I come from an ordinary working class background and feel profoundly fortunate to have had a unique experience in my formative years that has given me a certain perspective on life. I feel it my duty to share it.
I was born in 1947. Yes I know I know I don't look that old. I was a post WW2 baby boomer.
Twenty million Europeans died in that terrible war. We were all born in the hope of a better future; that this abomination would never happen again.
As a kid none of my friends or family had ever been abroad or knew anyone from a foreign country. Only our fathers had been abroad to fight and kill people - or be killed.
In 1964 at the age of 17 I started my singing career and, using my school lessons, began to record in French, then Italian, Spanish and German. Pretty soon I had begun travelling in Europe, and became a recording artist and star in all the countries in the West and in the then Eastern bloc.
I had the most amazing times getting to know and enjoy their different cultures and sharing ours. To be part of, accepted and loved by all these countries was often challenging but a great education in life. Everybody was so proud of their nationalities and eager to know about mine. Some of the stories they told me about their country's experience of the war and its impact were eye opening and truly heart breaking. There were some heated discussions; but the one thing we all had in common was the desire to never to let it happen again.
All my family and friends were fascinated. I sent regular postcards home telling of my adventures and each time brought them home a national doll from each country. Eventually my mum and dad had to move to a bigger house to fit in all the presents and awards.
I never once met a British person or artist on my travels. It was completely new territory. Through the sharing of British culture I was given the opportunity to experience first- hand trans-national communication before it became the norm for everyone.
Later I was asked by the BBC to represent Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest in order or them to capitalise on my unique career in Europe. It was a really uncool thing to do. So I refused.
Until I discovered that the event was born after the Second World War from that intense desire shared by all Europeans to use culture and communication to bring the nations together in a creative rather than destructive way. I thought that was cool.
The Sixties consciousness was very much underpinned by this ideal. I believe that is why our generation in Britain had such a huge creative surge and worldwide young people were so enthralled by the peace movement.
I have been disappointed that the BBC has chosen of late to use this event to make fun of and belittle other countries and to send our worst offerings instead of our best, which would help to raise the standard of everyone.
The Common market was also born from this desire to make peace instead of war. It was Churchill's great vision after the war to unite Europe along with other enlightened European leaders. Gradually, as this began to take place during the late Sixties and Seventies, I was joined by other British artists keen to take part in Europe. As the Common Market became a reality we were joined in the early hours in Heathrow departure lounge by brief-cased businessmen eager to trade too.
I was often used as an ambassador for Britain by politicians all over Europe keen, (and some not so keen), (put up a picture of me and De Gaulle cartoon) for Britain to join the European Union.
Soon this also became a reality and Europe was flooded with British people wanting to take the sun and enjoy the food, wine and lifestyle of Europeans. My family and friends visited. Some people decided to really go for it and stayed to make a living or retire there. My children naturally thought of themselves as British Europeans and my grandchildren cannot imagine being anything else. Our current world of the internet has tended to make young people less parochial, they communicate across the world. They were born to be technology natives and, though some older people are technology émigrés, it is only natural that a lot of us might cling to the past and not be able to fully embrace the future.
Which brings us bang up to the present.
I work as Chair of the Featured Artists Coalition, which has spawned the International Artist Organisation. Together we represent the rights and interests of European music artists and creators. The EU is currently working on the Digital Single market. This is essential to our future. It is the future. An artist's job is to break down barriers, tear down the walls that separate our shared humanity. We are intrinsically international. In order for our music industry to survive we recognise the necessity of European and global markets. We have never thought of ourselves as being isolated from the rest of the world. Our innate desire is to bring people together, to create community and union. We are the modern day explorers and pioneers.
In our FAC and IAO experience, working with the EU and artists from the other countries has been very instructive and much fun. We have got to know our own MEPs, our representatives and other countries' MEPs. We are working really well with the Brussels' bureaucrats who love our input -they really aren't that stuffy once you get to know them. They have welcomed us and our ideas with open arms. They want us to take part in this exciting journey into the future not to stand on the outside complaining. They want us to help change things for the better. How many people know who their MEP is?
If we want to do something about the bureaucracy, expenses culture, outdated policies and general silliness of Brussels, we have to get involved: kick the ball around; don't take pot shots from lines. There is far more to win than there is to lose. Those that want to stay huddled up in the past will be left behind. Jingoism is profoundly unattractive. Certainly not cool.
It is our task as creators to share our vision and hope for a creative and productive future as part of Europe that Churchill dreamed up so long ago. It is the only way I know of that can curb corporate greed and allow all people to enjoy the fruits of the digital world we are living in today.
I believe that the movement away from Europe is retrogressive.
Loving your country, being patriotic is a good thing. The European Union, however, is there to prevent the negative aspects of nationalism which has in the past resulted in the deaths of 60million people and even more in the First World War. It forces us to come to terms with our differences, to see them as something that enriches us, makes us bigger than the sum of our parts. Its purpose is to reinforce our national identities and respect those of other countries: to find common ground about the essential things in life. It is far from perfect but at least it is a political fight and not a blood bath.
The intention behind the EU is powerful and valuable. Britain has an enormous part to play.
The driving force is to break down barriers. We know that it is not going to be easy. But at least it is a political struggle, a conflict of words, and not taking up arms.
It will take courage, wisdom and compassion. But to leave now at this point in the process is cowardly.
It is a loser's game
I refuse to back out. I love winning.
And I am determined to win in Europe.
Co-Chair of the Featured Artists CoalitionSuggest a correction