At Peirene Press, Meike Viervogel has been gathering signatories from literary and cultural organisations in support of Britain staying within the EU. There is a range of arguments on whether to stay in or leave Europe, but at Cinnamon Press we are with Meike and her colleagues in maintaining that any isolationist impulse is culturally destructive.
We've seen some worrying trends in voting patterns across Europe (in Austria, for example) and have heard arguments that leaving Europe might be the more radical step in moving away from reactionary or authoritarian politics, but we are unconvinced by impulses towards isolation as a solution for Europe-wide social trends. Rather, we agree with Peirene Press and others engaged in literary and artistic endeavours that leaving Europe would be a retrograde step; inward-looking, myopic and culturally inimical to being part of a wider arena of shared dialogue and sustenance.
The ability to move freely within Europe has not only given Britain a better economic position and, in terms of literature, access to grants that have enhanced the diversity of independent and exciting works of fiction and poetry, but has also facilitated the movement of ideas, making our culture richer and more vital. Freedom of movement doesn't only give businesses a much expanded workforce, but also brings European artists, thinkers and writers into our creative networks, whilst British artists and writers have much more ability to live and work in other cultures or find audiences across Europe.
Creative Europe, an EU programme, has supported 228 UK cultural and creative organisations in the past two years with grants totalling €40 million. EU funding, through the Erasmus programme, has also allowed thousands of British students, both within the arts and out, to study abroad, broadening horizons and benefiting career prospects. A withdrawal from Europe would devastate the UK's creative sector. Last year Literature Across Frontiers reported that in recent years, foreign literature has become more popular and important in the UK. Translations have risen and have largely been financed by European literary funds in collaboration with UK publishers and funding bodies. As Meike pointed out in her open letter, we cannot underestimate the importance of widening our horizons by experiencing others' viewpoints through their literatures. A withdrawal from Europe would see a much more impoverished and narrow range of literature available with a consequent fall in dialogue and understanding between countries: a culturally as well as politically dangerous diminishment.
Cinnamon has a relatively minor strand of literature in translations, but nonetheless for Cinnamon Press Brexit would be disastrous and would mean:
- No more minority language or European language poetry collection translations (our Italian minority language series relied on grants from regional cultural bodies that required EU partners);
- Loss of connections with several of our authors in France, Italy etc whose writing currently enriches the list in novels, short stories and poetry;
- More fundamentally, our partnership with printers in Poland, thanks to Michal Szubryt of Hussar, has transformed our ability to produce high quality, affordable books. The relationship depends on trade agreements, particularly in regard to VAT in Europe, and without the EU we would be forced to reconsider the feasibility of our entire list. At best, we would operate as a much smaller press with many fewer titles; at worst we might not survive.
Cinnamon Press is a decidedly European Press — in terms of our printing collaboration this is a fundamental survival strategy — but beyond our own survival as an innovative publisher, we are committed to an ideology of shared ideas, exchange of culture and finding radical ways forward together. We hope our readers will vote to support outward-looking, bigger thinking in which literature and culture flourishes.