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UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?

GUEST, Tom Bliss 25 Oct 06 - 11:41 AM
GUEST, Topsie 25 Oct 06 - 11:55 AM
greg stephens 25 Oct 06 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,Jack Campin 25 Oct 06 - 11:57 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 25 Oct 06 - 11:58 AM
Ferrara 25 Oct 06 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 25 Oct 06 - 12:20 PM
ClaireBear 25 Oct 06 - 12:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Oct 06 - 12:30 PM
manitas_at_work 25 Oct 06 - 12:35 PM
Maryrrf 25 Oct 06 - 12:35 PM
John MacKenzie 25 Oct 06 - 12:46 PM
Scoville 25 Oct 06 - 01:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Oct 06 - 01:28 PM
GUEST,Pamela in Ithaca 25 Oct 06 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,wordy 25 Oct 06 - 02:38 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 25 Oct 06 - 02:51 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Oct 06 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 25 Oct 06 - 03:27 PM
Anne Lister 25 Oct 06 - 03:43 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 25 Oct 06 - 03:59 PM
squeezeboxhp 25 Oct 06 - 04:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Oct 06 - 04:10 PM
Scoville 25 Oct 06 - 04:32 PM
kendall 25 Oct 06 - 04:39 PM
Midchuck 25 Oct 06 - 05:45 PM
skipy 25 Oct 06 - 05:50 PM
Murray MacLeod 25 Oct 06 - 05:53 PM
Richard Bridge 25 Oct 06 - 05:59 PM
Richard Bridge 25 Oct 06 - 06:03 PM
Joe Offer 25 Oct 06 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,wordy 25 Oct 06 - 06:08 PM
Rumncoke 25 Oct 06 - 06:58 PM
The Fooles Troupe 25 Oct 06 - 08:24 PM
Sandra in Sydney 25 Oct 06 - 08:57 PM
frogprince 25 Oct 06 - 09:01 PM
GUEST,Tom Nelligan 25 Oct 06 - 09:41 PM
Barry Finn 26 Oct 06 - 01:57 AM
eddie1 26 Oct 06 - 02:16 AM
Anne Lister 26 Oct 06 - 03:02 AM
Big Al Whittle 26 Oct 06 - 03:40 AM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 26 Oct 06 - 04:28 AM
Scrump 26 Oct 06 - 04:46 AM
Grab 26 Oct 06 - 06:06 AM
artbrooks 26 Oct 06 - 08:24 AM
kendall 26 Oct 06 - 08:29 AM
Maryrrf 26 Oct 06 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 26 Oct 06 - 11:05 AM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 26 Oct 06 - 11:35 AM
GUEST 26 Oct 06 - 01:18 PM
SharonA 26 Oct 06 - 02:11 PM
Herga Kitty 26 Oct 06 - 06:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Oct 06 - 08:55 PM
rich-joy 26 Oct 06 - 11:18 PM
katlaughing 26 Oct 06 - 11:37 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Oct 06 - 03:12 AM
Sandra in Sydney 27 Oct 06 - 04:15 AM
GUEST 27 Oct 06 - 06:49 AM
Scrump 27 Oct 06 - 09:01 AM
Maryrrf 27 Oct 06 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,Alistair Russell 27 Oct 06 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Tom Nelligan 27 Oct 06 - 10:40 AM
Scrump 27 Oct 06 - 11:31 AM
Maryrrf 27 Oct 06 - 11:48 AM
Girl Friday 29 Oct 06 - 04:44 PM
Barry Finn 30 Oct 06 - 12:32 AM
jacqui.c 30 Oct 06 - 08:59 AM
TimOak 30 Oct 06 - 09:32 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 30 Oct 06 - 09:46 AM
Maryrrf 30 Oct 06 - 06:09 PM
katlaughing 30 Oct 06 - 08:35 PM
GUEST 30 Oct 06 - 10:44 PM
The Fooles Troupe 30 Oct 06 - 11:12 PM
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Subject: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 11:41 AM

Sorry - deliberately provocative title, but this requires a broad discussion, with input from our chums over the pond - who might even want to take it up elsewhere.

The Grant Baynham thread contains some important news, and as Anne rightly says it really needs its own title.

It seems Quicksilver (Grant and Hilary) and also Les Barker (and maybe others?) have been denied visas at short notice because they're suddenly not deemed sufficiently Culturally Unique (grief, is that a phrase out of Animal Farm or what?), and have had to cancel tours at short notice, losing money invested in flights, goodwill, income etc etc.

Perhaps I should leave it to those involved to explain...
    I made a slight title change because of remarks that the original title was misleading.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST, Topsie
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 11:55 AM

Les Barker not culturally unique!?
Do they think there are others like him?
I am flabbergasted!


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 11:56 AM

Not that welcome in the UK, mostly.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 11:57 AM

In Les Barker's case, I presume Les's opinions as expressed in

http://www.compulink.co.uk/~ackroyd/thecivilisedworld.mp3

might have something to do with it.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 11:58 AM

Folk music has such a hard time attracting audiences as it is and now the government is making it even harder.

I know of a venue in the city that books a number of artists from Ireland and they have had a terrible time dealing with this issue over the last few years. Several times they have had shows cancelled with very little notice.

About a year ago I spoke to Norma Waterson and she was very leary about coming back to the U.S. because of all these issues.

I know the Folk Alliance has been working on the issue, but as with all goverment agencies it is hard to get anywhere.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Ferrara
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:07 PM

Well, it's got nothing to do with the UK, has it? It has to do with the intellectually and culturally challenged employees and management of the U.S. immigration service. We've had to deal with this before in scheduling FSGW events. But this is almost minor compared to some of their beetle-brained activities.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:20 PM

Our company, Folklore Productions, represents many UK-and-elsewhere in the world-based artists, and I am the person who files the visa applications that gets them into the U.S. for their tours.

Thers are so many variables that I can't even begin to list them, but the main thing to remember is that the artist's US-based booking agent (or whoever is the petitioner for their visa) MUST allow enough TIME. There are a lot of steps to go through, and each step takes time. Most of the cases that I have heard of that resulted in an artist being denied a visa were because the application process was not started soon enough. Also, each step is closely checked for accuracy, and one little mistake sends the whole thing back to square one for redoing.

I am not by any means happy about the system as it stands, but my (15 years of) experience has been that if a visa is properly applied for in good time, all backup documentation is provided, and every i is dotted and t is crossed, the visas do get granted. Still, you never know what will set off an alarm; one artist we used to represent had a teenage minor delinquency on his record; thirty years later, and after many successful US tours, that long-ago charge was still slowing down his acceptance, every single time. Go figure.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: ClaireBear
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:29 PM

Not defending the U.S., but I just wanted to say this is nothing new: the same strategem was employed in 1979 to keep Bob Stewart (or RJ Stewart, as he now calls himself), the table psaltery player and pagan folklorist, out of the U.S.

I remember it well, because that night (at the Inn of the Beginning in Cotati, California) was the first time I ever saw Martin Carthy. Stewart was supposed to be appearing with Martin Carthy, and when the latter turned up solo, I asked him what the problem was. (I must have been the only person in the audience who'd come to see Stewart rather than Carthy. I was very young at the time...I know better now!) The "cultural uniqueness" thing was exactly what he cited as the reason Stewart couldn't get a visa. Yah, we gotta lotta table psaltery players over here, who needs one more...

I also remember this happening to the Oysterband -- or was it Home Service? -- on a tour in the mid-80s. Equally baffling, either way.

Claire


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:30 PM

So it's just a matter of getting the paper work doen in time and having a clean criminal record?

In that case, where does this "not culturally unique" bit come in? And wouldn't that exclude rather a large proportion of the music industry? (And could not conceivably be something any sane person couldnt say about Les Barker...)


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:35 PM

Wouldn't the US immigration service save themselves and others a lot of time by introducing a fast-track visa for those who have previously been granted visas? Obviously, we would expect criminal records ans such-like to be rechecked but once a person has been allowed in wouldn't the grounds for entry still apply? OTOH, why would bureaucrats want to make it easier for others?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:35 PM

The title of this thread is unfortunate, as it may sound like US folkies don't welcome UK folkies. I think that nothing could be further from the truth. It is the idiodic bureaucracy that has decided to combat terrorism by putting all kinds of obstacles to performers or anyone else seeking to enter the US that is coming into play, and there isn't much that US folkies can do about it. We're just as upset as anyone else, when our favorite acts aren't able or willing to tour because of being put through such a pointless paperwork wringer. I know of several folks, Andy Irvine among them, who missed gigs due to last minute snafus with their visas, and some are deciding not to bother touring in the US at all. I also know some agents who are dismayed at all the crap they have to go through to bring people over. Some will persevere, such as the poster above, but others will decide it's just too much hassle. It's our loss, unfortunately.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 12:46 PM

Best thing to do is book a flight to Mexico, and walk over the border like thousands of others!
Giok


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Scoville
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 01:25 PM

I would chalk this up to bureaucracy rather than any attempt on U.S. musicians' part to exclude UK folkies. It's not like U.S. folkies have any clout when it comes to who gets visas and who doesn't anyway. I also wouldn't attribute it to the fact that they were FOLKIES, per se. The point being that they weren't likely to be a big-money draw, which covers a lot of other occupations/attractions in addition to folk music.

And please don't try to make sense of U.S. immigration. It doesn't make sense to most Americans, either.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 01:28 PM

And they don't let you bring in Marmite either, apparently.

You think they are trying to tell us something? Sort of "Constructive Dismissal"?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST,Pamela in Ithaca
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 02:18 PM

US folkies - write your senators and representatives,
but don't hold your breath.
As some have pointed out, this is a bureaucracy issue...
and not one we're likely to be able to do much about.
My understanding is that mid-level paper pushers can stall
or nix a visa with not much more motivation than having a bad day.
As the agent above said, paper work must be done in a *timely* manner
with all the details triple checked.

Sadly, folk performers seem more vulnerable than others.
Probably because they're not big names (especially to the
mid-level paper pushers). We can rant, call it bad politics,
come up with a thousand ways that things could be more efficient,
rational, etc. and it won't amount to a hill of beans.

And I agree - the thread title isn't actually very helpful.
It gives the wrong impression of what's going on.

And isn't it amazing how someone comes in, stirs things up
and then disappears? Tom Bliss, what are you up to?
Perhaps you could enlighten us?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST,wordy
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 02:38 PM

It's nothing new, ask the old jazzers when they had to deal with quotas and exchanges. However the terrorism excuse has now given immigration more power and the whole process is just a deliberately built obstacle course designed to exhaust the patience of performers until most of them give up. I have often been asked to tour the US but have always refused because of this. It isn't woth the candle I'm afraid. It's called cultural imperialism.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 02:51 PM

My opening post made my position completely clear: I thought a discussion would be useful, (and it is being so - very) and I made the title provocative to make sure lots of people would read the thread.

Did you not notice the question mark '?' ? That's a common-place, quick way to suggest irony and/or doubt over here. Of course I know that the people of your good country would, themselves, mostly welcome UK folkies, hence the '?' But the experience of friends who tour (and particualrly those who've given up touring for this very reason) in the USA, (including Grant, Hilary and Les, who have been badly treated), might lead some to believe the opposite. It's interesting and useful to read people's views.

I haven't disappeared! I only posted it this afternoon and I do have an album to mix.

For myself, when I 'gave up the day job' 5 years ago, a tour of the States was an obvious objective (and a life-long ambition) - but I heard so many stories from other Britfolkers (that's a closed web forum by the way - the one that set up RadioBritfolk, of which I was a prime mover) of the hurdles now being erected by the authorities, that I made a firm decision not to bother trying - for now, anyway.

If you want to know who I am, feel free to click Here.

I hear all the comments about providing time for the process to take place (and we're not immune to bumbling paperwork over here either), but I'm not hearing an explanation for this Cultural Uniqueness schick. I'd like to know what it means, who initiated it and crucially why, how it could apply to Les for years than suddenly not do so any longer, etc. Why should cultrual uniqueness be important anyway? Do business-people coming over to trade have to be culturally unique? Sports people?

I'm genuinely puzzled!


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 03:17 PM

I don't think writing to politicians as such on these kinds of issues does much good. Better to try to get the media involved with letters to the editor and so forth, or stunts that get attention. That's a much better way of getting politicians interested as well.

But I'm still puzzled where "not culturally unique" comes into it. Is the implication that if you play a Tibetan nose flute while riding a unicycle along a tight rope you are OK to avoid all this red tape?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 03:27 PM

I hear all the comments about providing time for the process to take place (and we're not immune to bumbling paperwork over here either), but I'm not hearing an explanation for this Cultural Uniqueness schick. I'd like to know what it means, who initiated it and crucially why, how it could apply to Les for years than suddenly not do so any longer, etc. Why should cultrual uniqueness be important anyway? Do business-people coming over to trade have to be culturally unique? Sports people?

To answer the last questions first, no, and no. There are different visas (meaning completely different sets of forms to fill out) for business people and for professional athletes. They do not have to be culturally unique because they're not coming over here to share culture.

I cannot speak to the Les Barker situation without seeing the paperwork that denied him a visa. But for Folklore's many artists for whom I obtain visas (among them Martin Carthy and Waterson:Carthy, Karan Casey, Dervish, Lunasa and John Renbourn, to name a few) the cultural uniqueness is definitely an issue.

I do not speak for anyone but myself when I say that I *think* that part of it comes from the old idea that "if an American can do the job, then we don't need a foreigner to come in and do it." In other words, if there is a skilled carpenter living and working in Ithaca, NY, then why should the INS grant a visa to a skilled carpenter from, say, Ireland to come over here and take a job away from a U.S. citizen? What we have to prove to them is that the musician or band(in this case) for whom we are applying cannot be found by the dozen in any coffeehouse in Iowa on open mike night. There must be something so culturally unique about the artist that we don't grow them on trees right here in the U.S. Therefore, although we DO have opera singers by the gallon, Lucioano Pavarotti is so unique that he is always allowed a visa to come over here and wave his hanky at us. A pop sensibility seems to have taken over, in his case.

Now, to the issue of how to *prove* cultural uniqueness. There are lots of ways, but the best is to send along a barrage of printed matter. Bios, concert reviews, and letters of support from peer groups like Folk Alliance are vital, including the all-important letter of consultation from the American Federation of Musicians, which in itself tells the INS that the Union feels that these musicians will not be taking away work that U.S. musicians could perform just as well. List names of places where these musicians have performed, both in their own countries and here. If I can say on the visa application that Martin Carthy has performed at The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, AND has been given an MBE by the Queen of England specifically for his contributions to English folk music, then that marks him as pretty unique in anybody's book, even that of the INS who quite frankly don't know or care that his guitar style has influenced two generations of younger players.

The same system applies to all our artists. We send along documentation that they have been performing for many years (decades, in most cases) and that their music is unique to their native country, and that while some U.S. musicians can imitate it, these folks are the originators.

But again, TIME is of the essence. Start four or five months before the tour to get your paperwork ducks in a row. Allow time for the musicians to miss their scheduled personal interviews at the embassy(strangle them now, or later?), allow time for the entire batch of paperwork to get lost in the mail (one soon learns that FedEx is your friend, despite the cost, so that the documents don't ALL have to be redone), allow time for the Union to be swamped with requests for consultations, allow time for one of the artists in a band of six to have an old parking ticket kick them, and the band with them, out of the system. Leave plenty of TIME.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 03:43 PM

Speaking for Les (who is, of course, well able to speak for himself) I think that the person who applied for his visa is well versed in applying for visas and almost certainly did allow plenty of time. He's been over to the US many, many times, with the right visas, qualifying each time for the "culturally unique" label. This time that seems to be the hurdle stopping his application, so you have to wonder what has changed to make someone who WAS unique no longer so. Grant and Hilary have also recently fallen foul of the same problem. There may be others we haven't heard of yet.

My own touring plans for the US have been decidedly slowed down by all of this stuff. I have always booked my own tours, so don't have an agent, and although in the past some kind US citizen has been prepared to be my sponsor for a visa, it seems these days everyone is understandably reluctant to put their head above the parapet if they're not actually the booking agent for my tour.

I understand that in the great casserole of show business and folk music I'm a very small piece of celery, but when many pop clones seem to cross and re-cross the Atlantic at will this whole business does make me somewhat fratchetty. I can at least cling on to the knowledge that at some point in my musical career I was considered to be culturally unique, and let that be some comfort.

Anne
sorry, just realised there's a lurking pun in that Marmite is the French word for casserole....probably why I chose that particular metaphor.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 03:59 PM

Thank you Mary Katherine for that very clear response, which is what I was assuming it must be. I do think it's a slippery slope to apply labour protection practices to artistic endeavour - but my own union has not always been white as the driven snow on that issue!

I suppose if the rule started out with orchestras and show bands etc. in mind it does make a bit more sense, but I'd argue that every UK-based folkie (even one who'd started out in the States), in fact all folkies everywhere, are unique - because that's the whole point of what we do!

Presumably, your authorities - like ours over here - are not too familiar with the genre. Shame.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: squeezeboxhp
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 04:04 PM

yanks will be yanks i'm afaid and are unlikely to alter


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 04:10 PM

They used to do this to American performers wanting to come over here over here one time, but my understanding is that they stopped doing it, partly because it made them look ridiculous, but also so as to make it easier for people from here to perform in America.

They seem to have a lot of difficulty in making these things evenhanded both ways - rather like the present row about it being much much harder to get an American charged with a crime deported here than the other way round.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Scoville
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 04:32 PM

Squeezeboxhp--please don't confuse us with our government. You know, the one that most of us didn't even elect in the first place way back in 2000.

Keep in mind, too, that most of the guys approving these things don't know squat about the music. (Yes, this is an overly simplistic example, but eh) If they see "fiddler", they're going to think, "Well, shit--we have enough of those of our own," unless, as was stated above, said fiddler provides loads of documentation about what makes him/her special.

****

I sort of wish people would lay off the deliberately provocative titles. I know it starts me out on a sour note even if the content of the thread doesn't follow the implied line. We complain a lot that there's so much eyeball-gouging around here but then we keep starting threads with titles like that with the intention of poking each other with figurative sticks.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: kendall
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 04:39 PM

When I landed in Scotland in 1988 an Immigration officer said to me, you are not allowed to work and we suggest you observe our laws unless you wish to be a guest of her Majesty. Not very friendly was he? Bureaucrats are all the same the world over.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Midchuck
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 05:45 PM

Part of the problem is that the Republicans are in power. It's well known that most folkies are communists.

Remember the Weavers being blacklisted.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: skipy
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 05:50 PM

Well, I have just booked Pint and Dale for White Horse Folk Festival & they are so, so much , just more than welcome.
Skipy


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 05:53 PM

But you worked anyway, kendall, didn't you ?

Just like I did in your country in the mid-nineties, before I had authorisation. Never listen to the empty threats of bureaucrats.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome in US?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 05:59 PM

Yeah, Pint and Dale are good.

So what about my suggestion on the grandfather thread?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 06:03 PM

PS - Title change request here a bit sensitive....


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 06:04 PM

My son and his punk band had a gig in Toronto that wasn't going to pay enough to cover their travel expenses, so they didn't want to bother with visas. They concealed the equipment in their van so they wouldn't get caught.
Seems like there ought to be an easy way.
Now they actually make money, so their agent takes care of things.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,wordy
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 06:08 PM

What hurdles do Americans coming to the UK have to jump? I see the great Dave Mallett is coming over for a few gigs. What does he and others like him have to prove to Uk immigration in order to get a work permit?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 06:58 PM

My DH is an electronics design engineer.

Some time ago now he visited the US on business, and when he arrived he was asked to wait and his passport was taken away into some back room.

He got rather worried as the minutes ticked by.

Then the official came back with a huge grin and the passport had been stamped with all sorts of permits and visas, so that if he should ever decide to go there again he would have no trouble, never, ever at all getting into the US.

It did make him think that he might actually have trouble getting out.

I would not have thought that the US was all that short of people trained in electronics, but obviously they thought there was room for at least one more.

I supose they have a list of what lines of work they think are important and another one of what sorts to keep out.

Anne


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 08:24 PM

If you go back to the fuss against "Sturdy Beggars" in England a few centuries - you will see the same assumption that itinerant 'folk' musos are just thieves, layabouts and troublemakers.... :-)


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 08:57 PM

An Oz artist recently outlined his difficulties in not getting a visa, and therefore havng to cancel his tour. Unfortuntely I no longer have the link to his blog where he outlined the whole procedure.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: frogprince
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 09:01 PM

I've heard of at least 3 incidents in which Canadian folkies were stalled, or at least put thru hoops, trying to get down into the States for gigs. In two of the cases it involved some assininity about having to have an appropriae number of gigs scheduled.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,Tom Nelligan
Date: 25 Oct 06 - 09:41 PM

Oh, where to begin? A few comments from one who has written US visa recommendation letters for a number of UK musicians over the past few years and also documented the current situation for the US folk magazine "Dirty Linen" (see issue #108).

1. It's a mess and we don't like it over here, either.

2. I don't believe that there's any specific discrimination against folkies as a group, but rather against anyone who's not a high-profile commercial artist with a big record company, big tour management, and a bank of immigration lawyers behind them.

3. "Culturally unique" is a buzzword designed to keep out cover bands and unemployable buskers and the like, but for any overseas performer who is doing creative original songs or especially traditional material from his/her culture, it's not that hard to generate the necessary verbiage to demonstrate how "unique" your work is. A few letters from venue operators and media members who appreciate your work is usually enough.

4. As Mary Katherine has noted, the downfall of many visa applications is not filing them early enough or not filling out all the necessary paperwork. You need an agent who knows the system over here and how to work through it. As a practical matter, that is essential these days.

5. Criminal convictions and the like do pose a problem, but I do not believe that having political opinions is in itself a bar to visa issuance. Of course if you make a royal pain of yourself by proclaiming how set-upon you are to the bureaucrat handling your papers, he/she may be less inclined to move things along.

6. Canadians are eligible for a special break due to a reciprocal agreement between the US and Canadian musician's unions. If you're a union member and file the right papers, a visa is normally automatic. If you're not in the union, you can't take advantage of this provision.

There's no question that over the last five years it has become much more difficult for non-commercial-mainstream artists from overseas, folk and otherwise, to perform in this country, and that's very unfortunate. At the same time, it's not impossible to get a visa if you want to play the game. My advice, again, is to find a good agent who knows what he/she is doing with regards to the paperwork requirements, and plan way ahead. And good luck to you.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 01:57 AM

Hi Guest Tom & thanks for your input.

You mentioned

"but I do not believe that having political opinions is in itself a bar to visa issuance."

That may not be the case now but I do remember Ewan MacColl, was it the late 70's, having a hard time entering the US to tour & being married to an American who was part of the act, too. I do believe it was very much politcial & that we will start to see this happening again (if in fact it ahsn't already started) in the near future as long as the government is in republican hands. For our own safety of course. "Them folkies are dangerous folk, ya know. You're right at that J. Edgar".

Barry


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: eddie1
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 02:16 AM

McGrath of Harlow
You're right about it once working the other way. In the early fifties, when many of the big names in "pop" were American, the MU over here had this "head for head" policy. This led to examples like Johnny Cash coming to the UK without The Tennessee Two (and being ably accompanied by Joe Brown on "Oh Boy" on TV).
Then there was the Merseybeat explosion and the MU changed there tune. (Metaphor Alert!)

Eddie


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 03:02 AM

At the risk of repeating myself and becoming tedious, this all arose because Les Barker (who knows the ropes and has someone applying for visas for him who also knows the ropes) has THIS time been turned down on the grounds of cultural uniqueness. This rather suggests something has changed. It was never easy and always involved various hoops to jump through but this time some of the hoops have been moved away (and we're still supposed to jump through them).

The question for me is (and always was) - why has Les suddenly become NOT culturally unique? And if it has happened to him, it could happen to any of us, which is why it's important.

Anne


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 03:40 AM

Hmmm.......

Book certain guests and their act consists of little more than their mouthing off about their globe trotting activities and the implication that they enjoy a rock star lifestyle - their contribution to folk music being so bloody unique.

Rather in the same way that other artists regale you with Alan Partridge type tales of their encounters with 'stars' - well that's the sort of guy you're talking to here.

Of course its yet another consequence our middle class friends having opened up such a large wide trench between the what is happening in the clubs, and what is happening in the festivals, the folk magazines and the radio programmes.

Small wonder that ocasionally that despite the glowing reviews and record company hype, the Americans are occasionally getting round to asking, who the f--k IS this?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 04:28 AM

"that's the sort of guy you're talking to here."

Who? Grant? Les? Anne? Eddie? Barry? Me? I don't think any of us does the above!

"consequence our middle class friends having opened up such a large wide trench between the what is happening in the clubs, and what is happening in the festivals, the folk magazines and the radio programmes"

That's a whole different issue and maybe deserves its own thread. (Personally I'd say only 'some' clubs, and 'some' festivals etc - becuase there IS perhaps a gap in some cases, but in others it all fits together beautifully - Gainsborough, for example, and we could also debate which land masses might be moving in which directions and why - and if indeed it it's a 'class' thing. Or not).

Thanks Anne for your post. That's the remaining question: Why the change this year? If we knew that, then with luck it might not happen to anyone else.

Tom


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Scrump
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 04:46 AM

Call me suspicious, but in Les Barker's case, I can't help wondering whether the US authorities have listened to the mp3 on the Mrs Ackroyd home page, pointed out by GUEST,Jack Campin, early on in this thread - blue clicky here. The 'lack of cultural uniqueness' could be just an excuse to cover up the real reason for excluding him.

(Or maybe they think Les's views as expressed in the mp3 are so widespread already in the US that they don't need to 'import' more people who don't agree 100% with GWB's policies re the 'war on terror'?)

[And maybe Grant and Hilary by association with Les? Hilary has performed with Les in the Mrs Ackroyd Band. That's a bit more tenuous, but who knows? It would take a US bureaucrat a few minutes to look them all up on the web and decide they're all no longer 'culturally unique' which may be a new euphemism for (you decide what).]


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Grab
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 06:06 AM

"if an American can do the job, then we don't need a foreigner to come in and do it."

Sure, and there's no outsourcing to India. :-) FWIW I'm a software engineer in the UK, and my last company had contracts with Ford which involved me going out there for a bit. And I'm pretty damn sure that there's enough software engineers in the States already! Still, they let me in, and they let me out again.

What gets me is the double standard. Hilary and Grant, or whoever, aren't going out there on a "cultural exchange" - they're going over there to make money. They're business people, doing what gets them their living. It seems that if your business is standing up in meetings, then fine, go on through - but if your business is standing up in concert halls, fergeddaboudid! I really don't follow that logic in that one.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: artbrooks
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 08:24 AM

The immigration and visa people have always danced to a different drummer, and I can't see that it is significantly improved by them being made part of Homeland Security.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: kendall
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 08:29 AM

Actually, Murray, in 1988 I was in Scotland just as a tourist and had no intention of working.
However, when I went back in 1990 I had a tour of folk clubs and pubs all over Scotland. I had made arrangements with Gordon Menzies of Gaberlunzie to borrow a guitar and sound system so I wouldn't have to carry them into the country.
I dare say, no one in Scotland does what I do, so I didn't take work away from anyone.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 09:22 AM

It's entirely possible that it was just a bureaucrat having a bad day or feeling like being bitchy who decided that Les wasn't "culturally unique" anymore.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 11:05 AM

As one poster noted above, it certainly is strange that Les Barker (with whose music I am not familiar, but I am gathering from hints dropped that it might be considered controversial) was granted visa status several times in a row and then suddenly denied it. I'm not sure whether controversy is an issue. One of Folklore's best success stories was when, just a year after the tragedy that took place on September 11, 2001, we were able to get visas for Rizwan-Muazzam Quwalli, a group of eleven Muslim Pakistanis. It took a lot longer than usual, and everyone was investigated closely, but they were eventually let in (except, alas, for the two oldest members of the group who were unable to provide birth certificates or any other acceptable proof of nationality).

Robin Williamson, Celtic harper and storyteller and co-founder of the Incredible String Band, was also once denied a visa when we applied on his behalf, and we were told that he too was "not culturally unique enough." We immediately appealed, pointing out that he had been touring the U.S. for 35 years as culturally unique, and the visa was finally granted with a comment from the person who granted it that he had no idea why it had been denied in the first place. Turns out that on the same day, the same agent who denied Robin's visa had also denied one to Pavarotti! So the "having a bad day" factor is indeed there BUT: we had allowed lots of TIME for snafus, so Robin actually made it into the country with one day to spare before the first gig of the tour. Whew!

Another question arises when a band changes members between tours. Since we represent the Battlefield Band, you can imagine how often we've encountered that issue; I don't think the Battlefield Band has ever done two consecutive U.S. tours with the same personnel.

Does anyone know whether the agent for Les Barker filed an appeal? Does anyone know whether Premium Processing was used?


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 11:35 AM

I don't know the answers to your questions for certain so won't risk speaking out of turn, but it seems that there's been a change in the office dealing with visas, so new team = different interpretation of the rules. Rumour has it that other major artists have been denied this year too. (Les is a poet, and completely unique - at times very very funny but also serious when he choses). Tom


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 01:18 PM

This happens to Canadianartists entering the us at times as well. Gordon lightfoot, I think, was refused entry for attempting toimport (into the us) "repairs" to his American made guitar.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: SharonA
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 02:11 PM

Good grief! As I said on my Grant Baynham thread, I guess that USA now stands for Unique Singers are Anathema.

Looks like I'll have to start organizing carpools to Canada to hear touring artists who aren't unique "enough" for the US government. Recommendations for carpool destinations welcome.

Sharon


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 06:15 PM

I guess Americans might try to impersonate Les Barker, in the way that certain British sitcoms have been reformulated and recast for American TV, but there is no way an American could be culturally identical.

Lots of Brits recite or sing Les Barker's works in folk clubs and festivals, because they are brilliantly surreal, funny, poignant, entertaining etc etc etc, but the British fans' renditions don't come close to the original.

May the turtle be unbroken.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 08:55 PM

Here's an immigration lawyer page I found about this stuff. - "P-3 Status for Culturally Unique Artists and Entertainers"

"The term "culturally unique" is defined as "a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons."

So if someone is genuinely unique in themselves, in the way Les Barker is, rather than a representative example of some "country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons" this would imply they aren't covered. QED.

After all, the USA is the country that inspired the invention of Catch 22...


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: rich-joy
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 11:18 PM

Sandra in Sydney (8:57pm, 25th Oct) - could be similar to the article that's in current Issue # 18 of Australia's "Trad&Now" magazine :

"Screwing Bands on Visas for Fun and Proft : a cautionary tale on immigration issues" by Phil Tripp,
(from "Loose Cannon" column, Sept 26th, 2006 in his "In Music & Media" publication) ...




Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: katlaughing
Date: 26 Oct 06 - 11:37 PM

Way back up there, thanks Jack Campin for the Les Barker link. Brilliant as usual!


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 03:12 AM

Not only is Les Barker unique to England, he is unique even amongst the English.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 04:15 AM

letter from Les Barker posted today on Ausfolk mailing list
Ausfolk@folkalliance.org.au
http://mail.folkalliance.org.au/mailman/listinfo/ausfolk_folkalliance.
org.au.

originally from a US radio list.
................


Date:    Thu, 26 Oct 2006 12:03:12 -0500
From:    Paul Stamler
Subject: Les Barker denied a visa

Hi folks:

In yet another act of rank stupidity, the Department of Homeland Security,
which now contains the Immigration and Naturalization Service, has (in
practical terms) denied a visa to poet/humorist Les Barker for his November
tour. Their grounds? Astonishing, if you're familiar with Les's work: they
stated that he was "not sufficiently culturally unique".

I am not making this up.

An excerpt from a letter Les sent me: "Homeland Security haven't said no at
this point; what they've done is to issue a statement of intent to deny; it
went to Godfrey Daniels, one of the venues on the tour and said they were
minded to deny me entry because I'm not sufficiently culturally unique. I
immediately emailed MIke Space, the promoter, a pile of reviews which
specifically addressed the point, all of which had been part of the huge
pile I'd sent over to my agent at the very start of the process. So Mike can
effectively contest the letter, but as we've been told by the man at Traffic
Control, the agency who've dealt with my visa, it will then take Homeland
Security 2 weeks to add the information to my file, a further 2 weeks for
someone to open the file again and start looking at it, then however long it
takes for someone to arrive at a decision, after which - if the answer's
yes - I have to begin the UK end of the process which might be another
couple of weeks, which takes us at best into December. Too late."

Quicksilver and Andy Irvine have also been denied on the same grounds. More
from Les: "I don't know how much you
know of the history of the visa process, but it's nothing to do with finding
out whether you're a good musician, and certainly nothing to do with
security, and everything to do with discouraging you from ever wanting to do
it again. It's an economic measure. Every eighteen months or so, they
rearrange the hoops you have to jump through to stop it becoming routine;
this is the latest rearrangement of the hoops. There will be an outcry.
Things will improve in a while. Then it'll be time to rearrange the hoops
again. I've been going through them for 12 years and it's always been awful,
and apparently it was just as awful for years before that."

And: "The thing that's enraged me most of all over the years is the Premium
Fee. Back in 2001, some months before 9/11, it suddenly started taking the
INS over 7 months to process applications. As you can't apply more than 6
months before the
first gig, this was an obvious problem. And how did they solve it? By
introducing a system whereby you can pay an extra 1000 dollars and be moved
to the front of the queue. You'd be appalled to get that treatment from a
corrupt customs officer in say, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. But in
the US it's official policy."

I have my own suspicions, which tell me that the effective visa denial may
be related to the content of some of Les's more serious pieces. No -- you
don't think -- but they wouldn't do that! They might waterboard somebody (as
Cheney has admitted, according to this morning's news) but they'd never deny
entry to a poet because they didn't like his verses. Would they?

In any case, whether it's because of Les's politics or "insufficient
cultural uniqueness", the government of the United States shows its contempt
for the the rest of the world when it keeps the world's artists from
performing here. And the rest of the world, increasingly, returns the
contempt.

I know what I'll be playing on this Sunday's program.

Peace,
Paul

__


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 06:49 AM

Excellent last paragraph Sandra.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Scrump
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 09:01 AM

Thanks to McGrath of Harlow for the official definition of 'cultural uniqueness' given above.

But I'm not sure I agree with McGrath's assessment: looking at the definition, if someone's "style of artistic expression" is unique to that person, then surely they must be "unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons"? It doesn't say the person has to be representative of the country, nation, etc.

This just reinforces my own view that 'cultural uniqueness' has b*gg*r all to do with the decision (as also alluded to in the letter above).


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 09:04 AM

I for one am a US folkie who is dismayed and appalled by this state of affairs.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,Alistair Russell
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 10:23 AM

Mary Katherine wrote:
"Another question arises when a band changes members between tours. Since we represent the Battlefield Band, you can imagine how often we've encountered that issue; I don't think the Battlefield Band has ever done two consecutive U.S. tours with the same personnel."

Hello Mary Katherine, say hello to all at Folklore from Ali. I know you have a point to make, but between 1984 and 1997, we had only one lineup change in Battlefield Band, and did about 35 US tours during that period!! (grin)

On a more general note, let me say that although I had a ball on every one of those 35 tours, nothing will get me to tour the USA again (or even go on holidays there) until the political and religious fundamentalists currently in the ascendancy crawl back into their holes.

I'm really sad to hear that so many people are having so much hassle getting visas. I don't think it's really a conspiracy; it's just that the current US climate allows individual bigoted bureaucrats to get away with stuff like this. Get yourselves a new government, get your boys out of Afghanistan and Iraq, let's all calm down and maybe we can all enjoy each others' cultures again. In the meanwhile, the US cultural scene will be the poorer, as more and more European artists decide not to tour in the US.

Bye all

Alistair Russell


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,Tom Nelligan
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 10:40 AM

It occurs to me to add that this problem is so far off the radar of the average American that it isn't even an issue. A lot of people want a crackdown on illegal immigration, and a lot of people want better controls on who's coming in on visas, but there's no public perception associating that sort of thing and musicians being kept out. As long as Eric Clapton and Bono and big-money folks like them are getting their visas, the vast majority of people don't even notice that there's been a change. The US folk press has written about it, but who reads "Dirty Linen" or "Sing Out"?   :-)

The irony is that the musicians being hurt are the ones who try to follow the legal procedures for performing over here. The ones who just come over on tourist visas and then, uh, happen to do a show or two while they're in the country escape scrutiny unless they happen to get caught.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Scrump
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 11:31 AM

Well, it's an ill wind, etc. - there must be an opportunity for a US Les Barker tribute act to cash in on this sad state of affairs. I suggest the name "Eek!"* would be a suitable choice for such an act.

* "eek!" is, of course, the opposite of "unique"


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 27 Oct 06 - 11:48 AM

Well I personally know several people (who will remain nameless) who have managed to come over on tourist visas and do entire tours without getting caught. I know a couple who did get caught, too. It truly is a sad state of affairs.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Girl Friday
Date: 29 Oct 06 - 04:44 PM

Incredible! I feel sorry for Les forlosing the income from this tour, and for the many Americans who were looking forward to his visit. When all things are considered, which American could do Les Barker's job? - He would have to dress a bit oddly, be possibly certifiable, and wander round saying daft things.Oh, I get it, one name springs to mind - G****e * B***!

The plus side? More chance for us Brits to see Les! In places that appreciate his work.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 12:32 AM

I don't feel too bad for Les, even though this sucks for him & all the others, they'll all get over it. I feel worst for Amerika, this is just another type of little incident that'll take us a lot longer to get over than it will them, & will become a bigger issue for us in the long run. Shamefull!

Barry


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 08:59 AM

Just a thought - If as many American 'Caters as possible were to contact their Senators to comment on this sort of problem would it make a difference?

Sure as hell couldn't hurt, could it?

(I'm putting this post on the both threads current at the moment)


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: TimOak
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 09:32 AM

I first saw Les Barker back in 1976 performing at the July Wakes Folk Festival in Lancashire. I was just a kid, but this guys brand of acid wit and northern tinged humour is about as culturally unique as they come. I think thats why he gets played and appears on British radio so much, and why seriously big name stars que up to record his material for release. What on earth is this US immigration system trying to get to: an impasse? Maybe a one-of-ours-for-one-of-yours policy as was run for some years between the US and UK is on the cards, and this is just a distraction. Its disgraceful.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 09:46 AM

Can I just say many thanks for all the input to this thread (and the other two related threads) - specially from our US colleagues. There are now moves afoot to take this issue to higher levels in both the UK and the US - to the benefit of all travelling musicians everywhere. So all efforts from all concerned are gratefully appreciated. Let's keep it live!
Tom


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 06:09 PM

I suspect you'll find willing allies in the US folk community, if anybody has ideas as to how we can combat this sort of thing - post them here. I intend to contact my senator, but seriously I doubt that will do much good. We're dealing with bureaucracy on steroids - all beefed up because of the homeland security rhetoric.   As if keeping out entertainers impacted our national security!


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 08:35 PM

Just thinking out loud:

Maybe someone could start a website aimed at this specific issue, then send out notices to everyone they know, musicians or not to respond by siging a petition, contacting everyone they know, etc.. Also, it would help to enlist some "big" names; people who are well-known to most Americans...Pete Seeger comes to mind and/or even non-folk musicians who are super stars. I don't know if anyone on the mudcat has such contacts but it seems to me a BIG NAME would help get the ball rolling along with an online petition. Heck, maybe moveon.org would be interested in bringing it to light. Maybe Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Comedy Central..aha! THERE'S a thought! Petition Comedy Central to get on the bandwagon...the folks who love their specials with Steven Wright would LOVE Les Barker! How about Hugh Laurie, now that he is a bigwig over here starring in "House?" Just trying to think outside the box, here. Come on folks, throw out some more ideas? we could use Lady Librety with a blindfold, holding a sign: Give me your tired, your poor, but NOT your musicians, comedians, etc.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 10:44 PM

STAY AWAY!!!

>

We have our own starving musicians and recession to deal with.

No need for alians to come busting in.

PLEASE, stay at home, there are no jobs, gigs, or needy johns here.


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Subject: RE: UK folkies not welcome by US authorities?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 Oct 06 - 11:12 PM

OK then - We Aussies will be happy to ban ALL US music and artists then - we can keep our money rather than sending it overseas.... {:P

... and incidentaly, some Aussies are getting bored with music by ethnic types that we don't have here, and thus no music by ethnic types that we have and the US doesn't...


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