Dezeen Magazine

Designers and students to protest in Trafalgar Square as threats to Erasmus programme emerge

Brexit crisis: designer Nelly Ben Hayoun, who is urging fellow creatives to join a demonstration in central London tomorrow, which has been organised to express "anger at the whole referendum process".

The demonstration comes as the implications of the UK's decision to leave the European Union begin to sink in, with the Erasmus student-exchange programme admitting "it is not clear" if UK students will be able to benefit in future.

The demonstration is part of a network of events taking place across the United Kingdom on Tuesday afternoon under the banner Stand Together.

Update 28/06/16: the demonstration has been cancelled on safety grounds.

The event, which starts in Trafalgar Square at 5pm, has so far attracted over 50,000 attendees on its Facebook event page.

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Remain supporters previously protested the referendum results on Friday 25 June

Ben Hayoun, a former Erasmus student who teaches at Central Saint Martins art school, plans to attend along with her students and called on other architects and designers to join the march.

"I'm inviting all colleagues and friends to come join us on Tuesday at Trafalgar Square," said the London-based designer, who grew up in France but came to London to study and ended up staying.

"To me that [the referendum] is nothing like democracy," she said. "What has happened is about public opinion being manipulated. That is why social action is necessary."

The pro-EU organisers of the Stand Together event said they are not calling for any specific action, but are instead giving people an opportunity to vent their anger at what they believe has been a flawed exercise in democracy.

"We created this event because we felt anger at the whole referendum process," the organisers wrote on Facebook. "That something so profound could be decided by something that there were so many flaws with."

"This event in Trafalgar Square will be an opportunity to come together, make your feelings heard, begin to build consensus, and hopefully, turn the emotion of the referendum result into positive action."

Born in 1985, Ben Hayoun came to London to study at the Royal College of Art 10 years ago on an EU scholarship and was previously part of the EU's Erasmus student exchange programme.

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Tuesday's demonstration is part of a network of events taking place across the UK under the banner Stand Together

After graduating she founded Nelly Ben Hayoun Studio in the city, developing projects including the International Space Orchestra, which brought NASA scientists and astronauts together for musical retellings of the profession's greatest achievements, and The Other Volcano, inviting volunteers to live with a volcano in their lounge.

She said she "would not have been able to consider that" without the EU-funded Erasmus programme.

However Erasmus, which helps over 270,000 students study abroad each year, may not be available either for UK students or EU students wishing to study in the UK if the UK leaves the EU.

"It is not clear at this early stage what the impact of the recent UK vote to leave the EU will have on the Erasmus programme," says the programme's website.

Ben Hayoun said she was joining the protest in hope of overturning the Brexit vote.

"Let's try and get the second referendum," she said. "Or if not that, let's try to get the parliament to actually vote, or never invoke Article 50 [which triggers UK's irreversible departure from the EU]."

The UK voted 51.9 per cent in favour of a British exit from the EU and 48.9 per cent to remain at last Thursday's referendum. London, Scotland and Northern Ireland all voted in favour of remain, as did all of the British designers and architects who spoke to Dezeen about the issue.

Ben Hayoun's response contrasts with that of former government policy advisor Rohan Silva, who today urged architects and designers in the UK to stop complaining about the outcome of the EU referendum and instead start fighting for better post-Brexit policies for their industry.

Meanwhile, Annabelle Gauberti, partner at law firm Crefovi, advised creative businesses in the UK to consider relocating to the EU if Brexit talks fail.