Have Your Say on Proposed Arts Cuts

Your voice can make a difference

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced that it is extending the consultation period for the Draft Budget 2011-15. The deadline moves from February 9 to February 16 after ministers agreed that more time is needed for individuals and interested groups to consider the proposals.

The Northern Ireland Assembly announced the proposed budget for the next four years on 15 December 2010, just before the Christmas break. The budget outlines how the assembly proposes to deal with the major cuts to government funding spending.

Major cuts to arts funding of £4.5m over a four year period are proposed. When inflation and the redirection of funds to new venues are taken into account, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) estimate the cuts will be in the region of 30% in real terms. Devastating news for the arts which will inevitably mean closures and job losses.

There is a short period of consultation and Culture Northern Ireland is urging individuals, groups and all who value the arts to respond before the deadline of February 9. You can email your comments and/or the campaign letter below to:

budgetconsultation@nics.gov.uk

and

private.office@dcalni.gov.uk.


CAMPAIGN LETTER:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Response to Draft Budget 2011 - 2015 Consultation

I am writing to you to register my support for a Fair Deal for the Arts through Budget 2011-2015. A fair deal for the arts means that any cuts to the arts budget should be fair and proportionate.

The quality of our arts - alongside health, education and justice - is one of the measures by which a society is judged. The arts make a significant contribution to economic growth and recovery in Northern Ireland and, penny for penny, public investment in the arts makes good business sense.

The amount of money the Executive currently spends on the arts each year works out at less than the cost per person of two cinema tickets. For that tiny outlay, we don't just get live theatre, festivals, music and nightlife; we get arts engaged at a local community level, in our schools, old people's homes, hospitals and driving the many successful neighbourhood regeneration programmes across the region. That makes Northern Ireland the kind of distinctive, lively and entertaining place you would want to live and work in.

The Tourist Board's rebranding of Belfast as a 'city of music' and Londonderry~Derry buoyed by winning the prestigious 'UK City of Culture 2013', shows how the arts are at the heart of creating a positive new international image for Northern Ireland.

This creative and enterprising culture is one of the reasons why businesses locate and invest here. It is also the reason why 40 percent of tourists say they come - that's a quarter of a million visitors each year, making Cultural Tourism the fastest growing sector of the tourist market. And then there's our Creative Industries, which are one of our major sources of job and wealth creation, employing over 33,000 people and generating £582 million annually. The arts are their life's blood.

A Fair Deal for the Arts means a fair and proportionate budget; it also means fair and non-political distribution of that budget. I would urge the Executive to safeguard the independence of the arts sector and freedom of creative expression by upholding the 'arm's length' principle of public funding for the arts when it completes its review of arm's length bodies across the whole of government.

Yours faithfully