The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), with the support of Belfast MLA Anna Lo, has launched the first ever Intercultural Arts Strategy for Northern Ireland in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.
An audience of ethnic minority artists and organisations were invited to give their views on the strategy and to hear from those who are already engaged in successful arts-based intercultural programmes across Northern Ireland.
ACNI strategy recognises the changing face of society in Northern Ireland and its increasing cultural diversity. It flags up the need to promote cultural pluralism, develop good relations and tackle racism within and between communities and their cultures.
The document has six strategic themes, all of which help deliver the NI Assembly’s Programme for Government. ACNI also announced that it plans to introduce a new funding programme in autumn 2012, which will concentrate on strengthening the minority ethnic arts infrastructure across Northern Ireland.
Roisin McDonough, ACNI chief executive said: 'The Arts Council has always been committed to fostering the expression of cultural pluralism in Northern Ireland. The Intercultural Arts Strategy will help us to play our part in delivering some of the shared objectives of the current Programme for Government and in particular its draft Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.
'However, at the heart of this strategy is the genuine desire to use the arts to engage with others who live around us. To encourage people to form positive contacts, maybe even friendships, across and within communities that are culturally diverse.
'We plan to invest an initial £300,000 over the next three years in promoting cultural diversity, using the arts to help develop good relations and importantly to help tackle racism and deliver a better future for everyone.'
Anna Lo, MLA, key speaker at the launch said: 'I am delighted to be involved in the launch of the first Intercultural Arts Strategy during Community Relations Week. It heralds a significant step in addressing the barriers facing minority ethnic groups here in Northern Ireland. I have witnessed first hand the positive impact that arts initiatives can have at a grassroots level and look forward to seeing the results of this strategy in years to come.'
Community and voluntary groups will be able to apply for the new funding to support arts-based projects that will benefit their community and increase access to the arts for minority ethnic groups. The programme will also help individual ethnic minority artists to develop their professional practice and undertake relevant training in order to increase their opportunities to engage in collaborative work within and across communities.
The Intercultural Arts Strategy is available to view at the ACNI website and is also available in other formats and languages upon request.