Who Wants to Be My Husband?

Convener(s): Kelli Des Jarlais

Participants: An American from Hawaii, An American/New Zealander, A passing American from Florida, An Australian South Bank Centre Employee, A British National


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

I am a self-employed costume designer and at the end of my current visa, because I do not have an ‘employer’, there are no current visa options for me to be able to stay in the country, unless I get married. 

We discussed a bit about current regulation but were interested in this idea of Do we have the right to live where you want to live?  It’s an interesting question because as long as you’re a good person and aren’t harming others why not?  We determined that if you have enough money you can…

We presumed that it’s become so much harder for people to move about the globe because of the events of 9/11 and because of the current economic climate.  Lots of countries that used to be very open are closing down as well.  Nationalism is restricting mobility.   

An Australian woman has a visa to work at her specific job but wouldn’t be able to stay in the country otherwise and what if she wanted to work somewhere else? Could/should there be an exception for artists?  Could there be an international artists scheme or exchange? Would this then just create a loophole for bad people to claim to be artists to get into the country?  

Art is universal and cross-cultural and benefits from cross-pollination of people and ideas so wouldn’t is be disadvantageous to not include foreigners and their thoughts?  Collaboration and most theatrical processes rely on people of differing or opposing views to develop or progress the state of an idea.  People from another culture would presumably bring other references and knowledge to the pool of ideas.  This also might influence why the theatre industry doesn’t have a lot of full-time positions.  Working with different groups or individuals, foreign or not, helps artistic development.  

We discussed that not all theatre is self-employed but the jobs that aren’t are very few and far between or they’re for short periods and trying to jump from work visa to work visa isn’t realistically possible.  We discussed how maybe there is a problem for artists and theatre makers because our work isn’t well understood by people outside the profession.  The American/New Zealander used to tell people he was a janitor (because he’s often cleaning up) or teacher rather than try to explain the complexity of his theatre work.  Maybe this visa problem is occurring because those that make visa regulations don’t understand our industry or how it works.  This also might be because each member of an arts industry is self-defining.   

Finally, for all of you Brits that think your place isn’t desirable to live in, here are a few reasons why others—even someone from Hawaii—might possibly want to live in the U.K.  

  1. Proximity to Europe and other cultures.
  2. History or heritage.
  3. Preference of city types. 
  4. We’ve met exciting artist in these vibrant scenes we want to collaborate with. 
  5. How the arts are perceived here is significantly better than other countries.
  6. You’re not isolated here.  High population densities mean it’s very easy to find other practitioners and see lots of work. 
  7. People want to see somewhere different from where they grew up.