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Closing concert of Brussels Jazz Festival,
Flagey on Saturday 20th January 2018


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Following a variety of recent news stories about the Matthew Herbert’s Brexit Big Band project, the producer and composer Matthew Herbert felt he should respond.

“Most importantly, this is not an anti-Brexit project. This is a project that, having accepted Brexit will occur, attempts to work out what a new kind of relationship with our European neighbours may look like. That relationship I believe should be founded on respect, curiosity, creativity, empathy, collaboration and love. I am unclear which of those ideals are controversial.

This project is not simply one person’s vision or pet project; it has already had contributions from over 1000 people from here and from all over the world who think those values are worth nurturing.

One of the things I value most about this country is its tolerance for dissent and, having performed with my big band in places such as Syria, China and Russia, I feel like the project is representing some of the very best things about Britishness abroad whilst at the same time providing hundreds of people with jobs or income in the creative industries - one of Britain’s biggest and most respected exports.

Having recently successfully applied to the BPI for part of a grant to assist with exporting British music abroad, some of the musicians fees will be covered by this. None of it is a wage or money to me. According to the BPI website every £1 they invest brings a return of £10 so it is clear that they consider this an investment rather than a subsidy.

The state subsidises many things in this country, including a lot I don’t agree with: wars in the middle east, the arms trade, processed food manufacturers, giant American tech companies who avoid tax, the DUP, fossil fuel companies and so on. If parts of our democracy can’t cope with an industry body supporting musicians in trying to bring ideas of tolerance and hopefully even some joy to others then maybe we’re in worse shape than I thought.

I reserve my democratic right to hold the government accountable in public and to propose an alternative comment that reflects what I believe to be important British values such as inclusiveness and kindness. I created this project to be part of the conversation with ourselves and with Europe about what it means to be British post-Brexit. This and any plan should aim to bring people of all identities and beliefs with it. I reject the forced distinction between Remainers and Leavers, and all are welcome to contribute or be part of the show. It’s up to others whether they wish to be part of this expression of common values or not.”

Matthew Herbert, November 2017

In addition, The Matthew Herbert Brexit Big Band has been confirmed to play the closing concert for Brussels Jazz Festival at leading cultural house Flagey on Saturday 20th January 2018.

Featuring the Matthew Herbert Brexit Choir and the compelling voice of Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, a new round of shows will follow in Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Since the announcement of Matthew Herbert’s third big band album - his first in nine years, the producer, composer, sonic explorer and world traveller has taken his acclaimed big band and choir on the road in a large scale and emotional response to Brexit touring North Sea Jazz Festival (Rotterdam), Middelheim Jazz Festival (Antwerp), Barbican Hall (London), Blue Note (Tokyo) and Montreux Jazz Festival (Tokyo).

The two year collaborative project right across Europe celebrates artistic and musical collaboration across national borders. It began when Theresa May triggered article 50 and finishes with an album in 2019 when Britain leaves the EU. The album will be recorded across every country in Europe with musicians and singers in dialogue with some of Matthew’s band, the end result aiming for more than 1,000 professional and amateur performers having contributed to the recording.  

The show, which is billed as something between a mini festival, political rally, a broadway musical, a rave and a farewell party has received widespread acclaim from audiences and critics alike for its dexterity and uninhibited celebration of creativity. It will culminate in a dramatic Final Farewell Concert at a prime central London location in March 2019.

“What brought the audience cheering to its feet at the end … was the metaphor for human solidarity presented by all those joyous musicians”
4/5 The Telegraph

“A composer-cum showman who has an undeniable talent for breaking down the barriers
between performers and listeners”
The Times

“A paean to multiculturalism”
Evening Standard

“A shared feeling of delirium and affection...the compositions in their current state teeter between the dramatic moodiness of Bernard Herrmann and the looseness of Sun Ra”

“Despite the controversy that’s sure to surround the performances, there’s no denying Herbert has stepped out on a limb in a way others haven’t...the show makes Brexit fun, moving and occasionally even funny”

“A tangible demonstration of the joy of cross-border collaboration...If there’s an exemplary and enjoyable way to voice a pro-EU message, then Matthew Herbert really has found it”

Loud & Quiet

The Matthew Herbert Brexit Big Band Artist statement on BPI Funding and Brussels show announced

The Matthew Herbert (Brexit) Big Band
21 November 2017