Following a Daily Mail attack on the Brexit Big Band, band leader Matthew Herbert clears up some misconceptions.
Following a variety of news stories about the Matthew Herbert’s Brexit Big Band project, I feel I should respond.
Most importantly, this is not an anti-Brexit project. This is a project that, having accepted Brexit will occur, attempts to work out what a new kind of relationship with our European neighbours may look like. That relationship I believe should be founded on respect, curiosity, creativity, empathy, collaboration and love. I am unclear which of those ideals are controversial.
This project is not simply one person’s vision or pet project; it has already had contributions from over 1000 people from here and from all over the world who think those values are worth nurturing.
One of the things I value most about this country is its tolerance for dissent and, having performed with my big band in places such as Syria, China and Russia, I feel like the project is representing some of the very best things about Britishness abroad whilst at the same time providing hundreds of people with jobs or income in the creative industries – one of Britain’s biggest and most respected exports.
Having recently successfully applied to the BPI for part of a grant to assist with exporting British music abroad, some of the musicians fees will be covered by this. None of it is a wage or money to me. According to the BPI website every £1 they invest brings a return of £10 so it is clear that they consider this an investment rather than a subsidy.
The state subsidises many things in this country, including a lot I don’t agree with: wars in the middle east, the arms trade, processed food manufacturers, giant american tech companies who avoid tax, the DUP, fossil fuel companies and so on. If parts of our democracy can’t cope with an industry body supporting musicians in trying to bring ideas of tolerance and hopefully even some joy to others then maybe we’re in worse shape than I thought.
I reserve my democratic right to hold the government accountable in public and to propose an alternative comment that reflects what I believe to be important British values such as inclusiveness and kindness. I created this project to be part of the conversation with ourselves and with Europe about what it means to be British post-Brexit. This and any plan should aim to bring people of all identities and beliefs with it. I reject the forced distinction between Remainers and Leavers, and all are welcome to contribute or be part of the show. It’s up to others whether they wish to be part of this expression of common values or not.
Matthew Herbert, November 2017