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Chipping Campden music festival president Paul Lewis slams Brexit as 2021 programme gets under way

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AN internationally acclaimed British pianist used the launch of Chipping Campden Music Festival this week to deliver a blistering attack on Brexit.

Paul Lewis, who is president of the festival, called Brexit a “self-inflicted disaster” and said that in severing the arts community’s easy links with the EU Britain had lost something precious beyond words.

Writing in the official programme for the two-week festival – which opened last Monday and ends on 20th September – Mr Lewis said: “We are living through one of the most extraordinary periods in the history of the UK and one that has had a devastating effect on the arts.

“Whilst the full impact of Covid couldn’t have been predicted or averted, the self-inflicted disaster that is Brexit could have, and all the warnings that were dismissed as scare mongering, have turned out to be correct.

Paul Lewis (51147523)
Paul Lewis (51147523)

“The arts in this country will survive with the continued generous support of those who understand their importance, but in the UK’s deliberate severing of the arts community’s easy links with the EU, we have lost something precious beyond words.”

Mr Lewis, who is a longstanding supporter of the Cotswolds festival and this week is performing in three separate concerts on different days – in each case twice to limit audience numbers at St James’ Church in the town – has added his voice to the growing complaints about the damaging effects of Brexit on the arts in the UK.

There has been considerable anguish about how Brexit has hit musicians’ ability to travel because of visa difficulties and associated red tape.

Mr Lewis’s comments were preceded by concerns about the effects of Covid by the festival’s founder and artistic director, Charlie Bennett.

Also writing in the festival programme, Mr Bennett said: “We can only hope that the worst of the pandemic is over and that life will gradually return to a more normal pattern.

“Many hope that the lessons learned during this time might lead to a more equitable and caring society. Whether it will, remains to be seen.

“Whilst no sector has been spared the economic hurt caused by Covid 19, I think it is fair to say that self-employed artists have been amongst the worst hit, with many facing the loss of over a year’s work overnight, and a large number receiving little or no support from central government.

“If music lovers have learned anything during this period, it is just how much we need ‘live’ concerts.”

An initial review of Chipping Campden Music Festival is in the current edition of the Herald.

For full music festival programme click here.

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