The U.K. is a strange and uncertain place at the moment. There have been instances of extreme violence, misinformation, and bizarre flotillas on the River Thames in London. This Thursday, June 23, the British public will vote in a referendum on whether or not to stay in the E.U. The vote is split down the middle: on one side is Prime Minister David Cameron, who is urging voters to remain part of the union, while on the other is former London mayor Boris Johnson who wants Britain to leave, or “Brexit” as it has uncomfortably become known. Polls suggest that younger voters are likely to vote to remain, however turnout among this group is traditionally low. Older voters, meanwhile, generally favor leaving. Young people used to being part of a united Europe are in danger of having their future decided for them, and so the importance of voting has been stressed by artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans.
What is to come next for young people has rarely come up in public debate between the two sides. In a look at what the future might look like under Brexit, we have been asking artists for their opinions on the referendum with a focus on how their lives as creatives would be affected if Britain were to leave. Responses ranged from artists' fears for their livelihoods, to concerns that a lack of culture will harm Britain's future — many folks we spoke to accused the leave side of running a racist campaign. Read on for their thoughts.
Throwing Shade, musician, London
“Leaving the E.U. would be economic suicide for the U.K. Being part of the E.U. benefits our economy greatly. People don't realise the detrimental effects that we would have to face if we were no longer part of the single market. It won't just affect people in certain jobs and industries — it will have a knock-on effect for everyone in the U.K., and especially young people. If Britain leaves the E.U., artists won't be able to perform as easily in other European countries, not only because of visa issues but also because the cost of travel will likely go up. The music industry will have less fluidity.”
Shura, musician, London
“I am definitely voting remain. I think it would be a complete catastrophe for the U.K. to be lead solely by a bunch of idiots. I think there has been tonnes of misinformation and very little information. In cases like this I think it's super important to look at the kinds of people voting each way, as when it's difficult to access information about an issue you can see very clearly the kinds of people voting leave and the kinds of people voting remain which can help shape your own decision. What group do you want to be a part of? Do you really want to side with people like Nigel Farage? FUCK THAT.”
Novelist, musician, London
"[Leaving would] fuck up the economy for a while. You don't want an economic crash because we thought we were being smart, it's about actually being smart. And a lot of people that don't know — a lot of Trump fans, they don't really know what's going on — they're like, "yeah, we'll be independent." But they don't understand that we need other places. I asked a guy, "Do you travel a a lot," he said no, I said, “If you traveled a lot, you would want to leave the leave, 'cause there's so many things that you won't be able to do now." And our currency will become worth less. I don't want to get too political here, but you've got to understand me, we're not worth as much as we think we are."
"Do you really want to side with people like Nigel Farage?" —Shura
Kev Kharas (Real Lies), musician, London
“We are definitely voting in. The way I see it, there is a left wing case for leaving the E.U., but at this moment in time, with this situation with where we are in the world, it does not benefit the left to leave the E.U. There’s no point turning off now, because we are playing into the hands of doom-mongers and idiots, stupidly rich blood money people who are going to ruin the country. There’s definitely a case for leaving, but it is not now. It’s bad timing.”
Little Simz, musician, London
“With all of these things, it is very easy to get into the minds of the people, and say you have the freedom to vote for how you want the E.U. to be, but honestly, I think it’s controlled. I hope we are still in, but I really do think the decision’s been made. I would encourage people to at least do their research on it. You should, because it’s your country and it’s your future.”
NAO, musician, London
"We’ve got to stay in. I think it’s really important for Europe to unite together, which it already has. When anything happens, like world crises, we can all just stand as one. I know we’ve got some stuff to iron out, but we’ve just got to iron it out. I’ve heard a lot of chat, like, “We’ve got to leave because we’ve got to keep an eye on immigration.” [But] the media blows it out of proportion. I think the biggest influx of immigration is actually from French men, but that’s not the information they put. Sometimes the media is amazing, but it can be a bit poisonous."
Danny L. Harle, musician, London
“I haven’t decided whether to vote yet, because the evidence is kind of mounting up and it’s such a balance. It’s so hard to know which media source to trust. I’m not going to assign myself to either of them [campaign]. It’s huge.”
Eclair Fifi, DJ, Edinburgh
“I identify as European before British. I actually don’t think I’ve ever called myself British apart from on forms, so I have never felt this 'threat' of 'Britishness' being stripped away and demeaned that all the Brexiters have been quaffing on about. We have an amazing free movement across the E.U., which means we don’t have to file separate tax returns for each country, we don’t need to declare every single piece of equipment, and we don’t need separate work visas. If we lost those privileges as artists, it would be devastating and detrimental to budding careers. I’ve met and made so many friends in nearly every city I’ve played in Europe; some are now great close friends. I can’t bear to think of the opportunities that others will miss out on if we leave.”
Molly Goddard, fashion designer, London
"The E.U. heavily funds U.K. institutions which support young designers and artists. I, like many, could never have started my business without this support. Shipping and trading outside of the E.U. takes weeks to process and is expensive. If all of our trading ended up like this it would make the business unsustainable at the level we are at now."
Champion, DJ, London
“It’s a selfish opinion, but because we do shows in Europe a lot, I would much rather be in the E.U. I’m in Europe quite a lot, and I like the fact that I don’t have to line up for quite so long [at border control], so let’s stay.”
Loyle Carner, musician, London
“I’m in. I tend to leave my reasons away from music — I’m in because I love everything about Europe, the culture. I feel like we’d lose a lot, and I don’t feel like there’s much to gain.”
Snoochie Shy, DJ, London
“I'm an inny! I'm voting remain. There are a number of reasons for this but [mainly] due to issues like workers rights. For example paid holiday/maternity/paternity leave. E.U. laws look after us in this respect and guarantee us specific workers rights. When it comes to education, universities receive millions in research funding, which is crucial for the future. Leaving the E.U. could affect this. Over 200,000 students benefit from the Erasmus exchange programme that allows our students to travel abroad. Leaving the E.U. would make it harder for students to take part in these international projects. Studying abroad broadens our knowledge on different cultures and makes us more culturally aware. Brexit threatens all of this."
"The argument to leave is based on racist, xenophobic fears of immigration and the strengthening of borders to keep vulnerable people out." —Jam City
Nightwave, musician, Glasgow
“I have lived in the U.K. for 14 years, but as I'm a citizen of Slovenia I sadly don't have the right to vote in the referendum. I am of course strongly rooting for an in result and the whole prospect of U.K. leaving the E.U. terrifies me. U.K. is safer, stronger and more protected as a part of the E.U. I live in Scotland and was an avid supporter of independence from the Westminster government because the Tory values have no place in a modern society. I fear leaving the E.U. would create an even more 1984-esque state with people losing their human rights.”
GAIKA, musician, London
"I think, if we are honest with ourselves as a nation, that the desire to leave comes mainly from some fear of the brown maurader coming across the sea. It's this kind of illogical foolishness, based ultimately in white supremacy, that I have got no time for. It's something the financial elites have stoked up in order to get out of incoming regulation."
Mabel, musician, London
"I’m in, definitely. I just think the reasoning that people are giving for leave is so counterproductive. I’ve traveled a lot around Europe, and it’s a massive part of my life. I feel like I belong to so many different places, and it’s really important to my identity that I decide myself what is home."
Forest Swords, musician, Liverpool
“I can't see Britain leaving the E.U. being anything but a disaster for us: creatively, economically, socially. It's all well and good your Twitter and Facebook feeds being full of friends who think the same as you and you can all pat each other on the back, but it's ultimately an echo chamber — it's crucial to get through to people outside of that bubble. For most people under 40, being European is intrinsically part of our identity: the idea that we can travel from country to country easily and, likewise, other people can come here and explore the U.K. To take that away and bolt the doors separates us in a way that's unhealthy and short-sighted.”
Imaginary Forces, musician, London
“Parsing the information to find the real facts and details has been an almost herculean task. Wading through endless fear-mongering from both the left and the right, let alone the straight up reactionary bile I have seen a lot of people spewing forth on social media.”
Jam City, musician, London
“The argument to leave is based on racist, xenophobic fears of immigration and the strengthening of borders to keep vulnerable people out. These fears have caused so much tragedy. I'm also convinced that borders don't make sense; they are a fiction established in order to justify absolute power. I believe in being a citizen of the world. To younger generations it can feel as if the decision is being taken out of our hands by an older generation that don't share our worries about the future.”
SOHN, musician, Vienna
“There is a lot of information flying around, but also a lot of hyperbole and a lot of finger-pointing. The sad thing is that a lot of opinion is being communicated and interpreted as fact. A large amount of the people who will vote on this referendum will never really sit down and look at the facts. This is an issue that is not being fuelled by sound economic or political arguments, it’s being fuelled mainly by opinion of how 'we' as a nation are being wronged by 'them' — and in this case the 'them' is Europe. We are a nation that is used to being important, to being thought of as one of the leading nations in the world. The truth is we no longer hold the leverage with other nations we once did. By leaving Europe I believe we would hold even less sway.”
Mat Dryhurst, musician, Berlin
“I will be voting to remain in the E.U. That being said, the E.U. is a deeply flawed project. I think many people get trapped in a false dilemma, that to vote in is in some ways ensuring that things will remain business as usual when there are legitimate grievances with how the E.U. is run. Yanis Varoufakis and his DiEM initiative is worth checking out on this point — there is a third option available that suggests staying within the E.U. and pushing for pan-European reform to democratize and bring transparency to the way that the E.U. is run. This plan would work to both tame the threat of the far right wing, and introduce greater accountability to how Europe is run, with British people firmly participating in that conversation.”
Skinny Girl Diet, musicians, London
“To be able to play in countries all over Europe so easily is really amazing. To lose that would really affect artists, and would limit them in being able to practice their art outside of the U.K. Also, it'd make it harder for the U.K. to see a wider variety of acts coming in from all around Europe. People forget how much of a contribution to the arts that people who have immigrated here bring. Without that, we wouldn't see that wealth and diversity of experience within the arts, and it would become even more saturated by the rich and white.”
Reporting by Aimee Cliff, Owen Myers and David Renshaw.