Improved Budget for the Arts

£4.2m funding cut averted as Finance Minister Sammy Wilson recognises the 'employment potential' in the sector

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has welcomed the improved arts budget agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, but cautions that challenges still lie ahead.

The details have yet to be confirmed, but the arts look set to lose £1.4 million over the four year budget period, rather than the disproportionate £4.2 million that was initially proposed in the draft Budget 2011-15.

The Northern Ireland Executive has also made an additional £1.4 million available for capital development in the arts.

Arts Council Chairman, Rosemary Kelly OBE commented on the impact of the improved budget on the Arts Council’s annual grants for arts organisations, which she announced today (Monday, March 14):

'Given the known pressures on public spending and the need for widespread cuts across the public sector, the NIE’s decision to reinstate much of our budget must be seen as a reprieve for the arts. Moreover, the reinstatement of a modest capital allocation of £1.4m for the four years ahead is also worthy of note.

'As a result of the revised budget, we are able to announce today the funding that our arts organisations will receive towards their running costs in the year ahead. 99 arts groups will receive a total of £10.9 million through the Arts Council’s Annual Support for Organisations Programme.

'We have been able to maintain most of these organisations on standstill funding this year. However, we don’t underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead for the sector, as the money available will drop in the following years and there remains a pressing need for arts organisations to look for further efficiencies; for some this may mean greater collaboration and mergers in the near future.'

Arts Council Chief Executive, Roisin McDonough acknowledged the part that the public have played in bringing about the improved settlement. 'The overwhelming level of public support shown for the arts during the public consultation period evidently made a big impression, and we thank the thousands of people who wrote to the NIE to express their support for our campaign for a Fair Deal for the Arts.

'The better deal we have now secured shows that the NIE has listened to our arguments and has acknowledged the importance of the arts to the health of our economy and society.'

The Arts Council received 101 applications to its Annual Support for Organisations Programme this year (2011-2012). The 99 successful applicants represent a range of artform areas from theatre, to youth arts, venues and festivals.

The Fair Deal for the Arts Campaign alone received over 5,000 expressions of support from the public, including over 2,500 signed campaign postcards and 1,259 campaign followers via Facebook.

During his budget presentation to the Assembly (Friday, March 4), Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson acknowledged the economic potential of the arts:

'During the Budget process, I tried to acquaint myself with the things that we spend money on. I went round schools, arts groups, museums and building projects and talked to people in all kinds of departments.

'Many people think of the arts as simply a picture hanging on a wall, but it involves a lot of employment potential — especially tourist potential — in Northern Ireland.'