Music

Classical music's pushbacks against travel restrictions and gender imbalance

The combination of Brexit and historic sexism is sparking a revolt in the world of classical music, says Claire Jackson

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has published a report into the impact of Brexit on musicians, highlighting concerns regarding freedom of movement. I know what you might be thinking: another day, another column about Brexit; but for those who travel regularly for a living this is a growing concern. It is particularly pertinent for musicians, of whom 30 per cent travel to the EU more than five times a year, according to the report, which solicited responses from around 1,600 performers.

The study claims that more than 40 per cent of musicians have noticed a negative influence on their employment as a result of Brexit, up from 26 per cent in 2017 and 19 per cent in 2016. Given that many gigs are impromptu – more than one in eight musicians are given less than seven days’ notice – having to apply for visas and endure lengthy administrative procedures could lead to lost job opportunities.

The classical and contemporary music industry thrives because although it is specialist, it is collaborative. Inexpensive travel and digital communications have allowed us to build networks around the globe, but especially with our neighbours in Europe. These have enhanced and deepened our understanding of music and audience development. I recently had a glimpse into a possible future where travelling a modest distance incurred a visa. I was invited to visit a foreign opera company; after some discussion, it transpired that I would need to spend an entire day at an embassy to arrange a visa before the commission could be confirmed. For the self-employed writer on a tight budget, it was impractical. For musicians, it is a threat to livelihoods.

Music by female composers has been marginalised for centuries, and, happily, many organisations are seeking to redress the balance

One solution is that authorities could widen the scope of a permitted paid engagement visa from 30 to 90 days, suggests the International Artist Managers’ Association (IAMA), which has joined forces with the ISM, the Royal Opera House (ROH) and the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) for another report. The ROH points out that there is a regular need to bring in replacement singers from abroad at almost no notice when soloists are ill, while the ABO sensibly urges policymakers to consider the reality that touring is “intrinsic to the orchestral business model”. The Proms season is a key example: this summer we have enjoyed visits from the Estonian Festival Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Swedish Chamber Orchestra to name but a few.

Music by female composers has been marginalised for centuries, and, happily, many organisations are seeking to redress the balance. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has unveiled a new series called Venus Blazing which begins in the new academic year, with 25 of the 37 works programmed (68 per cent) penned by women.

For better or worse, Wikipedia is often our first port of call when searching online, but only 17 per cent of Wikipedia’s entries about people are about women, and only 10 per cent of Wikipedia’s contributing editors are female. Southbank Centre and clarinettist Heather Roche are hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on September 2, with the aim of adding more woman composers to Wikipedia’s database. Do join in via #ComposingWikipedia.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'
Bruce Dickinson
Letter To My Younger Self

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why
The Nefarious Picaroons play at Fiery Bird in Woking
Venue Watch

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know