'Let's go into battle': Sir Elton John rallies young musicians in bid for visa-free EU travel after Brexit

  • Video report by ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar

Rock legend Sir Elton John has said he's ready to lead the next generation of music-makers "into battle" in the fight to get visa-free touring access in a post-Brexit world.

Speaking to ITV News, the hitmaker said "we have to do something now" in the wake of a Brexit trade deal that saw artists hit with paperwork for permission to perform across the EU.

Sir Elton said the creative industry must “club together” so the rising stars have the best opportunities possible.

“The young have so much to offer,” Sir Elton told ITV News,

“So do the old, but this is the old trying to offer something for the young.

“So, listen, I’m here for you and let’s go into battle.”

'I love them, they inspire me': Sir Elton on young artists

Sir Elton was one of 100 stars who signed a letter saying performers have been “shamefully failed” by the post-Brexit travel rules.

The resulting costs for work permits and other red tape will make “many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the Covid ban on live music,” the signatories argued.Sir Elton, who said he had positive discussions with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Wednesday morning, told ITV News he is “determined” to get the next generation of artists through these obstacles.

“It [Brexit] may be a bit prickly, the situation now because it’s very raw, but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t going to improve over the coming months,” he added.

“And during the coming months when we have the time to try and organise something like this to help young musicians – this is when we have to do the groundwork.

“We can’t sit on our feet and say well we will wait until it’s all done, we have to do something now.”

He warned “making obstacles” for fledgling musicians is “not good for the world in general”.

Describing music as a “healer”, he recalled a concert in Belfast in the 70s when Catholics and Protestants stood together for his performance.

“Music is one of the few things that can bring people together… religious beliefs, political beliefs,” he said.

“I remember playing in Northern Ireland in the 70s and doing a concert in Belfast, where Catholics and Protestants could only come together for concerts.

“And for two and a half hours they were as one, and then they went their own separate ways.”

He added: “Music is a healer and we can’t lose sight of this, especially in a fractured world we need all the healing we can get.”

'This is about all musicians'

Young musicians make him “excited”, he said, and he feels he has a “responsibility to step up”.

“I want the future to be brighter for everyone,” he said.

The pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions have added to the blow sustained by the arts, with theatres also suffering.

Sir Elton said the industry must “make sure” young people in those creative genres the best opportunities possible – just as he did.

His efforts come after months of his own children not seeing others in months, though he said they have been far more fortunate than most and that he can’t imagine the difficulty some are experiencing.

“It’s not easy, we’ve been here since May, our boys haven’t seen anyone and it's very hard on them, children need to interact with each other,” he said.

“But the circumstances are what they are.”