What Could Brexit Mean for Themed Entertainment?

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Friday, July 1st, 2016

Brexit influences the U.K.'s creative scene

As news of Britain’s decision to separate from the EU hit, stocks plummeted, the GBP took a plunge, and there was general unrest. Since then, experts have wondered what the Brexit decision will mean for anything from the country’s food to its design scene. Yet there could be far reaching consequences beyond economics – and straight into the worlds of art and entertainment design. What is Brexit likely to mean for entertainment designers, at both a practical level and from an artistic point of view?

Practically speaking, the economic consequences of Brexit are likely to have an impact on global tourism. Tourism, is of course, the heartbeat behind making entertainment attractions economically viable. With the British pound dropping, the number of Brits heading overseas to visit theme parks like Disney and Universal Studios is likely to drop. Domestic parks may see a boost as a result, as vacationers look for local alternatives closer to home. Or, alternately, they may find themselves struggling as the country’s citizens become more fiscally conservative and try to hold onto their cash flow by cutting entertainment expenses.

Brexit has been a roller coaster for Brits

Big new attractions that are in development could be compromised and theme parks, as well as other entertainment venues, will need to think about how to respond to the economic tremors. There is likely to be a buoying effect, however, from foreign tourists flooding into Britain to take advantage of the favorable strength of the U.S. dollar and clear current visa rules. Like many other aspects of Brexit, it’s clear that there will be an impact but it’s hard to determine yet exactly what that might be as the specifics unfold.

Another factor that comes into play is how Brexit is likely to impact the creative community itself in the UK. Currently, London is a major hub for business, design and connections. If immigration becomes more challenging in and out of the country, it’s clear that the creative community might suffer. Agencies and projects may be unable to hire innovative designers or partner in the same cross-border ways that have made major attractions possible.

Changing employment rules are likely to make it harder to create from outside Britain. And while those structural changes can become business headaches, there’s a deeper and more insidious impact. The design community becomes more insular. It’s harder to share new ideas, go and study in interesting places and attract big thinkers who can help shake up the entertainment design paradigm. While it’s important to be realistic – we’re not talking about sealed borders here – even a subtle shift in accessibility and the free flow of ideas could hurt the quality of creative work.

Imagery of Brexit

As entertainment designers think about future attractions, especially historic and cultural ones, there’s an underlying current that needs to be addressed. Is the concept of “being British” changing? Are new artistic themes emerging that it’s time to pay attention to? From the ideas that pushed this vote through to the cultural impact that will ripple through society at the level of creative moments, pop culture and other aspects, designers need to be paying attention.

The other potential aspects of Brexit that need to be considered are the development of artistic responses. People fall all over the map in terms of their responses: thrilled with the outcome, devastated at the prospect of not being part of the EU, interested to see what this could mean for British unity, and just plain annoyed at the turn that their country has taken. In particular, the internal reactions within Britain have been strong: England and Wales were in favor, Scotland and North Ireland sharply against. As a result, there are rumblings of another Scottish referendum to separate and questions about whether this could mean a new age in relations for North Ireland and Ireland.

In other words, it’s politically complex and personally fraught. At the same time, however, this opens up countless avenues for artistic exploration. The art world has responded to Brexit and we’re likely to see everything from fine arts exhibits to experiential explorations of the themes behind the vote. It’s a rich canvas for artists to explore, with far reaching consequences on the messaging and themes that are likely to occupy what Brits – and members of the EU and broader global community – are thinking about.

For entertainment designers, a few things are clear. First, the economic impact of Brexit is going to shift the landscape, even if it’s not immediately clear what that impact will be. For theme parks and other attractions, there’s economic consequences of weakened currency but potentially more international tourists visiting. At a more abstract and creative level, designers will need to pay attention to whether evolving sentiments of what it means to be British and what Brits want in their experiences are affected as well. Artists and experience designers will react to the Brexit decision from all sides and provide an interesting insight into the intersection of modern themed entertainment and politics.

Images sourced courtesy of the Millennium Report, Dahrehdorf

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