NI Assembly Set to Slash Arts Funding Further

Have your say and help to save NI Arts

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has called on the Northern Ireland Assembly to rethink its budget allocation for the arts. The Council was responding to the Draft Budget of October 25, which shows that after three consecutive years of standstill funding, the arts stand to lose a further £1.3m over the next three year funding period – and this does not take into account the impact of inflation, which could reduce these funds by another £3m.

'This is incredibly bad news for the people of Northern Ireland,' says Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Rosemary Kelly. 'If the sector gets the allocation which has been announced today, then it is tantamount to sounding a death knell over large areas of arts activity. This settlement will have devastating consequences for the arts sector and a negative impact on the economy as a whole.'

What you can do: the public consultation
The public consultation on the budget is now open and you can register your thoughts on the arts budget. All submissions to the public consultation are logged. The consultation period closes on January 4. Responses should be sent to:

Melanie McGinnis
Economic Policy Unit
Rm E5.22
Castle Buildings
Stormont Belfast

Telephone:(028) 9052 0093

In keeping with the Executive’s policy of openness, from 8 November 2007 responses to this consultation will be published on the PfG website . If you do not wish your response to be used in this way, or if you would prefer it to be used anonymously, please indicate this when responding.

What you can do: email and write
You can email or send a letter in support of increased funding for the arts to, most importantly, the Minister for Finance and Personnel, Mr Peter Robinson MP MLA; the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Mr Edwin Poots MLA; your own MLA; the editor of your local newspaper. The contact details of the Ministers are listed below.

Mr Peter Robinson MP MLA
Minister for Finance and Personnel
Department of Finance and Personnel
Craiganlet Buildings
Stoney Road
Belfast BT4 5SX

Tel: 028 9185 8111

Mr Edwin Poots MLA
Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure
Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Tel: 028 9025 8825

'The people of Northern Ireland should have the same cultural entitlement as their neighbours,' Kelly adds. 'Yet at the same time as arts in England have received a 12 per cent increase (announced earlier this month) this budget proposal pushes the sector here into continuing downward spiralling decay.

'While the per capita spend on arts in the Republic of Ireland is three times that in Northern Ireland, and Scotland and Wales also streak ahead, Northern Ireland seems unable to recognise what is already an accepted principle in other places across the world – that arts and cultural activity are vital components in social, economic and cultural regeneration.'

Rosemary Kelly continues, 'The arts in Northern Ireland have reached a critical point in their history.  Years of chronic underfunding have been made much worse in recent years by the decline in Lottery arts funds and the Government’s diversion of a further £4.5m from the sector to help fund the 2012 London Olympics.  This settlement will do nothing to ease the pressure on our artists and arts organisations.'

The Arts Council has been forced to close important funding programmes because it no longer has the resources to continue financing them. Only this week the Local Authorities have had to be made aware that they are a low priority for continuing Arts Council funding and, with the closure of the Multi-Annual Programme under Lottery, the future of many key arts organisations is uncertain.

'It is disappointing that the overwhelming cross-party support shown earlier this month by the main political parties for a motion calling on the Executive Committee to raise arts funding to at least the UK average, has not been reflected in the draft budget for the arts,' said Ms Kelly.

'This settlement will not even allow us to stabilise core organisations, whose future may now be in jeopardy, and important developmental work cannot be undertaken.'

'With over 35,000 people bringing £30m into the local economy, the arts industries are major contributors to the Northern Ireland economy and create more employment than many traditional mainstays of employment.

'On top of this the arts allow us to capitalise on huge potential tourist investment, help us to shape community regeneration and enhance social cohesion. Last year over 75,000 school children were able to develop their social and communication skills through workshops funded by the Arts Council.'

The Arts Council will continue to campaign with the Invest in Inspiration group and the arts sector on this issue; and would ask that everyone who understands the rewards to be found for our communities in investing in arts and culture and who wants the best for themselves and their families, will make their feelings known during the ten-week budget public consultation process.