UK government funds Brexit Big Band

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Image caption Matthew Herbert destroyed some instruments on BBC Radio 3’s Between the Ears

A musician who wants to tour Europe to heal the “huge divisions” caused by Brexit has been given a grant by the UK Department for International Trade.

Matthew Herbert said he wanted to correct the impression created by Leave campaigners that the UK was “retreating into an absurd little enclave”.

He said he wanted to get the message out: “We are still listening, we want to be friends, we want to collaborate.”

Herbert has also set Article 50 to music and plans Brexit-themed concerts.

The experimental musician, who also gets funding from the British Council, is one of 12 artists sharing £181,944 grant money from the department headed by Liam Fox, who was one of the key campaigners for a Leave vote in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.

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So far the department – which aims to promote international trade and is seeking to agree free trade agreements after Brexit – has handed out £2.4m to support British acts in their bid to “become the next Adele or Ed Sheeran”.

As well as Matthew Herbert, the twice Mercury prize-nominated Ghostpoet and Public Service Broadcasting have also been named as the latest recipients of the grants under the Music Export Growth Scheme, although the department would not say how much each has received.

Herbert, who was last year commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to deconstruct Beethoven – see the tweet below for how he did it – is known for his use of sampled sounds. On one previous album he chronicled the life cycle of a pig through the noises it made.


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In a recent performance at The Barbican, in London, the percussion for one song was provided by ripping up copies of the Daily Mail, according to the Politico website.

He told the website: “I want to create something that’s the opposite of Brexit – about collaboration, about creativity, about love rather than hate.”

He launched his Brexit Big Band project earlier this year with a website that allows anyone to upload three seconds of Brexit-themed noise to form part of a “sonic petition”.

He has also set Article 50, the treaty clause taking Britain out of the EU, to music and plans a series of Brexit-themed concerts and workshops culminating in the release of an album at the same moment Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

Writing on the Brexit Big Band website, Herbert said: “The message from parts of the Brexit campaign were that as a nation we are better off alone.

“I refute that idea entirely and wanted to create a project that embodies the idea of collaboration from start to finish.”

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright PA

Image caption Ghostpoet is among the 12 artists to be awarded grant money

Grants under the Music Export Growth Scheme are decided by a panel of music industry executives.

Each artist receives least £5,000, according to the criteria set out by the BPI, which administers the scheme.

Applications are judged on their individual merits, “not political views”, the department says, and must “show traction in the UK and their target market as well as having a robust plan for making a success of the international activity”.

Trade and export minister Baroness Fairhead, a former chair of the BBC Trust, said: “The UK is a world leader in music exports and recognised for its exceptional home-grown talent around the globe.

“Through the music exports scheme, we help to nurture the talent of the future to explore new global markets.”


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