› Full Story " />

“Organisers will knuckle down and do their best”: AFO’s Steve Heap on Brexit

Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, chairman of EIF and director of Mrs. Casey Music, gives Access his personal take on what Brexit might mean for the events industry. 

Clearly I cannot speak for all the members of AFO and EIF so I write personally.

I didn’t think the original terms for the UK to join EEC (EU) were very good in the first place, but democracy ruled and UK joined.

Even after various renegotiations there was always an undercurrent that “the Deal” would benefit big business shareholders, banks and the rich. Again, democracy took over and we stayed in with the new arrangements. Clearly the latter is still true as trade with 27 other nations seems to have been pretty good. Who knows what the ordinary working class people got from it all – they certainly gave to it!

The point here is that for 40 years we have learned to work with it, grumble about its rules and regulations, laws and justice (or injustice).

What I do know is that my grandfather and my father were in wars with our European neighbours. France and Spain in recent history and the Scandinavians before them have all invaded these shores. Then there is Germany who twice in the space of 30 years fancied a crack at taking us over.

Remember our dead (and theirs) by all means, but also note that since we have spent 40 years in the same economic market place as them we have argued and grumbled but we have not gone to war with them.

Not talking, not being at the table, being an outsider will lead to suspicion, that in turn leads to threat and threat leads to sabre rattling. That leads to war (my dad is bigger than your dad syndrome).

It may appear that Germany and France are in charge and even taken or been given part of our governance but they have done it without a shot being fired or a war grave being dug and we have been party to it.

In the events industry there have been many changes, especially in recent years. There have been variations, new laws and guidance – some we have welcomed, others questioned. But in the main the safety of our workers and our customers is paramount and as technology moves us onwards we have a duty to keep up and be safe.

Economically I have been employed by several events funded from European cash, regional development funds, direct and indirect grants from Europe. So if what the Brexit team tell us is true (doubt) that the £350m saved will go to the NHS, then where do events, festivals and tourism get their financial support?

With HM Gov. and the main opposition now fighting amongst themselves about whose bat and ball it is anyway, and who should be captain, there is very little confidence that our industry will be guided, encouraged or supported for the foreseeable future.

So, once again the festival and event organisers will knuckle down and do their best to keep the show up and running. They will deliver economic value, social cohesion and quality of life through a shared culture in UK communities.

Europeans visitors will, as always, be very welcome.