As migrants working in the arts we know that our creativity doesn’t have a nationality. As Migrants in Culture, we work towards and advocate for culture without borders. There is no such thing as ‘UK creativity.’
We think it’s a missed opportunity, that Festival UK* 2022 disavows its origins as an idea of Theresa May ("Just as millions of Britons celebrated their nation's great achievements in 1951, we want to showcase what makes our country great today") in the context of Brexit.
Festival UK* 2022 could have been an opportunity for the UK’s cultural sector to recognise the cognitive dissonance that allows it to fabricate false-narratives of ‘openness’ and ‘optimism’ while at the same time mandating passport checks and making precarious migrant workers redundant. We do not need a festival claiming to ‘bring people together’ while the government’s Hostile Environment forces people apart. We do not need a festival that seeks to whitewash the UK’s endemic racism using our cultural capital.
We’re not calling for the shaming of individuals and organisations who will have to accept this money to survive. But we ask the cultural sector to join us in acknowledging and discrediting the narrative that Festival UK* 2022 is a great opportunity that should be uncritically embraced and legitimised by our involvement as artists and arts workers.
We don’t think that the world is divisible into binaries of positive and negative, good and bad, leavers and remainers. Brexit is a distraction and so is this temporary injection of cash in exchange for ‘creative’ soft power. We believe that in an accountable and ethical arts ecology, Martin Green, Chief Creative Officer of the Festival UK*2022, should reallocate the festival’s £120 million budget towards an equitable recovery for the arts and cultural sector, led by Black, POC, migrant, disabled, queer and working class leaders.
We need to collectively demand a sector that stops privileging the imagination of white, middle class, heteronormative, non-disabled British citizens in positions of institutional power. We want a sector that no longer continues to replicate models of wider social and economic injustice. We want to see a cultural sector capable of envisioning and supporting a future where people aren’t criminalised for where they are born; where everybody has enough wealth to enjoy and practice the arts; and where our ability to survive a pandemic isn’t contingent on class, race or national origin.
We have written an open letter about the nationalistic branding exercise that is Festival UK* 2022, which is now open for signatures.
We call on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Neil Mendoza, UK government’s Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal, and Martin Green to cancel Festival UK* 2022 and repurpose its £120 million budget for sector transformation, led by the most marginalised cultural workers.
Migrants in Culture 2020