Comic artist Nikhil Singh, illustrator of the acclaimed Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers recently published by Walker Books, has now been held in South Africa for five months, unable to return to the UK even to attend his own book launch, due to being ‘underqualified’.
Although Singh, who was born in South Africa, has been a resident of Hampstead, London for three years, the British Home Office has made the decision not to renew any Artists’ Visas. This means that international artists whose visas have expired must now reapply for a Tier One Highly Skilled Worker Visa, which cannot be obtained without a degree or similar proof of tertiary education.
Singh is just one of many victims of insane regulations brought in by the government which are restricting artistic expression and visiting artists to the UK. As we’ve previously reported, they are being vigorously challenged by the Manifesto Club who have launched a petition protesting at the regulations.
Despite being a published illustrator of a novel which has been acclaimed by the likes of titles such as Metro, the Financial Times and Sunday Express as well as comic legend Alan Moore, Singh was informed that, as he does not have a degree, he does not qualify for this ‘highly skilled’ visa. He was also made to take an English language test, despite having worked in the UK as a journalist for many years.
“This new legislature speaks poorly of a country previously renowned as an international nexus of arts and culture,” argues Nikhil Singh. “The fact that so many academics and artists are being refused entry for such petty reasons only weakens England’s cultural backbone.
“The new immigration laws have insinuated an atmosphere of creative policing that is entirely out of character with the various professions it has effected; trades whose universal spirit of free thinking, regardless of nationality, have now been subtly degraded by the very powers which should be nurturing it.”
Paul Gravett, Director of Comica Festival and author of Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life, is infuriated by the Home Office action.
“The refusal of Nikhil Singh’s application for a Highly Skilled Worker Visa, resulting in his being unable to attend his own book launch at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, is short-sighted and prejudiced towards the graphic novel medium, and plainly ignores his exceptional merits,” he says. “One look at the extraordinary craftsmanship of his illustrative contributions to the acclaimed graphic novel Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers would convince anyone that Nikhil is not only “highly skilled” but a truly visionary artist of international standing.”
Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers launched in a sell-out Salem Spooktacular event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London on Saturday 24th October. Singh, who has now lost his London apartment and who has not seen his girlfriend of seven years for the past five months, is still unable to leave South Africa. He has currently spent over £2,000 appealing this process, and on subsequent reapplications which have all, to date, been refused.
• If you think the government is wrong, join the Manifesto Club’s campaign in support of visiting artists at: www.manifestoclub.com/visitingartists