Peter Gabriel has blasted the UK’s foreign policy after a number of acts scheduled to play Womad were refused entry to the UK.
Gabriel co-founded the festival back in 1980, which is described as ‘The World’s Festival’ and is known for its eclectic line-ups.
The event’s director Chris Smith said at least three international acts were unable to perform at the event last weekend after they were prevented from entering the UK.
Those acts were Sabry Mosbah from Tunisia, Wazimbo from Mozambique and members of Niger’s Tal National. Indian sisters Hashmat Sultana were eventually granted access to the UK 24 hours after their scheduled performance.
“Whether their perceptions are real or inflamed, the reality is that artists are deciding that the hassle and cost of entering the UK are neither worth the return nor the exposure to rejection that the process might bring,” Smith told The Guardian. “For now this is a trickle, but how do we prevent it becoming a flood?”
Gabriel echoed the comments, adding: “The right to travel for work, for education and even for pleasure is increasingly being restricted and often along racial and religious lines.
“It is alarming that our UK festival would now have real problems bringing artists into this country … [many of whom] no longer want to come to the UK because of the difficulty, cost and delays with visas, along with the new fear that they will not be welcomed.
“There have been, and continue to be, good people within the Foreign Office who try to help us every year, but the warnings are becoming clearer: if we want a country which is open to people with ideas, traditions, food and culture different from our own, we have to change the current visa processes and find ways to turn back the growing anti-foreigner tide,” he added.
“Musicians travel for a living, and almost everywhere I have travelled I have been met with kindness and generosity. Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland? A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?”
“I strongly believe it is not how British people feel, and the 35,000 people who attended the Womad festival last weekend agree,” Smith added. “Britain is a country built on a foundation of diverse cultures; it is a country that respects and is excited by diversity and a country that wants to take its place on the global stage.”
“Tragically, this is not the message that is being projected beyond our borders and the potential damage to our communities, culture and economy as a consequence of that is, frankly, heartbreaking.”