Fuxit Or Fixit? Practical Advice For Creatives In The Face Of Brexit

Brett illustration by Sam Garroch

If you voted to Remain in the European Union, you’re probably now feeling a mixture of disillusionment, anger, frustration, embarrassment, and sheer worry. It’s fair to say that everything feels completely terrifying right now.

By it’s very nature, working in the arts, culture and creative sectors encourages us to be international; that’s one of the best things about it. We’re outward-looking. Yet it is a precarious career to pursue at the best of times. Widespread, austerity-driven cuts have made work in the arts sector hard going; from artists, musicians, writers, curators, designers, photographers to managers, administrators, front-of-house, art handlers and any roles that make culture tick in this country. Our employers and project leaders have had to rely on regional development funds from the European Union (ERDF).

What will happen to this EU money now? Will UK-based arts organisations still be able to apply in two years time? What will happen to our freedom of movement – to tour, take up residences, to write? Will jobs in the arts only go increasingly to those who can afford to gain experience in it – as internships have evolved? As yet, we don’t know.

We don’t promise to have the answers (let’s face it, it’s a mess). We have, however, asked for some practical advice from leaders in the creative sectors; some guidance and practical support from Frieze magazine, Do Lectures, ArtReview, Castlefield Gallery, EUCLID, Kin and more. Here’s what our friends and colleagues had to say:

“We need to work out how to heal this broken country”

Jennifer Higgie: Co-editor of Frieze

Despite the seismic political eruptions of the past week, actual change will happen relatively slowly, which will should give everyone a chance to calm down and work out what to do and how best to respond – but that said, such confusion and lack of leadership that the UK is currently experiencing means that any clarity is virtually impossible right now. Without sounding too Pollyanna-ish, it’s important not to vilify those who voted out. We need to work out how to heal this broken country: the last week has made all-too-clear the deep divisions along lines of class and education in British society. Let’s all think imaginatively about what, now, might be possible. We’re still part of the world.

Mark Shayler: Founding Partner of The DO Lectures. Author of Do Disrupt – Change the status quo or become it

1. Don’t panic. The sun will rise tomorrow. And the day after. And the one after that. Even those of us that say we like change, only like it when we are in control. It’s a bit like fast driving: it’s okay when your hands are on the wheel and your feet are on the pedals.

2. Get used to it. This period of uncertainty is set to last. Dig in. Try and enjoy it. That sounds weird, but be a bit Buddhist about it. Notice why you’re feeling uncomfortable and think about that.

3. Think about the opportunity. Each time the world shifts on its axis a little it generates opportunities. These could be opportunities to change you, to help others or even opportunities. Keep your radar on and spot these.

4. Look for the people helping others. Every time there is a crisis, it’s tempting to focus on the bad shit. Shift your gaze and look at the do-gooders.

5. Work together. We are stronger together. Find people to help.

6. Smile. It’s free.

7. Look after yourself. Run. Do yoga. Eat well. Sleep. You’ll never be your best if you’re ill.

“Every time there is a crisis, it’s tempting to focus on the bad shit. Shift your gaze and look at the do-gooders”

Geoffrey Brown: Director, Culture Info and EUCLID: helping arts, heritage, culture & creative industries to access EU funding

So it’s LEAVE.

Firstly, in theory, the UK will continue to be eligible to be able to lead, or be a partner in, applications for EU funding – whether for Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, Europe for Citizens and Creative Europe – and this will certainly continue until the end of the two-year period that will be triggered when the UK government invokes Article 50 – which at the moment seems likely to be sometime in the Autumn. It is possible that there could be agreement for the UK to be eligible until the final deadlines in 2019 for the current round of these programmes (the current funding round ends in 2020). The UK will also continue to distribute its share of the EU Structural & Investment Funds via DCLG & the LEPs in England, and the various designated agencies and partners in the devolved nations and regions of the UK.

Beyond 2019/2020, however, this is likely to all change, and will be based on which of the several options is the one chosen by the UK for its formal relationship with the EU. There are two clear options and a range of possible alternatives yet to be fully explored.

The first option is for the UK to be a Norway-type member. If this option is pursued, then things might not change very much – Norway is eligible to apply as a lead partner or co-organiser for most trans-national funds, for example. However, this is because Norway is an official member of the single market and pays roughly the same per head as does the UK for the privilege – and also accepts the freedom of movement of EU workers.  The problem here is that this is not the sort of post-Brexit UK that has been voted for by those who voted to leave. So a Norway type arrangement seems unlikely.

The other option is that the UK is completely independent from the EU with no arrangements or agreements of any sort – like Russia (!).  There are virtually no other European countries that have no “arrangements” with the EU; Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and even Switzerland are members of either EFTA or the EEA, and the Balkan countries and Turkey have committed to joining the EU one day and are therefore classified as “candidate” countries – there are even agreements of one sort or another between the EU and Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.  A fully independent UK would mean that UK organisations could only participate in EU funding programmes as a “third country” associate partner, on the same basis as Israel, the USA, Colombia, Australia, Thailand, etc.

There could be options between these extremes, but it seems likely that almost any of these would mean the UK either paying a contribution or signing up to commitments that those who voted leave have rejected, so it is difficult at this stage to see the new arrangement being anywhere as open to the UK as it is currently.

“For individual artists, the impact will mean fewer opportunities and more complicated arrangements”

Another obvious impact will be the UK’s eligibility to be European Capital of Culture. Its next turn is 2023 and several UK cities have already begun their campaigns. It is difficult to see how this invitation can stand if the UK is not an EU member after 2018/19/20 – and though there have been non-EU cities as capitals of culture in the past (e.g. Bergen in Norway, or Istanbul in Turkey), these have been in countries who are part of the single market or official candidate countries. The UK will be neither of these.

In the broader context, there will be implications on visa-free travel (gone), reciprocal healthcare arrangements (most likely gone), tax arrangements when touring (more complicated, at the very least), etc, etc. The UK’s interactions with the EU will be similar to those with the rest of the world – possible but less easy. Many (larger) arts and cultural organisations will cope as they currently already manage international touring and collaborations, but for many smaller and mid-scale organisations, and individual artists, the impact will mean fewer opportunities and more complicated arrangements.

In the meantime, my show, Knowing EU, is on at 16.05 from 5-27 August at the Edinburgh Fringe – though maybe I will rename it (It’s been good) Knowing EU.  The fact that these performances will be in Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain (which could trigger a further independence referendum – and the breakup of the UK) will mean I have plenty of material to work with – though the jokes may take on a slightly more nihilistic flavour…

Euclid will continue to run seminars on EU funding opportunities (7 July 2016 in London & 13 July in Manchester) and offer advice and guidance to those developing applications. Our success rate for those we advised for the 2015 Creative Europe Culture sub-programme deadline was 43%, compared to a 10% success rate of the other applications.

If anyone would like to discuss any of the above, please email me, geoffrey@euclid.info.

“We should make use of these precious resources well to help build a future with artists as part of a united and diverse country”

Oliver Basciano: Editor (International) at ArtReview

We’ve all be sold down the river. In the words of Richard Mottram, a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, “We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. It’s been the biggest cock-up ever and we’re all completely fucked.” Things are bad and will be for the foreseeable future. I suppose for artists they can at least be thankful that somehow, a long time ago, they cottoned on to something – art, a way of thinking, whatever you want to term it – that fired up their passion, led them down the path of lifelong learning and hopefully, in a round about way, makes them happy. That will help in the shit times ahead.

Either that or get the hell out of here: ArtReview is partnering with the artist-run space Casa Wabi, situated on a quiet spot along the Mexican coast, to co-host a residency. Artists can apply here until 1 August 2016.


Kwong Lee: Director, Castlefield Gallery. Co-chair, Contemporary Visual Art Manchester

Britain currently is a divided country, and the pre-Referendum lies on both sides have further damaged our trust in politicians and authority in general. The glimmer of hope I hold is that the arts have the potential to bring people together from various sides and even to unite people. Often, art can speak on behalf of marginalised voices, or simply reflect our society in all its beauty and challenges. Art can ask really difficult questions about our humanity, including differences and commonalities.

In these uncertain times for everybody including artists, I think the same artists can play an active role and use their skills and creativity as agents for change. There are still funding pots out there that artists can use (e.g. Arts Council England grants) and networks that artists can participate in (e.g. Artists Interaction and Representation (AIR) and Artists’ Union England). We should make use of these precious resources well to help build a future with artists as part of a united and diverse country, and as citizens of the world.

“Smile at strangers, and don’t demonise those who voted Leave”

Sarah Corbett: activist, founder of Craftivist Collective

What to do now?

1. Join your local Credit Union, so people can borrow money without going into crazy debt with loan sharks.

2. Become a shareholder activist with ShareActionUK (a charity that promotes responsible investment).

3. Join the Labour Party or Green Party to get our ducks in a row, to beat the crumbling Tory party before they mess up our country even more (don’t let the Left bicker, we need to move forward!)

4. See what groups are in your area doing fantastic community work you can support with your time, money, etc.

5. Smile at strangers, and don’t demonise those who voted Leave. See this time as an opportunity to rethink and reshape what the UK could look like.

Andrew Ruffler: Regional Director of RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects)

There is clearly a lot of uncertainty around at the moment but we hope that the result will also bring opportunities for the profession. We now want to seek to ensure that regional voices are heard in both national and regional policy development and any negotiations going forward. RIBA President Jane Duncan issued a press release last week, which is included on our Q&A page, providing a one-stop-shop for briefings and advice for members as it is developed. I would direct RIBA members to this page in the first instance. However, any specific queries or concerns can come directly to us in the NW so that we can feed this back to the Policy team in London. Please use the email riba.northwest@riba.org if you wish to do so.

“Lobby, lobby, lobby your local politicians with positive messages and stories”

Cathy Skelly: Investment Officer, Invest Liverpool. Founder of Kin™

I’m desperate not to patronise – I know from my day-to-day communication with businesses established and just starting out that you are a unique, highly articulate “battlers” – so this is a rally call to unite (even more than you already do).

1. Come together through existing creative networks like Kin™ ; join in with Liverpool’s C&D businesses to show our best side out. And with my Invest Liverpool hat on, I point investors and companies to Kin all of the time – it’s free, so exploit it!

2. Support others – initiatives like The Beautiful Ideas Company are creating independence from grant funding by simply identifying where there’s a symbiosis between a “beautiful idea” and a sound business investment.

3. Established businesses: please be generous. Don’t batten down the hatches. Share your knowledge and skills even more than you are doing.

4. Be inspired by the likes of Baltic Creative CIC. They’re not trying to beat the big developers,  but realising that to work alongside them can realise a unique commercial model, with the sole purpose of supporting and growing the creative and digital sector in the Baltic Triangle area; to develop and not displace.

5. Stop comparing Liverpool with other cities. With over 25 years working in the sector, I can say this with conviction: you are unique and fantastic! Work with us bureaucrats whose job it is to sell the city; tell us at Invest Liverpool what you’re doing, send us your news, tell us who you’re working with. Help us shape your message. We are the first port of call for investors and businesses (literally from all over the world) looking for partnerships.

6. And lastly – but by no mean least – we need friends in influential places. So lobby, lobby, lobby your local politicians (find them here) with positive messages and stories: we have a plenty of them!

“Don’t forget that as a creative, whatever industry you work in, you have an immense amount of power to harness emotion”

Dominique Aspey: Manager, Centre For Entrepreneurship, Liverpool John Moores University

Access to the single market gives us access to an economy five times larger than the UK’s. Our concern is we may be facing barriers with the introduction of fees and tariffs to trade with the single market. Entrepreneurs are proactive, driven, hungry for change, and to make a difference we must look for opportunities whilst we face these turbulent times. EU funding has supported many creative businesses, offering opportunities to start and flourish, and as a creative sector we must embrace change, stick together and encourage entrepreneurship.

We’re supporting LJMU students and any other recent graduates (from any university) to work as freelancers, be self-employed or to start a business, and we provide funding streams, expert advice and access to a huge number of contacts who really want to help. You can join our free network here.

Caroline White: Faculty Enterprise Manager, Manchester Metropolitan University

As a creative, you can do more than you know. The failure of this EU Referendum has been a failure of communication. The entire Brexit campaign has been about emotion. Don’t forget that as a creative, whatever industry you work in, you have an immense amount of power to harness emotion. I think a lot of the reasons people voted Leave was because they were scared, and they are angry about things they don’t even understand. They felt locked out of lofty discussions. They yearned for a simple answer that made them feel some hope.

So what can we do?

“Get offline. Facebook groups and petitions are okay, but they are only really powerful if backed up by a physical group”

1. Don’t panic. Ok, it’s awful. It feels like an impending doom of great proportions. but you can be part of the solution.

2. My Brexit: figure out what Brexit means to you and what are the likely consequences. Brexit is a bearer of both personal and professional worries and it’s hard to separate one from the other right now. Start by listing first the short-term worries and the long-term ones, the rational and irrational fears that might be going through your mind. List the potential opportunities as well as the big scary fears that are looming. Then try to order these in terms of things you can do something about now and things you can’t. You might be surprised how much you can change, or work towards changing.

3. Get organised and get together: Doing small acts individually won’t get us anywhere. It’s only by forming collective groups as creatives with the same interests that we can get taken seriously. Form or join groups with people you know so that you can share your concerns and make sure you get represented at a wider level.

4. Get offline. Facebook groups and petitions are okay, but they are only really powerful if backed up by a physical group or action or have a consistent, long-term following. Rather than start multiple new groups, try to join any existing movements that already have a strong following. If you really can’t find one, then start your own and try to align with something bigger. Figure out how your skills can best be put to good use and what problems you need to solve collectively the most.

5. Support a creative Northern Powerhouse. As separate regions we all have different creative strengths, that, together, regardless of politics, could be a real reckoning force in the days to come. For instance, if you work in the games industry, where else do groups like you exist? According to The Creative Industries report, Sheffield and Rotherham are similar types of cities to Liverpool. If links don’t exist to join you up, make them.

“Talk to industry. What are the big economic drivers in your area?”

6. Keep an eye on national policy. The Creative Industries Federation, who have placed themselves at the heart of creative policy for the UK, will be holding a range of local meetings in the wake of Brexit. It may be worth attending these to see what happens in your area and making sure the right policies get talked about for your area of interest. Find out how you can be the most useful. RSA are launching a citizens economic council “which will give citizens a say on national economic policy, and influence the future of the UK economy”.

7. Get updates from groups like RIBA, Future Cities Catapult (for architecture); Manchester Fashion Network, UKTI (Fashion North West) (fashion/textiles); The Design Council, D&AD (design); Creative England (film); The Crafts Council (craft); Digital Innovation MMU, Digital CatapultAnimationTech North (digital); TIGA, Gameopolis (games); IPPR, The Creative IndustriesPlace NorthWest, Prolific North (Northern Powerhouse) and Kin Network (creative).

8. Talk to industry. What are the big economic drivers in your area? Important to know how you can work together to make sure you are on the same page and are represented to any policy makers in the same interests at heart.

9. Once you’ve figured out what is affecting you the most, it’s time to get your message out there. Don’t do nothing and wait for politicians to figure it out. You’re a creative. Use what you’ve got. If you are a filmmaker, how could a film influence the right people the most? If you’re a designer, how could an inspirational message change people’s minds? What is the most useful thing you can do to shape policy, big decisions on a local and national level? Avoid any obvious political allegiances (especially with all the bickering going on) as you want to be as open a group as you can be.

10. Make sure you and those like you are represented as a group to your local council and local MP. Local councils still fund far more creative projects than any other UK body, and local policies will affect you in the future. Find out who your local councilor is for culture and creative is in your area, what planning currently and how they can represent you at a wider level. Make sure your council understands just how important creative industries are in your area and why they are important economically. The recent Local Government: Art and Culture, The Future by the Arts Council is worth  reading.

11. Have a look at EU funding, and if you are eligible, you still have a few years (if not more) to apply. You may as well make the most of what resources are available in the here and now.

“This isn’t the time to look to national politicians or government agencies for help; it’s the time for us all to help each other”

Patrick Hurley: Chair of Employment Select Committee, Liverpool City Council. Research and Policy Development Officer, Social Enterprise Network

The creative industries are vital to the continued success of Liverpool, both as a centre of artistic excellence and also as a way of making the city more vibrant and the sort of 21st century city that is open, inclusive and welcoming to all. The funding landscape for local producers has been dwindling for some years now, and is highly likely to continue for years to come.

So the best game in town now is to do it ourselves, and build our economy up again without being reliant on outside help. There are a number of small-scale schemes for new projects that are being run in the city; amongst others, the Awesome Foundation (£500 funding in Liverpool and cities across the world), Liverpool Soup (seed funding), Merseystart (start-up funding), and Enterprise Hub (start-up support from The Women’s Organisation) – which between them give people the know-how, small-scale funding, and contacts to give a helping hand to people who just want to do some good for the local area.

This isn’t the time to look to national politicians or government agencies for help; it’s the time for us all to help each other stand up for ourselves and co-operatively build a better city for everyone.

“Use the Paying Artists Campaign Pack to plan approaches to MPs and opinion formers around pay, equality, diversity and democracy”

Jeanie Scott: Executive Director, a-n news

Here’s what you can do:

1. We have convened a special meeting of our AIR Council Advisors in London on 14 July to discuss implications for our membership and the visual arts following the Referendum.

We invite our members to email particular questions or concerns to our AIR Council representatives in advance of this meeting to AIR@a-n.co.uk for them to be raised and discussed.

The key issues emerging through this meeting will be fed back to you, will inform our forward activity and support and contribute to the content planning of four regional roadshows we will deliver across the UK between October and March.

2. If you haven’t already, sign up to the a-n/AIR Paying Artists Campaign, to add your voice to our lobbying power as we steer the campaign onwards to realise equitable pay in publicly funded galleries.

3. We can help you to campaign and lobby! Use the Paying Artists Campaign Pack to plan approaches to MPs and opinion formers around pay, equality, diversity and democracy.

4. The Creative Industries Federation is hosting country-wide discussions and debates to explore the broader ramifications of Brexit on culture. Find out more and register your interest in attending these events here.

5. You’ll also have an opportunity to attend a-n’s regional roadshows later in the year – we’ll invite members to discuss the specific impact you think Brexit will have for you and your practice, the visual arts and your networks, and share these with the broader membership.

6. Join a-n and set up your own blog to share your views and opinions with and beyond our membership as the situation unfolds, or join the conversations on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

“In times of division, it is art and culture that unites people”

Emma Curd: Director, The Royal Standard Gallery & Studios

“What is needed is widening the field of artist intervention, by intervening directly in a multiplicity of social spaces.” (Mouffe, C. 2007)

Post-Brexit, the words of Chantal Mouffe seem particularly relevant. In fact, we need art more than we ever have. Art offers up the opportunity for society to collectively reflect and subvert emerging right-wing discourses that are attempting to infiltrate socialist values. Art has the ability to help us to understand the world, to define our emotions and make our voices heard, all of which are especially helpful in a time where we may feel that we have been abandoned by our country’s leaders.

Whereas, it would be easy now to give up, to move elsewhere or to simply stay silent, it is now that the artistic community must rally together to form supportive networks for one another, whilst reaching out to others. In times of division, it is art and culture that unites people, and therefore it important to remember that what you do as an artist, and as a human being, can make a difference to our ever-changing democracy. Here are some useful tips to consider when dealing with the current political climate:

1. Talk to people about your views in a calm and collected way .

2. Help eachother out, even if the person who needs help is a stranger to you.

3. Show support by attending peaceful protests or marches.

4. Start up your own initiatives.

5. Look after yourself and others around you.



Laura Robertson (Editor)

Illustration by Sam Garroch, with thanks. Check out Sam’s work on Instagram

How do you feel? Fuxit or fixit? Have your say in our live Twitter poll, or share your advice and feedback with us below


Posted on 04/07/2016 by thedoublenegative