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Aldeburgh – the saga continues

I had this from immigration specialist Steve Richard the other day:

Dear John – I have been in touch with Aldeburgh Music and have had a high-level meeting with the UKBA lately. The visiting officer and Aldeburgh Music between them managed to come to a tediously common misunderstanding on this matter. The fact is that the UKBA cannot compel any sponsor to take copies of people that are not employees. They can penalise companies for not being able to prove that employees are legal to work here. This sits on slightly dodgy legal ground when it comes to UK nationaals. The misunderstanding generally comes from the nature of the work you do. As far as I am concerned you are self-employed, not an employee of each venue / promoter you work with. Hence they do not need to sight your passport as employment / immigration law does not apply. I have had this confirmed by the current head of the UKBA’s work visa system and 2 senior policy officials. I just thought you’d like to know. Whether Aldeburgh change their policy is down to them – I’ve advised them they can do so legally.

This is obviously at variance with the Aldeburgh Music interpretation of the rules:

We completely understand why artists are surprised and annoyed about the new UK Border Agency (UKBA) rules. Following a recent UKBA audit we have been instructed to view and copy passports of all visiting artists and having taken advice we feel we have no option but to follow this new guidance, so as not to jeopardise our ability to invite musicians from around the world . It’s a huge administrative burden on Aldeburgh Music and feels like an invasion of privacy for the artists. It’s ironic that this is our founder Benjamin Britten’s Centenary year and he was a composer who did so much to further the causes of peace and artistic links across borders.

While we are not the first organisation to be asked to do this, it is likely to be something which more and more arts organisations will have to respond to in the near future. Hopefully the arts sector will be able to agree a collective view on this and common sense will prevail. In the meantime we have to proceed as instructed and hope that this doesn’t disrupt the exciting summer of music making that we have planned.

I emailed Shoel Stadlen at Aldeburgh Music for enlightenment but answer came there none. I’ve since discovered that not everyone has caved in to the UKBA, and a number of organisations for whom I have a lot of respect told them what they could do with their passports. It just takes a bit of courage.

Oi REF –Impact bites back!

Those of us who have fled academia (especially the Twitterati)  loved Paul Magrs’ piece in the Times Higher about his Impact letter. It’s gratifying that the government’s hugely successful attempt to make higher education a laughing stock doesn’t just produce cynicism but also some serious opportunities for humour. I have to say in defence of my own former employer that I haven’t had such a letter, but the scenario Paul Magrs describes is one being repeated throughout the land as academics waste vast amounts of time producing forests of fantasy waffle that completely miss the point about what they do. You’ve got to laugh otherwise you’d cry.  Seriously though – it’s such a breath of fresh air when someone has the balls to put into print what everyone’s thinking but no one dares say. I’m pretty sure he’d tell the UKBA what to do with his passport too.

The Dowland Project Night Sessions


Photo Jarmila Uhlikova

Thanks to Twitter I can tell you it’s in the catalogue! You’ll find it in here. You probably won’t have noticed that I’ve taken out the paragraph about the Dowland Project in my previous post. ECM weren’t happy with it. I shouldn’t really be censoring myself, but on the other hand I can’t be doing with all the hassle.  It doesn’t really matter whether I saw the album cover or know the release date –  I’m just glad it’s going to see the light of day at last, and I’m very happy for the music to speak for itself.  I won’t say any more about it, except that if listening to it you feel even a tiny fraction of the joy and excitement we had when making it, I’ll feel that I’ve done my job.


In the meantime I’m off to Helsinki to engage with a far more enlightened higher education system than we have here, and to hear CaboCubaJazz from CapVerde and Cuba roaring away at the April Jazz Espoo.  Can’t wait!



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