Bill Harvey: Another brick
Author: Bill Harvey
Some readers may not know this but our publisher, MAG, is responsible for quite a range of publications including some excellent music titles. It was while reading Songlines magazine last year that I first heard of problems for UK festivals, particularly Womad, in getting top musicians from around the world to play in the UK because of difficulties with access visas and permits.
I was reminded of this last week upon hearing that some leading academics have had to cancel keynote appearances at scientific conferences for similar reasons. Indeed, several foreign scholars were denied entry to a global symposium on health systems research in Liverpool earlier this month. The World Health Organisation has expressed alarm at the restriction of movements in and out of the UK for scientists.
I joined the big march in London last Saturday and could not fail to notice a significant presence of academics, lecturers and students – all worried about the future free flow of both education and research. And with some justification. Indeed, as we go to press, the news is dominated by an open letter to the government by 29 Nobel laureates highlighting the disastrous impact a hard Brexit will have on science and research. This is likely to be an unmitigated disaster with an effective brain drain from the UK of top scientific talent.
These protests are not hot-headed, unfounded responses by a knee-jerk political faction. Someone once asked the writer Alan Bennett about why he felt he was becoming more radical and subversive with age, against the expected norm. In response, he eeyored, ‘I have stayed the same. It is everyone around me who has gone the other way.’