Campaigning groups and industry bodies secure visa-free access for short tours in Spain

Madrid cityscape

Although Nadine Dorries, the new UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), tweeted that this was a success for her department, she failed to mention that it was the work of groups such as the LIVE music group, the Association of British Orchestras and their Spanish counterparts, Asociación Promotores Musicales and Live Nation Spain, that finally broke the deadlock.

Spain is the fifth-largest live music market in the world and so is vital for British music and performance art. Brexit, which Dorries campaigned for, cut off access to Spain for British acts.

Immediately following Brexit, UK acts found themselves having to fill in visa applications in Spanish, including minute detail of tour itineraries, flights, hotels and advance proof of earnings. With a month’s wait for permission, flexibility in touring was impossible and the costs prohibitive for many acts.

Nadine Dorries tweet
Nadine Dorries takes the credit

Even now, the short-term visa waiver for performers and their support teams is hampered by the cost and bureaucracy of vehicle cabotage, merchandise import taxes and equipment carnets. All these undermine the viability of the multi-billion-pound touring industry.

As Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras, said,

‘Although the successful return of visa-free short-term work in Spain represents a positive step towards the return of international touring, this is only one part of the picture. Touring artists still face restrictions on touring in Spain: a three stop limit to UK touring vehicles before they have to return to home and a hugely expensive goods passport (a carnet), including a bond for instruments and equipment.’

Photo: Madrid cityscape

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