AN Asian arts agency director who lives in Chippenham was hugely relieved that two Indian singers finally managed to perform at WOMAD despite lengthy delays with securing their visas.

For many months Jaswinder Singh, of Bristol-based Asian Arts Agency, has worked to secure visas to allow Punjabi singers Hashmat and Sultana to enter the UK and play at Charlton Park.

Sultana, 18, and Hashmat, 24, were scheduled to sing at the large Siam tent on Friday night, but the visa was only sorted out on that same day.

After flying over on Saturday, WOMAD organisers arranged for the duo to play on the same stage on Sunday at 12.30pm and then again on the BBC Radio 3 stage at 6.30pm.

Although this ended on a happy note, Mr Singh said this was a whisker away from not happening at all.

“Securing the visas proved to be very difficult. With the world that we are living in with Brexit it is becoming very difficult to travel internationally,” he said.

“We began working on this well in advance to get them to play but we were very worried when the visas had still not arrived.

“They were not sure if they could come at all. This was started many months ago and to be in this situation was very disappointing.

“Thankfully we got them on the Friday and they flew over on the Saturday, so that they could play on the Sunday. WOMAD kindly allowed them to play in the Siam tent on Sunday and then on the Radio 3 stage too.

“In the end it was happy days but it came very close to never happening at all. They were supposed to have shows in Bristol and London but they had to cancel.”

When they finally got to sing, their translator Mr Singh said how the duo said they loved their time on stage.

“It is our first time here. We are very happy and relieved to be here. We were praying it would be resolved and thankfully it was,” said Hashmat.

Sultana added: “We have had a really good time exploring the festival. There is a family-feel here. We felt a lot of love from the audience.”

Director Chris Smith said: “The issue that has been raised for WOMAD UK in 2018 is not whether or not the new and automated visa system is fair, fit for purpose, rationale or affordable (It is evident that it is none of these things – but in time it may be.) It is that the message the UK is sending out to international artists is ‘you are not welcome in Britain’.

"It has been an unexpected development since the introduction of the new visa system and the public declaration of the prime minister of a “Hostile Environment” on immigration, that for the first time in our 35+ years of bringing artists in to the UK, they are choosing to decline the invitations.

"Whether their perceptions are real or inflamed, the reality is that artists are deciding that the hassle and cost of entering the UK are neither worth the return or the exposure to rejection that the process might bring. For now this is a trickle, but how do we prevent it becoming a flood?

"Never mind wanting to remain in the UK, artists, and I am sure many in other equally important professions simply do not wish to visit the UK in the first place."