On Brexit and the Arts

I know. I know. You’ve had it with the constant posts about the imminent referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the EU. I have too, not least because most of the people I know are pro-Remain (as I am) so I get this weird frustration from reading and hearing lots of great pro-EU arguments and having no-one to shout them at because everyone already agrees with me.

But I learnt about the dangers of the social media echo chamber in the last general election – when Facebook was plastered with posts and videos denouncing the Tories and showing their support for Labour, the Greens, even the Lib Dems, fallen from grace as they are. It didn’t seem even vaguely plausible that the Conservatives could push for another coalition, let alone win an outright majority. And then the Conservatives won an outright majority.

Issues with our governmental and electoral systems aside (and believe me, there are plenty), what that experience taught me was how misleading it can be to make assumptions of how people will vote and think solely from the people you surround yourself with – a glaringly obvious revelation, I’m sure, but one that I’ve taken to heart. So here I am, penning a short post about Brexit in the hopes that it might reach the eyes of even one person on the fence or voting Out.

The perils of leaving the EU have been covered in great detail already, from the overwhelming support from hard-right leaning politicians such as UKIP’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marine Le Pen, to the difficulties and consequences of adopting the Swiss or Norwegian models for post-EU trade and immigration policies. So I’ll leave most of that alone. I speak from the position of a musician here (in case that wasn’t clear, in which case you probably came to wrong website, sorry) – and leaving the EU would be colossally bad for the arts.

One big reason, which several people have touched upon already (including my good friend Imogen Hancock in this lovely piece about the referendum), a large number of musicians in Britain come here from Europe. Some of the best musicians I’ve come across have come to the UK and made some brilliant music with friends and colleagues they met here. The fantastic More Ice and Honey was comprised, at its conception, of musos from France, Russia, Finland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the UK itself. If you think a more isolationist, post-EU Britain is going to make it easier for European musicians and artists to travel here and interact and work with other like-minded people, you’re being naïve.

Furthermore, as the MU points out, it goes both ways – British musicians tour work abroad (an essential element of many musicians’ careers), and the EU’s open borders and visa-less travel have streamlined that significantly, not to mention the utility of the European Health Insurance Card, which guarantees medical assistance when travelling – over which currently hangs a big post-Brexit question mark. On top of that, health and safety and workers’ rights legislation from the EU has made musicians’ and artists’ lives significantly better, including copyright law that protects the intellectual property of artists.

And if you think that a Britain with more ‘sovereignty’ and under the benevolent eye of a Conservative government will protect the arts more than the EU has…well.

We have an education secretary who, depending on the time of day, either thinks that pupils with a grounding in the arts are ‘held back’ later in life or condescendingly purrs that the arts are crucial to an understanding of ‘Britishness’ despite (a) what the hell does that even mean, and (b) a categorical decline in arts uptake in schools.

We have a government handing down so many cuts to local council funding (including the arts) that it can’t even keep track of them and seems genuinely confused when they have consequences.

We have arts projects that rely on funding and grants from the EU – and I would be genuinely confused if we continued to receive that from outside the European Union.

Anyway. I’m probably rambling on a bit, so I’ll leave you with this Guardian article featuring several much more well-informed people chatting about the impact of Brexit on the arts. We’re a global society now, and we should be embracing that, not lusting after a bygone and worryingly imperialistic age.

The Leave and Remain camps alike have polluted this debate with misinformation and smokescreens, yes. Money goes in, money comes out. There are benefits, there are costs. The EU is a bureaucratic behemoth with plenty of its own problems, and there are few people denying that.  But voting to leave is like getting a sub-par meal at a restaurant and deciding to starve yourself to death in protest.

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It’s Happy Hour!

Ah, time for the quarterly update to the old blog. But with big news!

You’ll recall the show I mentioned last time, Rock the Jazz-bah, with their jazzy arrangements of your popular songs and your Gangnam Styles and the like. Well, I’m taking that idea and running with it, in the creation of the Happy Hour Collective (Facebook here, Twitter here, website to follow soon), a collaboration of (for now) three different groups: a revamped, rebranded Martinis (a new band in all but name), the Bloody Mary Brass Band, and the Brandy Alexanders. If you fancy checking it out (hint: you do), our launch party will be at The Miller, London Bridge, on November 10th! Details here.

And that’s not all! The 29th October brings a classy jazz jam night at Big Chill Shoreditch, hosted by the ULU Jazz Society, and also me. Come on down and check it out, it should be a blast!

And that’s not all! Down for the Count are, as ever, going from strength to strength, and you can catch us at various swing gigs over the next few months, including a monthly slot at the Super Swing Pit at Bishopsgate Institute (the next one of which is on October 19th, so get those dancing shoes on). On top of that, our excellent swing festival Rhythm Junction London went off without a hitch back in September, so keep an eye out for a reprise of that puppy some time in the future.

And that’s not all! Back in August I did some recording with a fella called Paul Carella, laying down some horn stuff on a few of his tracks for his upcoming EP. Well, as well as Paul just being a top guy, we’re shooting some video this weekend, and then he’ll be launching his EP on 7th November at Twickenham Theatre. Be there!

And that’s not all! I also updated the website, including the Bands page with details of the HHC and the excellent Equinox Quintet.

…That’s all.

Catapulted into the Real World

University life now sits behind me, a sort of hazy fever-dream of sex, drugs and rock and roll gigs, coffee and the occasional bit of work, and with that I find myself chucked out the door onto the Sidewalk of Reality, like an unruly drunkard at closing time at the Pub of Life. Stripped of the warm embrace of the education system (haha?) I stumble onwards, and turn towards that one thing that’s generally guided my way in times of strife: music.

Enjoying continued work with my good friends at Down for the Count and seeking out further opportunities with The Martinis (and yes, our album is still to come – I’ve put up some samples for your aural pleasure) are the main plans, supplemented by further work as a session musician, instrumental teacher and band leader. The creation of a big band is another project, following the discovery of a DVD-R full of charts long thought lost to the abyss while clearing out my room at home (OK, Mum, being tidy does have its merits I suppose). I’m also going along to my first rehearsal with the amazingly-named King Groovy and The Horn Stars on Thursday, so that ought to be fun.

At the advice of my stalwart and talented friend Claire Waterhouse I’ve also put myself out on this Internet thing, with profiles at UK Music Jobs and StarNow, so feel free to stop by those pages if you want to give me some work/fancy a laugh. They are both in progress, so don’t be put off by any lack of photos or anything at the moment. That will be rectified.

As always, I’m always happy to hear from potential clients so don’t hesitate to get in touch through the website too.

In other news, as well as the upcoming Martinis CD, there are also new albums from both Down for the Count AND The Emily Tree to look forward to in the next couple of months! Goodness me, what lucky people you all are. If buying music and supporting local artists isn’t your thing (and if it isn’t then your morals are bad and you should feel bad), then check out some of our upcoming live performances, including The Emily Tree playing at Candied Nonsense at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell on August 2nd, and Down for the Count’s next gig at Winslow Public Hall on September 8th.

Until next time, my lieblings.

Things Going Down

Just a quick update on the progress of the site (for those of who can’t actually see what’s changed):

  • Changed the theme. I’ll probably be mucking around with this a bit more in the future, so don’t be too surprised if you come by and it looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the last time you were here.
  • Added a few new pages: About Max, The Musician, The Bands, and Contact. The Musician and The Bands give you a basic run down of what you’d be getting if you were to hire me or a band. If there’s any more information you’d like to see there let me know. Contact will look a bit prettier in the future when I can figure out how to get one of those snazzy contact boxes.
  • Pictures have…not happened much yet but that will change soon. Ditto things like recordings of music I’ve done so you can have a listen if you so wish.
  • Ideas for a few more pages include Upcoming Gigs and Associates, where I’ll link to other sites like Max Holloway’s, the UCLU Jazz Society’s, etc.

That’s about all from me. Catch you soon.

M