Brexit drives EU youth orchestra from London to Italy

A protestor waves an EU flag as he walks past the Houses of Parliament in central London, Britain September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union Youth Orchestra is moving to Italy from London, its home for more than 40 years, in an early example of the cultural fallout from Brexit. The prestigious organisation, which has worked with some of the world's most famous conductors, relies on EU funding which would almost certainly no longer be available to UK-based organisations after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019. "The EUYO is a vital cultural and political resource for Europe and for the EU, and I am delighted that the orchestra's long-term stability has now been effected," said Vasily Petrenko, the orchestra's chief conductor, in a statement. The orchestra will move next year to new headquarters in Rome and in the northern Italian city of Ferrara, it said. Its founding music director was the late Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and it was invited to move to Italy by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini. Founded in London in 1976, it has been headquartered in the British capital ever since. Britain joined the precursor of what is now the EU in 1973. The orchestra auditions every year for new members, who must be aged between 16 and 26 and come from an EU member country. Its website says that British musicians are still eligible to apply this autumn to join the orchestra in 2018, when Britain will still be a member. "The arrangement for future years will depend on the details of the agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK," it says. Britain's decision in a June 2016 referendum to leave the bloc was a severe blow to many in the arts world, where cross-border collaboration and the ability to tour freely around Europe are valued particularly highly. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)