Rhinegold Photo credit: EUBO

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Brexit travel restrictions prompt EUBO relocation

12:10, 20th February 2017

The European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) is set to relocate to Antwerp as a result of fears that its musicians will be affected by post-Brexit travel restrictions.

Based in Oxfordshire since 1985, the EUBO will give its last UK concert at St John’s Smith Square, London on 19 May before moving to Belgian international music centre AMUZ.

The ensemble auditions 100 students a year, selecting between 20 and 25 musicians for a six month programme of training and performance. Its alumni include violinists Rachel Podger and Bojan Čičić.

In a letter to friends of the ensemble, the board of trustees, director general Paul James and orchestra manager Emma Wilkinson noted that the Brexit vote has already had an impact on the orchestra’s fundraising efforts. ‘With the UK outside the EU and free movement to and from the UK in all likelihood ended, EUBO’s operation will become seriously compromised, to say nothing of our likely future access to EU and other funds.’

The letter confirmed that AMUZ has offered ‘a legal and physical home’ to the ensemble, stating that the plan is for the new EUBO to be operational from 2018. It also expressed confidence that the EUBO’s long-term future would be secure with AMUZ, ‘whose track record chimes so well with our own.’

Responding to frequently asked questions about the orchestra’s move, the orchestra’s administrative team stated: ‘Brexit will mean vastly more burdensome travelling and employment procedures for our young musicians who come from across the continent and perform in a different country every night. And our current administrative home in the UK will doubtless affect our access to EU funding in future.

‘Travelling musicians are fundamental to the EUBO concept – a characteristic of Europe’s musical heritage since before baroque times. Today’s 25-strong band comprises young musicians from 12 EU countries typically performing in a different country every night. We are keen to avoid sacrificing that or our “EU” ambassador status.’

Speaking to the ObserverWilkinson expressed fears that the loss of free movement between the EU and UK would make musicians’ lives difficult. ‘I do worry that European orchestras will not be inviting talented British musicians to work with them. It will just be too bureaucratically difficult.’

The EUBO is not the only ensemble to feel the lure of the continent. The European Union Youth Orchestra has been based in London since it was established in 1976, but is making contingency plans to move to Europe.

Chief executive Marshall Marcus said the orchestra had already received invitations to relocate to other EU countries. ‘For some time we have been forming our plan to be ready to relocate, if and when this becomes necessary – or indeed simply advantageous,’ he said.

‘If we do land with a hard Brexit, it is really difficult to see how British musicians will be able to continue to take advantage of the opportunities that the EUYO and other EU initiatives have been able to offer generations of European musicians.’

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