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World Event for Young Artists 2012

When you think of 2012, it’s likely that you may remember it with a sense of fondness: London hosted the Olympic Games, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and it was a time pre-Covid. However, what you may not think of, is the World Event for Young Artists which occurred in the centre of Nottingham. Briefly put, as part of the Olympics’ “inspire a generation” campaign, local communities created experiences to boost cultural and artistic engagement across the UK. With Michelle Bowen from UK New Artists calling, it an experience to create “an intercultural dialogue and understanding through art”. 


As part of this Cultural Olympiad programme, in the September of 2012, Nottingham hosted the World Event for Young Artists event in a bid to show that art and culture is not limited to the UK’s capital. For ten days the streets, buildings, and cultural centres of Nottingham came alive with the sounds and sights of 1,000 artists from over 100 different countries entertaining around 700,000 visitors. This was a week of inclusivity: it didn’t matter who you were, where you came from – the experience was the same, the city was one.


The sheer scale of the project and the logistics of bringing in artists from over 100 different nations meant that there was a large task at hand when it came to sorting out issues related to immigration matters. Inevitably then, as an immigration law firm in the city we seized this opportunity to help the performers out.


Unlike today, where performers are able to enter the UK through the Standard Visitor visa route, back in 2012, these individuals were required to have a visa which was more specific in their reasoning for travel. For this reason, many performers and artists at the WEYA event required an Entertainer or Artist visa (at the time the UK was still a member of the EU, and so, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens did not require a visa to attend). Despite these visa routes being in place as a means to increase the UK’s cultural exchanges, it wasn’t always a straightforward process with individuals from certain countries facing increased barriers to their entry than others. Shortcomings and barriers aside, after a time-consuming process the artists and performers succeeded in coming to the UK. It is thought that there were over 500 visa applications attributed to the event, many of which went through Paragon Law: an opportunity which we will cherish.


However, that wasn’t the end of our involvement. We didn’t just want to be seen as a law firm who jumped on a business opportunity. Instead, we wanted to give something back and decided that the best way to do so was through co-hosting a party at the Jam Café whereby various artists (Stickman, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, and Imran Aziz Mian Qwaal among others) could perform. Broad Street truly came alive with the sounds of multiple genres and the sights of many, many people. This event is by far one of the biggest events in which we have hosted, and it has certainly set the bar for future ventures. 


Composer, singer-songwriter, and cellist: Ayanna Witter-Johnson reflected on her time at WEYA and had this to say about our event:
“Paragon Law are a forward-thinking organisation that not only support artists in the background, doing the essential work (especially for touring artists) of navigating the often-scary territory of visa requirements but also support artists out front.  Providing performance platforms and connecting them with others in the industry.  So, it was truly an honour to be invited to perform at the intimate Jam Café during WEYA to celebrate the work they had been doing in assisting young artists to travel to the UK and partake in such an extraordinary global event. The guests were a mixture of the business community, academia, city council and inspiring artists as well as those working with a variety of human rights groups. It was an eclectic mix, and they were a warm and attentive audience.  Perfect for an upcoming artist like myself at the time."


As you can probably tell, the nature of the project has not made it a reoccurring experience. Indeed, whilst a yearly reoccurrence would undoubtedly make for a nice addition to the city – logistically and financially it would be a nightmare! However, with that being said similar events (albeit on a much smaller scale) have been hosted across the East Midlands. For instance, in 2019, a smaller artistic event was held once again in Nottingham. Again, this event was well-received by the people of Nottingham – many of whom compared it to the event of 2012. It is clear then, that despite the World Event for Young Artists being held almost ten years ago that it’s legacy lives on, and we will continually be proud of the small (yet vital) role in which played.
Justin Turford, a technical coordinator at the event had this to say about the event:


“[WEYA] was without a doubt the hardest, most full on and stressful project I’ve ever been involved in, but it was also the most inspirational, dynamic and life affirming one too! I learned more from my three-months working on WEYA than I have through a lifetime of education and event organising and it’s a shame that it will never happen again. With that being said, I truly believe that [WEYA] revitalised the Nottingham arts and creative scenes like nothing before (and nothing since). A real can-do culture was born in the city.”


Our involvement with the WEYA will be something which we will always be proud of because it was week of diversity, cultural exchange and inclusion: it just goes to show that immigration law doesn’t have to be boring.