EU Debate: Nitin Sawhney “Brexit is about xenophobia”

Nitin Sawhney speaks out againt Brexit.
Nitin Sawhney speaks out againt Brexit.

Art has no borders,” the artistic director of a leading theatre company has said, after more than 200 stars from the film and music world signed a letter urging voters to support Britain staying in the European Union.

Jatinder Verma, who co-founded Tara Arts, in Earsfield, south London, told Eastern Eye that “engaging with difference” was fundamental to all arts.

Verma is one of 282 artists, including Akram Khan, Sir Anish Kapoor, Anoushka Shankar, and Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia, who have signed the letter that was published in the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph last week.

Britain will vote on June 23 in a referendum on whether to remain in the 28-member EU bloc.

Verma said: “Staying in the EU continues to challenge artists with the immense diversity of being European, rather than confining our vision to a little island adrift in the North Sea.

“For me, this is analogous to being committed to multiculturalism.”

Although the company receives no funding from the EU, Tata Arts productions have toured several countries that are part of the bloc.

Verma added that the organisation felt itself to be part of a “wider family of European artists” because of Britain’s current membership of the EU.

“Without this perception and feeling (which Brexit will change), we will be poorer, ghettoising ourselves needlessly. And, as an Asian, I fear if I did not have Europe to look forward to, I would be prey to all the jingoism which comes so easily to so many of us….”

Acclaimed musician Nitin Sawhney, who released his 11th album last year, told Eastern Eye there was no cogent economic or socially beneficial case for Britain to exit.

“Brexit is about xenophobia, pure and simple. I refuse to buy into the raging propaganda about an impending invasion of immigrants or that voting to remain creates some kind of ticking time bomb of national collapse,” Sawhney said.

“I want to live in a society of common spirit and kindness, not a community debilitated by irrational fear of the outside world.”

The letter, released last Friday (20), was also signed by renowned director Danny Boyle; poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, authors Hilary Mantel and John le Carre, and designer Vivienne Westwood.

“The referendum forces us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: what kind of nation do we want to be?” the letter read.

“Are we outward-looking and open to working with others to achieve more? Or do we close ourselves off from our friends and neighbours at a time of increasing global uncertainty?”

“From the smallest gallery to the biggest blockbuster, many of us have worked on projects that would never have happened without EU funding or collaborating across borders,” it added.

“Britain is not just stronger in the EU, it is more imaginative and creative. Our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.

“Leaving Europe would be a leap into the unknown for millions of people across the UK who work in the creative industries, and for the millions more at home and abroad who benefit from the growth and vibrancy of Britain’s cultural sector.”

The EU provided funding to films such as Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire as well as The Iron Lady and The King’s Speech.

John Kampfner, the chief executive of the trade body for the arts, the Creative Industries Federation, said EU membership made it easy for British artists to find work in Europe and vice versa.

Actors Helena Bonham Carter, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bill Nighy, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dominic West also signed, as did music stars Hot Chip and Paloma Faith.

Prime minister David Cameron has warned that leaving the EU would damage Britain’s economy, but those campaigning for Brexit argue that it will save money and give the nation greater control over immigration.