For a colonial power that has bought, stolen and conquered half the world, It's ironic that the UK prefers to see itself as the underdog. Some may suggest that this is an indication of a self-confidence that manifests as stoic humility earned through the nation's long history of introspection; regrettably, a consistent track record of xenophobia targeting each generation's new outsider reveals a much more fragile collective psyche. A psyche fraught with insecurities and paranoia which of course, makes perfect sense. Our obsession with what 'they' have can only be balanced by the delusion that 'they' must want what we have and they're coming for it.
We need only look back to a referendum that on balance, was tipped by fear of an imagined invasion from invisible hordes of foreigners that had to be stopped at all costs. No matter the price or compromise, paying we hoped would soothe the fear. So; we march towards an unknown destiny with our environment, health, economy, and culture all lined up to be sacrificed on the alter of that fear.
However, unlike our past flirtations with fear and ethnocentrism; the routine pantomime of insincere apologies and indifferent shrugs at the suffering outsiders no longer fully applies. Ultimately we are the ones who will pay the price. It was only a few years ago that I attended a dance battle where street dancers were chanting 'leave politics to the politicians' approximately 20 minutes before a student protest forced the event to shutdown.
I think back to this now as we careen towards Brexit and wonder if creatives have fully considered the cultural implications for their craft? Travel makes you better! Dancers become better once they start travelling. However good they were, an awakening occurs from seeing other big fish outside their small ponds.
For Rain Spring Jam 2018 we had two match-ups with dancers from Africa. B-Boy Cri6 from Morocco, and Togolese B-boy Fababy currently residing in Belgium. To bring them over, In addition to covering standard costs for travel and accommodation, by far the biggest obstacle was the additional cost and month long wait for their visas. It made me think that if travel makes you better and African B-boys have to pay £200 more and wait twice as long as a European dancer to visit for a weekend, then how are they expected to progress at the same rate as those residing in countries with more favourable immigration arrangements?
To think of it another way, bringing an international dancer to the UK is like bringing a sample of an entire nation, their culture, their style to your country. It's a 5 minute trip to Togo for 300-400 event attendees, its Morocco on your doorstep. Unfortunately Fababy's visa didn't come through in time so we all missed out. Brexit in principle gives us the worst of both scenarios. Not only is it harder for the international community to come meet us, but it's also harder for us to go meet them and we suffer the most for it.