As a composer I believe it is absolutely crucial for our country and our culture to remain in the EU.
I spend a lot of time travelling around Europe composing and making music with many organisations. I like to say that my first nationality is Musician, and only after that, am I European, British and English.
I recall that in 1986 the British Council sponsored me to attend a music summer school in Poland. It was extremely complicated to organise because of the need for documentation to enter what was then a Warsaw Pact country. Since then things have changed beyond recognition. These days it is quite normal to work across borders within a much larger territory of 28 member states. For example, a film company for which I worked was based in Amsterdam, with a German producer and Brit in charge of post production. There were many Dutch crew members, an award-winning German editor and me as a composer from the UK.
Another film saw me moving over a period of weeks from Luxembourg to Venice to Munich and ultimately when the score was finished we recorded it in London with the London Symphony Orchestra.
These are typical examples of cross border cooperation and the projects were considerably facilitated by freedom of movement, and undoubtedly the UK’s membership of the EU made their choice of using a UK composer and a UK orchestra much easier.
When I work and travel within the EU I know that my intellectual rights as a composer are protected by EU law; also, unlike when I go to the US, I never have to think once about health insurance, if I break my leg or fall ill, I can use the local hospital; and even outside the EU, I know I can go to any EU embassy for help and be represented in my own language.
When I studied at the Royal Academy of Music, the then Principal Sir David Lumsden found it fundamentally important that as students we should be exposed to artistic influences from across Europe and beyond – we should swap ideas, expand our friendships and get excited about great music and great art wherever it was to be found!! Today Erasmus (plus) makes this policy so much easier to achieve and leads to much enhanced mutual understanding. This would all be lost if we leave.
I’m sure Sir David would be proud to think that I, and others took his advice to heart. For instance, I became Composer in Association to the Belgian National Brass Band Champions, Brass Band Buizingen, and more recently I was Associate Composer to the Marine Band of the Royal Dutch Navy, probably the finest Wind Orchestra in Europe. In the latter case, when I asked politely whether it would be a problem for the Dutch military that I was British, the Officer in charge merely responded “We are all Europeans now!!”
To the Eurosceptics, who believe we will still be able to travel and work in EU after a Brexit, I say, we just don’t know and there will certainly be more hurdles to jump.
When you are not visible you risk being forgotten – there is only one possible advantage that I can see – being in splendid isolation, you are always the best, even if no one else is watching or listening!
I personally will be heart broken if we leave this extraordinary partnership that the EU represents. Not only for myself, but for the generations that follow.