Think the arts sector is underfunded in Ireland? Spare a thought for our neighbours in the north, currently facing significant budget cuts in the proposed Budget 2008-2011, when per capita spending on the arts is already half of that in the Republic: ‘Public spending per capita on the arts in the year 2006-07 was: in the Republic of Ireland £12.61; in Scotland £11.93; in Wales £8.80; in England £8.39; in Northern Ireland £6.13 (£10.5m).’ (Source: ACNI)
The ACNI’s Multi Annual funding programme has already been discontinued, and it warns that many more programmes and organisations will lose funding if the proposed budget goes ahead. A rally was held yesterday at Stormont to demonstrate support for the arts in Northern Ireland:
Arts Sector rally to Save the Arts (link)
Northern Ireland ’s arts sector, supported by the Arts Council, today organized the Keep Our Arts Alive rally in a bid to save the arts and to improve the allocation contained within the Draft Budget 2008-2011, currently out for public consultation and which closes on 4th January 2008.
The arts in Northern Ireland are in danger of dying from neglect. That was the message of artists, arts professionals and supporters who gathered at Carson’s statue at Stormont to make a public call for increased arts funding.
Dressed in costume and carrying the tools of their arts and banners, supporters presented the Chair of the CAL Committee, Barry McElduff, with a letter which calls upon government to rethink the final budget settlement. This letter explained how the draft budget proposal pushes the sector into continuing downward spiral of decay and highlighted the negative impact it will have on the economy as a whole.
Artists Danny Devenney and Mark Ervine also unveiled a blank canvas to represent Northern Ireland without art – a consequence that Northern Ireland may have to tackle.
The advantages to be gained from meaningful investment in the arts have not been recognised by Northern Ireland’s main political parties, which gave overwhelming support in October to a Private Members’ Motion, calling on the Executive ‘to raise the level of arts funding to at least the United Kingdom average within the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review’. Regrettably this support is not reflected in the Draft Budget.
Speaking on behalf of the arts sector, Ali FitzGibbon, Director, Young at Art said, “The arts industry desperately needs this investment and has shown it is necessary to a peaceful, fair and prosperous society. All the parties backed a bid for parity of funding. *Over 70% of the population attends arts and culture events and 78% believe it should be funded. The case has been made and the priorities and budget must follow suit and increase spending on the arts to a realistic level.”
Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “If the allocation is not increased this will have devastating consequences for the arts sector. Our artists and core organisations will face a bleak future, and pressing developmental work will not be undertaken.”
“The people of Northern Ireland deserve the same cultural entitlement as their neighbours on these islands and I am asking everyone who understands the rewards to be found from investment in the arts to make their feelings clear during the public consultation process. The Northern Ireland Assembly must rethink its budget allocation for the arts.”
To find out more about the campaign to improve the funding situation for the arts in Northern Ireland, visit www.keepourartsalive.com, visit the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s ‘Campaigning for the Arts’ webpages or telephone (028) 9038 5200.
*Arts and Culture, (2004), Arts Council of Northern Ireland Study