Britain's loony rules for artist visas embarrass festival organizers

The British government's new restrictive rules for artists' visas are a national embarrassment; Allison Crowe has been fingerprinted, imprisoned and deported for failing to get the paperwork right and now a major Indonesian feminist poet has been denied entry for a festival to which she was invited because some snivelling bureaucrat decided that she might be sneaking in for permanent residence to steal jobs from hardworking British poets. Also given the bum's rush were Moroccan poets, including Hassan Najmi, the director-general of the book and publications department of Morocco's Ministry of Culture. The festival organizer said, "This is like holding a dinner party and finding you have a bouncer on the door who is barring guests."

All of this is drawn from the national panic over immigration, the last respectable bastion of racism ("I mean, if they want to come in here, they should play by the rules, don't you know" — ever seen those rules, much less tried to follow 'em? They'd give Kafka fits). Next time you hear someone whittering on about immigrants, call 'em on it. I'm an immigrant and the son of immigrants and the grandson of immigrants who shredded their papers to get through the Czech border and snuck into Canada without "following the rules." You got a problem with immigration, you got a problem with me.

Dorothea Rosa Herliany, according to the festival, is one of the most important poets writing in Indonesia today. She is a feminist, note the Muslim society in which she works, and has eight volumes of poetry to her name. Currently resident for a short time in Germany, she received this crushingly dim response to her application for a visa.

"You have provided an invitation to participate in the Ledbury Poetry Festival in the UK, however you have failed to provide any documents showing the funds available to you or demonstrating your current circumstances in Germany. I note that you only arrived in Germany in April 09, and have limited leave to remain until 30/07/09. I am therefore not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you are a genuine visitor, that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit…"

If you want to know about the new visa requirements, the excellent Manifesto Club has done much work on a campaign with the Observer. If you want to contact Woolas, the address and number given on his website, from which you can also email him, are 11 Church Lane, Oldham, OL1 3A. Telephone: 0161 624 4248.

Stopping culture at our borders

(via We Make Money Not Art)