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Naomi Pohl elected MU general secretary

On International Women’s Day, the UK’s Musicians’ Union (MU) has confirmed that Naomi Pohl has been elected as the first female general secretary in its history.

Pohl has worked full-time for the MU – the leading organisation for musicians in the UK – since 2009, spending the past three years as deputy general secretary. Previously, she served as the Union’s national organiser for recording and broadcasting.

Pohl, who succeeds Horace Trubridge in the role, will be responsible for the administration of the MU’s affairs nationwide in partnership with the MU’s elected executive committee.

“I am delighted and humbled to have been elected to the role of MU general secretary,” she says. “It means a great deal that musicians across genres and disciplines have put their faith in me and I want nothing more than to deliver for them all.

“Thank you to all members who engaged with the election process, took the time to vote and who reached out to me directly with feedback about the Union. I also want to acknowledge our fantastic activists, staff and officials; I couldn’t hope to work with a more dedicated and passionate team of people.

“To all those who didn’t vote for me, I hear that you want change. The Union is here for every musician, and I hope it can be a unifying force as we take on many challenges collectively – please reach out.”

After the toughest imaginable two years for musicians, there is plenty of work to do”

Prior to the MU, Pohl was assistant general secretary at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

“After the toughest imaginable two years for musicians, there is plenty of work to do,” she adds. “We can improve pay for our employed and freelance members post-pandemic, tackle the impact of Brexit and fix streaming. We will also ensure we meet the objectives set out in the MU Equality Action Plan, in the UK Music Diversity Ten Point Plan, and we will continue our vital work to eliminate discrimination and harassment from the industry.

“In order to secure the future of the profession, we will also launch a new music education campaign and move arts funding back up the Union’s lobbying agenda during my term. I know these are issues that really matter to musicians.”

The general secretary position is the most senior post in the organisation, which was founded in 1893 and consists of more than 32,000 members. The electoral process consisted of a series of meetings in all six of the Union’s democratic regions and a comprehensive postal ballot of all members.

Trubridge, who served in the role from 2017-2022, adds: ‘It’s been an honour and a privilege to lead the Union for the last five years, ably assisted by Naomi and assistant general secretary Phil Kear.

“I have had the pleasure of promoting Naomi up through the ranks and I am delighted to hear that she has won the election to become the MU’s very first female general secretary.”

 


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“Back to the bad old days”: UK crews face Brexit backlash

Some British touring crews are reportedly being held up at European border crossings following the UK’s recent exit from the EU, despite the Brexit transition period running until the end of this year.

Touring in Europe was a concern for UK artists and crews as Brexit loomed, with industry experts repeatedly warning against costly visas and carnets, complicated bureaucratic procedures and lengthy border checks. According to multiple people affected, some of those concerns are already being realised – even though an 11-month transition, or implementation, period technically keeps the UK bound to the EU’s rules for the remainder of 2020.

Sound engineer and tour manager Jim Mitcham, who was recently stopped on the German-Dutch border for “passport and identity checks”, says it was made clear that border officials were “targeting British vehicles due to Brexit”.

“The transition period doesn’t mean waiting 11 months before making changes; the changes are being made now and have 11 months to settle in,” states Mitcham, who adds that “we are back to the bad old days.”

Another British tour manager cites similar grievances, saying his crew was stopped and held for six hours on the Italian border on the day after Britain left the EU. “It can only get worse,” the tour manager writes in a Facebook post. “It’s a sad day for the live music industry.”

The problems are not limited to road travel, either, with one musician describing issues encountered at Munich airport, where he was asked for proof of accommodation, onward travel and funds. According to the source, automated passport machines would no longer accept British passports at the airport.

“Everything is very up in the air at the moment,” Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union (MU), tells IQ. “The uncertainty is making people back off and a lot of tours are being put on ice.

“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying”

“We need to establish a two-way agreement with the EU to allow musicians to easily visit and work in countries,” continues Trubridge, who states the MU is “very anxious” about what the end of the year may bring.

The MU, along with umbrella body UK Music, has been at the forefront of the push for a live music touring passport, which would allow musicians, their road crew and all their equipment to “go in and out of EU member states freely”.

The MU’s proposal would allocate the passport to musicians for a minimum of two years, provided they pass an application process. The passport scheme would be reciprocal, removing obstacles for European crews entering the UK, as well as for UK artists touring in the EU.

The MU are used to helping artists navigate the barriers imposed by stringent visa and border restrictions, having spent years advising musicians and their crews on how to get into the US.

“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying,” says Trubridge. “I remember the days when you needed a carnet to get your equipment across borders – it was just a joke. We really don’t want to go back to those days.”

Expect further information on the new touring reality as the end of the implementation period approaches. For now, advice on how to tour in a post-Brexit world can be found on the Musicians’ Union and UK Music websites, as well as on the newly launched UK, Europe, Arts Work portal.

 


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