Arts Council Launch #13pForTheArts Campaign

Public urged to sign petition and more to help stave off further funding cuts to the arts in Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has launched a campaign to halt funding cuts to the arts sector in Northern Ireland, with chief executive Roisin McDonough warning that any further reduction to an already fragile budget by the NI Executive will have a devastating impact on arts provision across the country.

The Northern Ireland government currently invests just 13 pence per head of population per week in direct funding for the arts, hence the title of the campaign: #13pForTheArts. The money received by ACNI is used to award grants to support a diverse range of arts activities, from festivals and venues, to performances and community-based projects, which are all at threat of further funding cuts in 2015.

In 2014/15, ACNI received £12.3million in government funding, representing just 0.1% (1,000th) of the NI Executive budget. ACNI has been asked by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure to plan for an 11.2% cut in the next financial year, as part of plans announced in the Finance Minister’s Draft Budget in October.

McDonough has therefore called on the public to support a campaign calling for no more cuts to the arts budget in Northern Ireland, by registering their concerns directly to the Stormont Executive via the Draft Consultation on Budget 2015-16, which closes on December 29. An online petition has also been launched. Full details of the campaign are now available on the ACNI website.

McDonagh argued that for a small investment, the arts deliver great benefits to all areas of society in Northern Ireland. 'The arts receive a tiny amount of government funding but deliver big returns for our economy and for our society.

'For an investment of just 13p, just look at what we get back – events, performances, exhibitions, concerts, workshops – all of which contribute to improving our society, drive economic growth and jobs creation, and raise Northern Ireland’s global profile as a place people want to live in and visit.

'We are now facing the biggest threat yet for the arts and cultural sector and we are asking all those who value the arts to support our petition and ask the Finance Minister for no more cuts to the arts budget. We have already shouldered six consecutive cuts in the last three years.

'Another cut would have a devastating effect on the sector, bringing us back to the level we were at in 2005, and reduce arts provision for everyone.' Read the ACNI Annual Review below for more information on the positive impact that the arts sector has on the Northern Irish economy, general well-being, aspects of social inclusion and more.

Actor James Nesbitt was among the first to add his support to the campaign, revealing that he, along with many other successful Northern Irish actors, relied on public-subsidised theatre companies to kick-start their careers. 'I started my acting at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine when Interplay were there, a professional theatre company,' said Nesbitt.

'Then I was in the Ulster Youth Theatre, alongside Michelle Fairly, who was in Game of Thrones and Llyod Hutchinson who is currently on Broadway, Briana Corrigan who was in the band the Beautiful South, Conleth Hill, a double Olivier award winner – all benefitted from the Ulster Youth Theatre and therefore from arts subsidy. They have all gone on to forge careers.

'Theatres, along with the likes of the Ulster Orchestra, for example, are the cultural heartbeats of our towns and cities and without them we are much poorer for it. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t take a lot of money and I would appeal to Stormont not to cut any more.'

The Arts Council has launched a postcard petition and is asking the public to sign postcards in support of no more cuts to the arts budget. Postcards and petition collection boxes will soon be available at arts centres across Northern Ireland. Alternatively, an online petition can be found here, as well as details of how you can write to the Finance Minister directly on the ACNI website.

Full details on the #13pForTheArts Campaign are available on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland website. Show your support for the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.