How the Arts are Reacting to Brexit

It’s been over six months since we awoke to discover that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. The decision came as a shock to virtually everyone, even prominent members of the Leave campaign. In the weeks and months that have followed, aftershocks of this seismic shift have been felt across the world, as people attempt to come to terms with President Trump and a possible President Le Pen.

The political events of 2016 have prompted a discussion about the role of social media in politics, with many criticising the ‘echo-chamber’ that occurs when we connect with people who confirm our beliefs. Because of this, few areas felt the shock of Brexit as harshly as the creative community. A survey from the members of the Creative Industries Federation stated that 96% of members supported the Remain campaign. Another survey shows that 64% of 18-24 year-olds voted to Remain whilst 58% of those 65 and older voted to Leave. Young people are faced with an average 69 years of a future decided by those with only 16 years left to live it.

The creative industry grew by 8.9% between 2013 and 2014, with Europe representing the largest export market in this sector with 57% of all oversees trade. The government’s own figures show that the Creative Industries generate £8 million an hour. Yes, that’s eight million pounds per hour. This totals over £71 billion per year and keeps 1.68 million people in employment – or 5.6 % of all UK jobs – many of whom are EU nationals.

The arts are now more important than ever, and the things we create must be radical, empowering and progressive. With five million visitors to the Tate last year alone, it’s clear that contemporary art and culture appeals to more people than the kale smoothie swigging “remoaners”. Creatives must organise to ensure that funding, education collaboration are safeguarded.

So how should the creative community respond? We spoke to three arts professionals about their outlook in post-Brexit Britain.

Marine Tanguy

Raised on a small French island for 17 years, Marine tanguy grew up far from the art scene. Still, this didn’t stop her from directing her first gallery at 21, or opening her first art gallery in Los Angeles at age 23. Tanguy currently dedicates most of her time to her business, MTArt, the first talent agency that is solely dedicated to promoting visual artists.

“My main concern in the run-up to the referendum was that the pro-Brexit campaigners ran the full campaign using scaremonger tactics. By playing on people’s fears and using false facts on topics such as the NHS or immigration, they were garnering a huge amount of support. On the other side, the campaign didn’t explain much – especially the key role that the EU played in the support and strengthening of the United Kingdom.

At the time of Brexit we were in the middle of raising investment for MTArt, so I was worried that could have been affected. Also I knew whatever the outcome of Brexit, it would create instability in the economy in the short term. When there is instability people become more risk averse and less likely to purchase art, so I was concerned about the greater, macro effects it may have on the art market. On a more personal level, I worried about the deeper values the vote signified. It was based on being less diverse, less international and less progressive. Our business promotes those exact values – so it was hard to hear.

Brexit will likely affect the movement of people from Europe to the UK. I think a huge amount of creative thought comes from the cross pollination of people and ideas. At MTArt we will always strive to encourage this through our events and artists we represent.

Looking forward, I hope for the best. I see the creative community too divided from reality at times and I hope that Brexit can encourage the cultural private and public bodies to be more implicated in the wider context.”

To learn more about Marine Tanguy please visit

Peter Darney

Peter Darney is a playwrite and theatre director. In his latest project, 5 Guys Chillin’, Darney has been exploring the subject of chemsex, weaving his script from more than 50 hours of interviews with guys on apps like Grindr about their experiences. Darney was the winner of the Brighton Fringe LGBTQ Award and double award winner at this years Dublin international Gay Theatre Festival.

“I felt pretty nervous in the run up to the referendum. Living in London, it felt like a lot of my circle and my social media bubble were showing a certain amount of confidence for remain. But having grown up in South Wales and Rural Oxfordshire, and being from a working class background, I wasn’t so sure.

After the result I felt very sorry for a lot of people whose lives, especially in the short term, could be much worse off. Wales voted to leave, but how many people were thinking about the European funding regenerating our docks and the communities decimated under Thatcher?

One big change I have noticed in the months since is the amount of hate that has put into the world. I have had more homophobic abuse online for my work in the last 6 months than I have had in the last 10 years. The haters feel that Brexit -and I expect Trump too- has given them a mandate to express their views publically.

As artists, it is our job to provoke discussion, to show different viewpoints, to hold the glass up to the uglier parts of human nature. To wake up people’s consciences and challenge their thinking. To burst their bubbles. With Brexit, Trump, and the far right on the rise -especially in France, Austria, Australia- there has never been a more important time for us, as artists, to be doing that.”

To learn more about Peter Darney please visit

Simon Foxall

Simon Foxall is a Fine Art Painter and lecturer currently working between Margate and London. His work explores concepts of queerness, masculinity and kitsch through a radical interaction with imagery from films and celebrity culture. Aside from teaching and painting, Foxall is also studying for a PHD at the Royal College of Art.

“Being based in Margate, I think I had a slightly different perspective on the approaching referendum than many of my London-based friends. The mood amongst most of them was of anxiety and some trepidation, but a quiet confidence that Brexit would fall at the very last hurdle. I wasnt nearly so optimistic. Margate is rapidly becoming a tale of two towns and while there is a strong and ever growing liberal arts and culture vibe, there is also high unemployment, high levels of poverty and the various distractions undertaken to cope with that relentless challenge.

I define national identity quite apart from patriotism. Patriotism is mindless, arbitrary and lacking in any functional use aside from division. My sense of national identity was concerned with a certain satisfaction that the UK was a nation that embraced change and influence, a nation that I felt had previously held on to a greater understanding of its mongrel nature, and celebrated it. Naturally I wasn’t under any illusions that there were those who struggled with that idea, neither did I believe we had a cohesive and harmonised society.

Shortly after Brexit, when the White Lives Matter group arrived in Margate, they numbered about 40, and were encircled by police for the entirity of their march. Waving St George’s crosses and chanting “Refugees, fuck off!” they were followed by a counter-protest more than five times the size, with giant ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ banners, chanting about inclusivity. Many of the shops lining the route put up signs saying ‘Margate say NO to racism’ or ‘We believe in a thing called love’. I was seriously proud of Margate that day.

We might not know how to solve the problems we are facing, but presence and activity can be vital tools in not permitting a dominant ideology to go unquestioned. And in a great many ways, no matter how small, we have the capacity to do that.”

To learn more about Simon Foxall please visit his website

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