An Open Letter to the Home Secretary on visas for visiting writers

27th June 2011

Trustees and members of English PEN were among the 120 prominent authors and artists to co-sign an open letter to Rt. Hon. Teresa May MP, Home Secretary, which was published today in the Daily Telegraph.  The text of the letter is below.

SIR – Since its introduction in 2008, it has become clear that the
points-based visa system, introduced to manage migration to the United
Kingdom, is inappropriate for short-term visits by artists.

Writers and performers who have long been welcomed by Britain now find that
they are required to undergo a visa application process that is needlessly
bureaucratic and intrusive.

Non-European Union artists wishing to enter the country have been treated
poorly, either through the application process or at entry points.

Acclaimed artists, such as the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning director Abbas
Kiarostami, and Grigory Sokolov, one of the world’s great concert pianists,
have been dissuaded from future visits.

The “licensed sponsors” system places a burden on arts organisations, many of
which cannot afford the cost or cope with the administrative burden. Nor do
they wish to be required (or are in many cases able) to “monitor” the
artists they invite.

A recent Greater London Authority survey found that 70 per cent of arts
organisations in London have been adversely affected by the scheme.

As short-term visits by artists have no impact on migration, there is no need
to administer their entry via the points-based system.

Artists who showcase their unique talents do not take away employment from
British or EU nationals, and there is no need to place extra strictures on
them because they are paid. There already exists, outside the points-based
system, a route for entertainers who attend festivals.

We call on the Government to widen this route, creating a visitor route for
artists and entertainers which does not distinguish between those who are
and are not receiving payment.

This will enable artists to attend their exhibitions, writers to be paid for
reading from their works, and musicians to be paid for performing.

Our great tradition of cultural exchange is being badly damaged through the
points-based system, and in the long term we will suffer economically. As we
approach the Cultural Olympiad’s culminating year, this is a situation that
must change.

Earl of Clancarty
Lord Hall of Birkenhead chair Cultural Olympiad, chief executive Royal Opera House
Sir Nicholas Hytner director National Theatre
Sir Nicholas Serota director Tate
Charles Saumarez Smith chief executive Royal Academy
Alistair Spalding chief executive and artistic director Sadler’s Wells
Sir David Tang

Ursula Mackenzie Chief Executive, Little, Brown
Sandy Nairne director National Portrait Gallery
Gillian Slovo writer and president English PEN

Bridget Riley artist
Countess of St Germans, founder and director Port Eliot Festival
Matthew Slotover director Frieze Art Fair
Julia Peyton-Jones director Serpentine Gallery
Sir Tom Stoppard playwright
Baroness Rendell author
Dame Antonia Fraser Pinter historian

Rick Gekoski author and Chair, Man International Booker Prize Judging Panel 2011
Dr Stephen Deuchar director The Art Fund
Jude Kelly artistic director South Bank Centre
Edmund de Waal artist and writer
Iwona Blazwick director Whitechapel Gallery
Kamila Shamsie author
Salman Rushdie author
Lord Black of Brentwood
Bill Woodrow artist
Cornelia Parker artist
David Anderson director general National Museums Wales
John Leighton director general National Museums Scotland
James Rhodes pianist
Lewis Biggs chief executive and artistic director Liverpool Biennial
Kate Mosse author
Howard Jacobson author
Michael Morpurgo author
Philip Pullman author
Susan Hiller artist
Michael Frayn author and broadcaster
Alison Plumridge director Smiths Row, Bury St Edmunds
Gayle Chong Kwan artist
Suki Chan artist
Jeremy Deller artist
Stephen Snoddy director New Art Gallery Walsall
James Lingwood
director Artangel
Simon Wallis director The Hepworth Wakefield
Peter Murray director Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Fiona Bradley director Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Clive Gillman director Dundee Contemporary Arts
Godfrey Worsdale director BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Tom Trevor director Arnolfini, Bristol
Keith Jeffrey director QUAD, Derby
Rosy Greenlees executive director Craft Council
Paul Hobson director Contemporary Arts Society
Gillian Nicol editor a-n
Sally Lai chief executive officer Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester
Gill Lloyd director Artsadmin
Judith Knight director Artsadmin
Mike Stubbs chief executive officer FACT, Liverpool
Stephen Hough pianist
Deborah Bestwick director Oval House Theatre
Zineb Sedira artist
Rocca Gutteridge artist
Cathy de Monchaux artist
Mark Ball artistic director and chief executive London International Festival of Theatre
Alessio Antoniolli director Gasworks and Triangle Network
Baroness Young of Hornsey
Jenni Lomax director Camden Arts Centre
Lord Clement-Jones
Hilary Gresty director Visual Arts and Galleries Association
Sarah Perks programme and engagement director Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester
Dave Moutrey chief executive officer and director Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester
Aaron Garfield Cezar director Delfina Foundation
Lord Freyberg
Baroness Bakewell
Lemn Sissa
y poet, writer and performer
Maureen Duffy author
Blake Morrison author
Anne Fine writer
Ali Smith author
Andrew O’Hagan author and critic
Anita Sethi author
David Hare playwright
David Nicholls author
Deborah Moggach author
Elleke Boehmer author
Esther Freud author
Hanif Kureishi author
Hari Kunzru author
Jo Shapcott poet
Mark Haddon author
Mohsin Hamid author
Nell Leyshon playwright and author
Nicola Beauman publisher
Philip Hensher author and critic
Ruth Padel poet
Salil Tripathi writer, chair Writers in Prison Committee
Sarah Waters author
Simon Singh author
Terence Blacker author and critic
William Fiennes author
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, author and critic
Sarah Dunant author
Susie Orbach writer and psychoanalyst
Manick Govinda artists producer Artsadmin, and Manifesto Club
Claudia Zeiske director Deveron Arts
WESSIELING artist and senior lecturer, London College of Fashion
Mike Nelson artist
Stephen Foster director John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton
Helen Pearson development director University of Gloucester
Emily Pethick director The Showroom Gallery
Alex Sainsbury director Raven Row
Monica Ali author
Ros Schwartz translator
Lennie Goodings publisher
Carole Seymour-Jones author
Julian Evans writer and broadcaster
Daniel Hahn  translator
Eva Hoffman author
Raficq Abdulla author

Amanda Hopkinson author and translator

Joe Dunthorne author

Hisham Matar author

Deborah Moggach author

Will Self author

Kathy Lette author

Joannah Trollope author

Miriam Elia Visual Artist & Comedian

Robert Sharp English PEN

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *