Briefing – What Next? and the EU Referendum

8 June 2016

News & Campaigns

The What Next? Young Vic chapter have had a series of discussions about the EU Referendum. Lizzie Crump has written this briefing to pull together some of the thinking, suggested activity and resources.

EU Referendum

  • The issue of the UK’s relationship with Europe is critically important for us all
  • There is potential for us to act individually, regionally, nationally and collaboratively as a What Next? movement around the forthcoming Referendum.
  • The Referendum date is set for 23/06/2016

What we want to achieve

  • Make the binary and long-running EU debate more interesting and more relevant.
  • Get out the vote for the UK Europe Referendum: not trying to influence the outcome per se, but providing platforms for information, discussion, and different views to be aired and shared to public audiences?
  • Mobilise the vote within the arts and cultural sector and our audiences: – ensuring that we are not a ‘lazy’ sector in engaging with this issue. This would involve mobilizing boards and staff across organisations, individual artists and freelancers.
  • Actively try and engage with members of the public that we don’t normally engage with, or who might not be engaged with this issue (e.g. young people)

Menu of suggested activity for What Next? colleagues

  • Help to get the vote out – particularly amongst young people. Using the Bite the Ballot tools and others to create a voter registration drive.
  • Briefing and engaging our boards, staff and artist colleagues on what is happening.
  • Arts and cultural organisations holding ‘hustings’ style events across the country where different views are aired (see Sadler’s Wells, What Next? Norfolk, What did Abba do Wrong?)
  • Engaging with cultural colleagues and collaborators across Europe (possibly in your ‘twinned town’) to explore and highlight your cultural relationship and the people involved.
  • Creatively exploring the role of Europe and European funding to arts practice and cultural organisations – or your town /locality and partners. Perhaps writing a blog piece on a website or newsletter that articulates this thinking?
  • Commissioning artistic work that explores the issue (for example Freeword are running ‘Unravelling and Restitching Europe’)
  • Build relationships with our MEPs
  • Engage with the Vote Art’ Campaign which places billboards asking people to vote across the whole country.
  • Use media links and relationships to debate these issues as part of the public discourse (press and broadcasting). Engage high-profile celebrities from the arts and industry and ask them to share their opinion.
  • Create collaborative projects with other sectors, such as grass-roots community groups or Chambers of Commerce. Students, universities and researchers particularly are starting to engage with this issue.

Existing campaigns

What we believe
Arts and cultural organisations and artists are uniquely placed to tell stories and to give space and a platform for others to tell their stories. They can and should be part of the narrative that shapes public engagement with the big issues facing society.
We believe that the What Next? movement can highlight and stimulate a debate about cultural identity, personal identity and values which is missing from the current rhetoric about Britain’s EU membership, economy and security. There is very little creative exploration of what it means for us to be European at an individual, local, regional, national and international level.
We do not want to duplicate existing campaigns or activity.
Key current issues such as Climate Change and the Refugee Crisis are integral to discussion about the EU Referendum.
We believe that a positive tone – one that is about hope and vision for the future – will be most effective. We may want to explore ‘mild jeopardy’, but we don’t want to engage with a fear-based narrative (on either side of the issue).

Regulatory considerations
Arts and cultural organisations are often charities and therefore can sometimes feel that they cannot engage easily in political campaigning.
Some colleagues have felt comfortable taking a stance on this issue, whilst some have expressed concerns as to how the Referendum relates to the Charity Commission Guidelines.

Areas to explore – questions and starting points 

  • Many people are confused about the difference between Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Economic Migrants. It would be useful for communities and arts organisations to explore this.
  • Citizens can be English, British, European, and Global. How do these different identities operate next to and influence one another?
  • What do we have a stake in because we are European? CERN? The European Space Agency? The UEFA Champions League? European Capital of Culture? The Killing (TV show)? The culture of Festival?
  • Where are some of the lines of intersection between England and Europe?
  • British Food and its relationship with European Food? Our shared relationship to public transport and railways?
  • Is there an opportunity to explore the notion of neighbourhood? And our European neighbours? How are we similar and how are we different? Do we feel the same about gun laws, the right to privacy, human rights?
  • Does the Referendum create an opportunity for the UK to shape and remake Europe? Can the UK save Europe by engaging all members in key, critical issues – freedom and democracy? Will our leaving fracture it irreparably?
  • Should we talk about the history of Europe – why it was set up and our part of it? If it was about peace and creating a space for negotiation is that still needed? Is the concept of peace still relevant?
  • We have global cultural relationships with audiences, collaborators and each other. Is the extra layer of Europe still needed?
  • How has our European status influenced our artistic practice as a nation? What was the relationship between the Beatles and Hamburg, or David Bowie and Berlin?
  • How has Erasmus as an education programme had an impact?
  • Soft Power: Is Europe a significant World Stages for Britain? Is it a showcase /platform for influence that we need?

What Next? Young Vic speakers:

Letters and articles

Stats and resources

  • Creative Industries Federation members poll
  • Government’s evaluation of the relationship between EU and UK on Culture
  • Creative Europe – key stats and links
  • During its first two years (2014 – 2015), Creative Europe has supported 228 UK cultural and creative organisations and audiovisual companies and the cinema distribution of 84 UK films in other European countries with grants totalling €40 million.
  • Through Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, €28.5 million was invested in the UK’s audiovisual sector: 85 UK companies and 53 UK cinemas in the Europa Cinemas network benefitted directly from grants totalling €16 million and 84 British films had their distribution supported in other European countries with €12.5 million of investment.
  • Through Creative Europe’s Culture sub-programme, 93 cultural, creative and heritage organisations in the UK benefitted from €11.3 million.