I refuse to leave the EU, so I’ve asked every country to adopt me as a 'second citizen'
There is nothing without peace. No chance to solve migration issues, no hope of economic stability nor meaningful cultural exchange. And leaving the EU threatens all of them
What is your personal response to being European? I got an intriguing invite from the National Theatre of Scotland last year to create a performance, Second Citizen, which explores just what that question means to me. The first thing that I could think was that I simply refuse to stop being European.
Second Citizen will be one of six performances staged as part of Dear Europe, an evening of artistic responses, in Glasgow on 29 March – the proposed date for Britain’s exit from the European Union. Who knows quite what political drama will unfold on that day? Our event, however, is set in stone.
My first thought was to focus my artistic response on positive steps rather than futile criticism. I have formed a team with Jonathan Cooper, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and paralegal Olivia Woodward to draft letters to every head of state in Europe, as well as ambassadors and cultural attaches. In those letters I ask to be adopted as a “second citizen” so I can somehow remain in the union.
My reason for doing this, is a belief in the power of peace. But months of nationalist posturing, stilted dialogue and political manoeuvring have clouded this, the most profound reason to remain part of the EU.
There is nothing without peace. No chance to solve migration issues, no hope of economic stability nor meaningful cultural exchange. It is the genuine cooperation and compromise between near neighbours that has given many a chance to make something of their lives.
The move to leave the EU reflects a populist lurch to the right in England and is an unspoken celebration of isolationism and inflated self-belief. Such sentiments, intermixed with toxic immigration scaremongering, do not historically lead to happy endings.
Maybe we just don’t understand or feel the true horror of war. Having been fought at a distance, most recent wars don’t touch our lives. The nature of television reporting means that the fast flickering representation of conflict rarely stays with us.
My respect for peace is not born out of idealism. In the 1980s I toured extensively with the industrial music group Test Dept across east and west Europe. In those pre-internet days we built up networks and friendships with like-minded young people, all interested in alternative ways of living and radical political change.
We got out there and had real conversations, finding out how different political systems affected lives. The battle against state communism was clearly the worst, but we were united by our own inchoate hatred of Thatcherite free-market philosophy. We were united by our distrust of both evolving systems.
And so, three decades on, I’m sending my letters out to 27 different countries: A section reads:
“I wish to remain a European citizen. Does the UK’s withdrawal from the EU mean that I must lose my EU citizenship? The suggestion that citizens of the UK might be able to remain as an EU citizen post Brexit was first raised by the Belgian MEP and the European parliament‘s chief Brexit representative, Guy Verhofstadt, shortly after the referendum.
“I am approaching this idea of retaining my EU citizenship from the perspective of an artist, but I am profoundly serious. Dear Europe touches on the nature of citizenship – how and why it is bestowed, as well as withdrawn.
“It also goes to the heart of what it means to be European.
“I therefore make a simple request. It would be an honour if XXXXX would consider me for citizenship, thus enabling me to remain an EU citizen.
“I appreciate that this comes with responsibilities. I will remain fully engaged with the duties that come with the EU project and I accept that my citizenship is premised upon that.
“I will contribute to XXXXX in line with my obligations under EU law and in turn you will not treat me differently from other EU citizens.”
I explain that all I have to offer is my 25 years’ experience directing artistic productions. I might be able to create Speed of Light, and choreograph endurance runners in remote-controlled light suits, but I do not have the money to “buy” a passport which various countries have surreptitiously encouraged over the last decade. Instead, I offer to facilitate cultural exchange with artists from my adoptive country and from Scotland, to celebrate our joint European heritage.
My contribution to Dear Europe in March will reveal how I fare, but I have already had a poignant response by order of the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It expresses his wish that the UK remains a very close partner with Germany and EU and quotes the inscription from the wreath he laid down on Remembrance Day, it read:
“Honoured to remember side by side, Grateful for reconciliation, Hopeful for a future in peace and friendship.”
But has he has agreed to adopt me or not? Hopefully, I’ll find out before 29 March.