to personally travel from Verona, where he lives, to Rome, to provide fingerprints. His replacement show, scheduled for April 2009 at the Royal Festival Hall also had to be cancelled, after he lost a year-long battle to agree a mobile visa solution.
  • Chinese artist Huang Xu was refused a visa to attend his exhibition at London’s October Gallery, due to open on 12 February 2009.
  • British artist Anne Bean was selected for the Visiting Arts and Delfina Foundation ‘artist-to-artist international scheme’, and she wishes to invite a young Kurdish-Iraqi artist to the UK. Yet the invited artist is required to travel 900 kilometres to Beirut in person to apply for her visa and ID card, and may have to stay there for up to three weeks to await the outcome of her application.
  • West African jazz band Les Amazones de Guinée had to pay £3500 to travel from Guinea to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to obtain fingerprints for their visas. This was a waste of time and money, however, since the band was refused entry to the UK.

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Filed under censorship, immigration, open letters, manifestos, appeals

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