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Peter Gabriel had to beg government over WOMAD visa issues

WOMAD founder Peter Gabriel has criticised the UK government in a recent Rolling Stone interview over the VISA issues international artists face when playing in the UK.

The former Genesis frontman, who has long been a vocal spokesperson for world music, claims he had to beg British government ministers to help him obtain work visas for many of the world music stars he had asked to perform for this summer’s WOMAD Festival in Wiltshire.

Talking to Rolling Stone, the 64-year-old from Surrey blamed increased concerns over terrorism for the challenges that now face world music artists playing shows in the UK and western world. He said: “Borders have tightened up everywhere, partly with terrorism. But we had Youssou N'Dour, who was almost the Senegalese president, and we still couldn't get Visas for his band when he was headlining our WOMAD Festival this year. So I had to write to government ministers and get help. It's increasingly difficult for world music and world artists. If you're a great musician, a great composer, it shouldn't matter where you're born, or what language you're singing or what instruments you're playing.

Asked if it’s become harder to do everything since 9/11, Gabriel said: “It's really hard at the moment to function in the same way as we did. But we're still hangin' in there and we have, fortunately, a small group of very enthusiastic fans. So I think there will be different models. I was introduced to this funding site called Patreon, and I spoke to Jack [Conte, co-founder]. I think he's got a model that can support a musician with maybe 1,000 fans. So, if you can find those people that love your particular niche, then you can maybe get a base to allow you to survive. And once you get that established, you can dream about conquering the world in other ways.

WOMAD Festival was established in 1980 by Peter Gabriel, Thomas Brooman, Bob Hooton, Mark Kidel, Stephen Pritchard, Martin Elbourne and Jonathan Arthur. Gabriel also produces and promotes world music through his Real World Records label.

The WOMAD brand continues to spread across the world and in 2015 will take place in New Zealand, Spain, Australia and the UK. WOMAD 2015 in the UK will take place at Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire from 23 - 26 July. No artists have been officially confirmed for the festival bill yet.

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