by Dan Nicholls
Whilst studying in Denmark I was humbled by the sense of community evident between musicians (and artists in general) from all over Europe – each country having its own musical constellations, whilst being part of a greater, extra-national cohesion brought about by artistic similarities and by the ‘borderless’ mentality and infrastructure which characterises much of the continent. Not only was the university that I attended (the Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium or RMC) home to a near majority of non-Danish students, but Copenhagen itself was – as with many other European cities that I’ve encountered – brimming with ex-patriot musicians and promoters open to booking bands from throughout Europe.
A common exclusion of the UK from this openness apparent in the European scene is due to numerous factors, including a lack of funding for the arts (and more specifically for projects that feature non-UK artists), a little too much of the characteristic island mentality and not enough exposure for UK musicians and venues overseas. However, not everyone is oblivious to this issue, and recently many connections have started to spring up between our proponents and those of other nationalities. I often hear of UK-based musicians and promoters travelling around Europe to network, or relocating in order to be part of another scene and to study abroad. The ease with which we can travel and set up gigs between countries is also becoming apparent, with many musicians even doing so without funding – simply for the experience or the establishing of new artistic connections.
In the process of arranging a recent concert at The Vortex, featuring musicians from six countries around the continent, I found that everyone involved showed a great deal of receptivity and willingness to make it work despite the lack of financial security. It seems that, partly out of necessity, a faith in the value of sharing our music whatever the cost is driving musicians to make sacrifices in order to get their music heard. Though we may not feel that the situation is ideal, this kind of attitude is a start in further establishing the UK as a desirable as well as an influential location on the international contemporary music scene. If enough of us continue to recognise the importance of this connection with the wider European community, these kinds of events and collaborations will become commonplace in the future.