openDemocracyUK

The UK Home Office: Unwelcome arbiters of culture

The Home Office’s ludicrous and harsh clampdown of invited non-EU artists and academics to the UK is stifling the UK’s vibrant cultural scene.
Manick Govinda
17 January 2010

“After my treatment resulting in my deportment from the UK I have little desire to ever return.”  MP Landis, artist.

Brooklyn based painter MP Landis was supposed to be in Dufftown Scotland over the summer of 2009 on an artist’s residency at the prestigious Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland.  Landis, his wife and 5 month daughter were to be living on the distillery grounds with 7 other international artists.  But the new points based system prevented Landis and his family from taking up this unique opportunity. 

The stringent rules required Landis and his family to show they had at least $1,400 of savings, and each artist’s sponsor – in this case, Glenfiddich – were obliged to provide additional financial support and constantly monitor the artists to ensure they don’t abscond during their stay.  Lacking the necessary certificate of sponsorship, Landis and his family were detained and deported from London’s Heathrow Airport on a US bound plane shortly after they arrived.

“I was on an artist’s visa which no longer exists. When it came time to renew my visa I was deferred to a TIER ONE GENERAL highly skilled worker’s visa – which is points based. My application was refused due to ‘a lack of education’ and I entered a lengthy appeal process which took over six months, in which I was kept on tenterhooks about whether I could stay or whether I could go. When the appeal was refused I was forced to return to South Africa. I have subsequently reapplied for two other visas, one a short term holiday visa to attend my book launch, another an unmarried partnership visa to rejoin my girlfriend of seven years who still resides in the UK. Both were also refused.”  Nikhil Singh, artist-illustrator of gothic-fantasy novel Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers. 

The above examples are just a couple of the hundreds of testimonials collected by the Manifesto Club over the last eleven months of its campaign and petition against the Home Office’s ludicrous and harsh clampdown of invited non-EU artists and academics to the UK.  The bureaucracy is stifling the UK’s vibrant cultural scene, including world music and small-scale music promoters, tango, salsa and belly dance groups, poetry festivals, many other popular and grassroots cultural activities.

The public, politicians, academics, artists and other professionals must bring the message home to the Home Office and its shadow organisation the UK Borders Agency that they cannot control the cultural relationships we have with non-EU artists and academics.  Their meddling interference on our cultural and intellectual life has attracted an amazing 9840 protest petition signatories, but we need much more, so please sign the petition if you haven’t done so yet, and if you have please encourage anyone you know who might want to sign it. The petition site is here.  

Keep sending us news of any incidents of artists and academics being refused visas, denied entry or being deported. We are compiling further evidence which will soon be launched as a report update to our June 2009 report entitled UK Arts and Culture: Cancelled, By Order of the Home Office.

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