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Teatro da Curva barrado: deu no The Guardian (Londres, Inglaterra)

Teatro da Curva

Access denied: how Fortress Britain is blocking cultural exchange

UK immigration rules that refuse visas to artists from non-EU countries are destroying our reputation for being open to international engagement

Posted by

Lyn Gardner Monday 6 September 2010 12.24 BST


This afternoon Brett Bailey, founder of the renowned Third World Bunfight company and often described as South Africa's edgiest theatre director, was due to give a talk in London as part of the Greenwich and Docklands international festival. The talk will no longer be happening because Bailey has been denied entry to the UK as a result of the Home Office's points-based visa system, a process so intricate and full of red tape that Visiting Arts frequently finds itself called upon to come to the aid of producers inviting artists to these shores.

Since the system was introduced in 2008, many artists and writers from non-EU countries have found themselves either prevented from entering the UK or unable to get visas in time to perform or take part in discussions and festivals for which they have formal invitations. In June, the Russian ballerina, Polina Semionova, due to give eight performances in Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall, became a high-profile casualty of the visa system. It is causing damage to the UK's reputation as a country that is open to engagement with international artists.

Last month, Brazilian theatre company, Teatro da Curva, was invited to bring their production of Candide to Camden People's Theatre as part of the Camden fringe. But despite having correct documentation, the group was held for five hours, denied entry to the UK and then deported. The case, and the group's treatment at the hands of immigration officials, has received high-profile coverage in Brazil and is unlikely to help the cause of international cultural exchange between the two countries.

There is something insane about the fact that the British Council and Visiting Arts spend so much time and effort forging international links and promoting UK theatre and culture abroad when the Home Office and UK Border Agency can so easily scupper all the goodwill. After the Teatro da Curva incident, British artists travelling to Brazil may find it harder to enter the country and receive a cool welcome.

Reciprocity is part and parcel of cultural exchange. Just as work here on the fringe constantly reinvigorates the mainstream, so work produced from beyond these shores can also open theatre-makers and audiences' eyes. Without these influences, our own theatre is in danger of becoming provincial and parochial. Over the last 40 years since the World Theatre Seasons and the advent of the London international festival of theatre (LIFT), British theatre has been far less inward-looking, and events such as the Barbican BITE seasons and the Edinburgh international festival continue to present high-profile international work. That's great, but cultural exchange at a grassroots level is also essential to the development of artists.

Manick Govinda, a producer at Arts Admin, is at the forefront of a campaign spearheaded by the Manifesto Club to overturn the current visa system, and has compiled a dossier of the testimonies of artists refused visas and denied entry. There is also a petition that has been signed by many high-profile supporters, including the National Theatre's Nicholas Hytner. The previous government, which introduced the visa system, refused to see reason, and the country is rapidly becoming known in the international arts world as "Fortress Britain". Will the coalition government recognise the damage current rules are doing to our cultural standing? Let's hope so.

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