If The CAP Fits

Director Conor Shields talks about the past and future of the newly formed Community Arts Partnership

Two of the leading community arts providers in Northern Ireland, New Belfast Community Arts (NBCA) and the Community Arts Forum (CAF), have come together to form CAP, The Community Arts Partnership.

Earlier this year, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland asked organisations to explore how they could make greater efficiency savings within their businesses.

As part of that review process it became clear that NBCA Initiative and CAF, which were running distinct but complementary services, could come together to create a more effective model of delivery service for the community arts sector.

CAP combines the best aspects of NBCA and CAF to create a leaner, more dynamic organisation.

In an impressively quick turnaround, what initially began as an exploration into the possibility of saving services via a merger has now progressed to a new organisation, housed in new premises with an exciting range of projects and partnerships, in a wide range of art forms, research, educational and strategic areas, across the region and internationally.

Director of CAP, Conor Shields said: ‘There was a recognition that change would be inevitable. I always felt there was a potential for much greater collaboration with NBCA, and back in October we started to more formally explore how that would look.

'We have fused the boards, we have a new identity as the Community Arts Partnership, new premises and new governing documents in terms of our much broader remit and much wider geographical remit.’

CAP will now offer the widest range of workshops, activities and events, including dance, drama, craft, sculpture, fashion, verbal arts and digital media for individuals, schools, groups, organisations from all backgrounds and communities across Northern Ireland. CAP will also take the lead as advocate and information provider to the community arts sector.

Kate Muldoon, the CAF’s finance and administration officer, said: ‘The work of CAF from the past, the library and information, is being retained but community arts is recognised much more now than it was in the early days of CAF.

'A lot of our work was getting it out there and getting it funded, lobbying all the time. That groundwork has now been done, so CAP can dedicate energy to the actual delivery of projects in the communities where they are needed.’

Speaking at the launch of CAP, the minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín emphasised the importance of accessible arts provision in local communities. She added:

'Community based activities provide so many opportunities for local areas. One of my departmental priorities is to continue to promote social interventions including community based arts. The Community Arts Partnership can maintain and strengthen provision of community arts in the North of Ireland and beyond.'

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of Arts Council Northern Ireland praised the ongoing work and success of the community arts sector in post-conflict Northern Ireland.

'Community arts play a pivotal role in Northern Ireland’s journey towards a shared future based on tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. The community arts sector in Northern Ireland has flourished over the last 15 years and now sets the standard for community arts practice internationally. The Arts Council remains committed to supporting the development of the sector and enhancing opportunities for local communities to engage with the arts.'

The Community Arts Partnership's new premises are at 3 – 5 Commercial Court, Belfast.