Musicians refusing to perform in UK due to ‘humiliating’ post-Brexit vote visa process and right-wing politicians, say festival bosses

Amadou and Mariam, Django Django and Leftfield are performing at the event

The organiser of Womad Festival has slammed the post Brexit referendum visa process, branding it “difficult and humiliating” for performers entering the UK.

Chris Smith claims it has become tougher to enlist performers to this year’s event as a result.

Smith told Radio Times: “The world has never needed events like Womad more than it does now. It stands for tolerance and understanding and learning and openness but that culture is being crushed as politicians lurch to the right.”


Performers from 128 countries are attending this year’s festival but Smith claims that many were forced to withdraw from participation due to the visa process.

“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,” he said.

He added: “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.”

Smith continued: “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.”

Peter Gabriel founded Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) in 1982.


This year’s event at Charlton Park in Wiltshire is already one day in. The likes of Amadou and Mariam, Django Django and Leftfield are performing over the four day bash which ends on July 29.

Meanwhile, Lily Allen recently joked that she’d use the £25,000 Mercury Music Prize money for ‘visa applications after Brexit’ if she were to win.