Wiltshire

'Difficulty' entering UK for foreign Womad performers

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing at WOMAD in 2017 Image copyright Mike Chapman
Image caption Womad is held in Charlton Park near Malmesbury every year

Entering a post-EU referendum UK is "difficult and humiliating" for performers at the Womad world music festival, according to an organiser.

Chris Smith told Radio Times that due to the visa process, it had become hard to attract foreign musicians to the festival, held annually in Wiltshire.

He also blamed politicians and said the situation "genuinely broke his heart".

Womad (World of Music Arts and Dance) was founded by the musician Peter Gabriel and first took place in 1982.

But people who have been invited to the UK as an "expert" in their profession can get a Permitted Paid Engagement visa, at a cost of £93.

According to the government, this allows the applicant to take part in "arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting", along with various other professional activities.

The visa does not permit the holder to carry out paid work that is unrelated to his or her main job, or for the applicant to live or study in the UK for extended periods.

Mr Smith said: "The saddest thing is always the number of artists struggling to get visas to come and perform.

"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.

"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."

Festival organisers have been travelling to Europe to meet artists before trying to help them into Britain, Mr Smith revealed.

He said the Brexit vote and the "unforgivable" conduct of politicians had changed the perception of the UK in the international community.

The Home Office has been contacted for a comment.

Artists appearing at this year's festival, which runs from Thursday until Sunday, include Goldie, Leftfield and Thievery Corporation.

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