Rebuilding relationships with Europe

European flag Photo by Instituto Gallaecia  Via Flickr; CC BY-ND 2.0 licence


In the weeks after the Brexit referendum vote in 2016, Redeye surveyed the photographic community. 80% of these who responded had voted to remain, 16% had voted to leave. Many UK photographers aspire to work in or have their work seen in Europe. The majority of you expected Brexit to lead to a negative impact on your work. We asked what you wanted Redeye to do, and we’ve rarely had a survey where the requests were so clear: keep a broad outlook, stay informed, and above all, retain and develop strong links between the UK and Europe.

Britain and Europe finally struck up a trade agreement with just days to go before the the transition period closed at the end of 2020. But we are left with much unresolved: restrictions on travel and freedom of movement; disruption and additional expense for businesses; no sign of the promised equivalent for the education exchange programme Erasmus that has helped so many young people.

But there’s plenty we can all do to strengthen the links between the UK and Europe. Our natural inclination at Redeye is to convene and build groups and networks. We’re pleased to publish this list of the networks and resources that still link the UK and Europe, compiled by the former MEP for North West England, Julie Ward. Taken together, these links are the start of a substitute for formal membership of the EU; a living web of connections across the channel and continent that we can all help sustain.

Check them out, maybe sign up to a few; and have a look at this petition seeking visa-free travel for artists.

The article is relevant to all artists, not just photographers, so please pass it on to people working in other disciplines.



There's no denying that the arts is in a serious crisis - the double whammy of Brexit and coronavirus on top of a decade of austerity and public service cuts threatens the entire arts eco-system.

However, UK city regions have strong supportive arts communities and we must build on that, take stock of what we have already achieved and prepare for a fight back. 

The coronavirus crisis creates an opportunity not just to 'Build back better' - but to build back differently. This is the time to be bold and imaginative, to set out our stall and make demands. The public have turned to the arts during the pandemic and they are on our side. 

Also the public response to the #Fatima ad, the government campaign about retraining, has shown how much people care about the arts - gives us hope.

We need to maintain and strengthen cultural links with our nearest neighbours in the EU and build bridges where none existed. 


Here's how:

Sign up to international membership organisations and development agencies that are Europe-wide and include many non-EU Member States.

The European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities:

Culture Action Europe is a membership org. Be part of it. It's a Europe-wide caring community for artists, not just EU member states. You can be an organisational or individual member. Excellent annual conferences under the title 'Beyond the Obvious'.

International Performing Arts organisation.

Encatc is the European network on cultural management and policy.

Europa Nostra The European Voice of Civil Society committed to Cultural Heritage

Museums Network

European Music Council

European Network of Circus & Street Arts

Puiblic Libraries 2030 is a libraries development agency. Neil MacInnes, Strategic Lead for Libraries, Galleries and Culture at Manchester City Council, is on the board.

On the Move - a dynamic network which now includes 50+ member organisations and individuals in Europe and internationally.

Worldwide network of Artists Residency programmes.

Sign up to other networks of solidarity and ensure you are part of ongoing conversations and opportunities.

A membership organisation advancing social justice in Europe & the world. Members often use arts projects.

Volonteurope promotes social justice through citizenship and volunteering (with big focus on arts/culture) - used to be based in UK - now moved to Brussels.

United For Intercultural Action. European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees. They published a list of drowned refugees names that toured as an art installation - at Liverpool Biennial it was defaced multiple times.


Funding & Networking

European Cultural Foundation (ECF) - a funding foundation based in Amsterdam. Often funds small, emerging organisations and risk-taking projects and devises interesting collaborative programmes - Europe and beyond. Not interested in the big names or 'usual suspects'. Initiated the Tandem cultural management exchange programme in 2011 with ongoing alumni opportunities. Not a membership org but it feels like a family!

The British Council still has a base in Brussels. It is a government agency charged with strengthening soft diplomacy, and many good people work for the organisation. Sign up for alerts, etc. The Active Citizenship Project and Creative Economy programmes are very interesting. The Council also commissions work - a good example is The Queens of Syria - a large cast of refugee women touring a version of The Trojan Women.


EU programmes 

Main EU page for DGEAC - The European Commission's Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture:

Our continued participation in Erasmus+ and Creative Europe is uncertain and is not written into the current deal by the UK government although future involvement is possible with sufficient lobbying. Clymene Christoforou from NE-based D6:Culture in Transit is leading a campaign for Creative Europe.

Creative Europe has two main strands - arts/culture & film/media. The government understands the importance of the film industry to the economy and this may influence a decision. Also English language content is important. 

A mobility programme open to UK participation via Creative Europe.

European Capitals of Culture continues without the UK but ECOCs may still commission UK artists. This page includes a list of upcoming ECOCs, and for example Kaunas has an open call to artists live until 15th Jan 2021.

There is a new youth programme called Solidarity Corps which enables young people to participate in social projects, e.g. working with refugees, etc. The UK will not be part of this at present as things stand.

The EU has various geographical schemes for borders, coasts, mountainous regions - e.g. Northern Ireland & Norway participate - these are funded via Regional Development funding and there is a rural development programme LEADER within the Agriculture and Environment DG.

We need to intensify our relationships and identify possible linkages for example the author, Julie Ward, is working with a Greek partner making connections via Byron Project with Seaham, Newark and Athens, a joint project about the architecture of pigeon houses. 

Money follows good ideas. So create work that fund holders will want - get commissions!

The European Parliament runs an annual film prize - Lux Film Award - open to films made in non EU states. There are many collaborative entries. Winning films screened in independent cinemas, arts institutes, festivals, etc with events etc.

Town twinning is still an important initiative, even for Brexit voting areas, e.g. Workington has multiple town-twinning arrangements.


Arts & Science

The current trade deal does not include the EU Horizon Research & Development programme although the UK government is highly likely to participate in the future.

The author is active in STEM to STEAM - EU new agenda for culture now talks about STEAM - A=Arts.

Artists have always worked in science - also good to continue thinking in those terms. 

The New European Bauhaus movement is intended to be a bridge between the world of science and technology and the world of art and culture. It is about a new European Green Deal aesthetic combining good design with sustainability, bringing the European Green Deal closer to people's minds and homes, and making tangible the comfort and attractiveness of sustainable living.

Also follow the Future of Europe conference initiative - much more than a conference:


In the UK

Seek out diaspora communities - they are feeling lonely at the moment. e.g. Europia Arts, based in Manchester:

Keep it Complex - started by a group of migrant women artists in London who made brilliant hand-printed quirky posters for Remain campaign. They run a great activists sharing day every January. They suggested a Solidarity Syndicate instead of arts organisations competing for ACE emergency funds.

Partner with universities.


New Initiatives 

'Our Shared World' - The author Julie is part of a national working group looking at cultural education. Survey to follow.

The 2020 Rome Charter is a new global cultural rights project initiated by the City of Rome and United Cities and Local Governments.

There is an existing Euro Cities Network that is broader than EU:

Julie is co-chair of Urban Economy Forum building a culture strand and ensuring gender mainstreaming and youth participation:


What about rejoining the EU?

The Campaign hasn’t stopped! Groups are focussed on other things at present e.g. fighting US trade deal, migrants rights, opposing hostile environment. 

The idea of EU citizenship is growing.

New Europeans is a civil society organisation run by former Labour MP Roger Casale. They propose a green card.

Collaboration on an annual citizens rights conference:

Grass Roots for Europe is a round table meeting fortnightly - all the pro Europe groups sharing campaigns - initiated by Richard Wilson from Yorkshire For Europe. It describes itself on Twitter as "Probably the largest & most passionate pro-EU movement anywhere". They put aside differences and find common ground. Julie suggests that any launches or campaigns we have connected to Europe could feed into the Grass Roots for Europe campaign. Includes UK citizens based in Brussels and other parts of Europe. Strong representation from Wales and NI. 

The long game is to rejoin - the biggest challenge is getting young people involved - they need to know it’s their right to fight for this too! Their main priority is Climate Change (Fridays for Future).

Another Europe Is Possible is a non-party political campaign membership organisation linked to European Alternatives


Final notes

Join a trade union or trade association - within photography there is the AOP, the NUJ, the RPS, BIPP and others; more broadly a-n, The Artists Union, Musician's Union, BECTU, Equity, etc. Julie is in Unite which has a Community section for unemployed, voluntary sector, etc.

Colouring in Culture, a blog by Dr Stephen Pritchard, discusses artists' self-organisation and mutual aid:

Julie is involved in a Strategic Working Group for Culture Declares. Become a declarer:


About the author: Julie Ward served as a Member of the European Parliament for the North West England region for the Labour Party from 2014 to 2020. She now works part time for City of Sanctuary, which is currently seeking creative practitioners to deliver online workshops - deadline 5th January 2021. Julie can be contacted by email or Twitter.

This article is an edited version of a talk delivered by Julie Ward to What Next? Greater Manchester in October 2020.

We would welcome any additions or suggestions - please email Redeye.

Photo by Instituto Gallaecia, via Flickr; CC BY-ND 2.0 licence.

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