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The Arts Council say public support for the arts 'has never been more important than it is now'

'This is a bad day for the arts and culture in Northern Ireland.'

The words of Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), following the recent draft budget figures published by the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE), which would see arts funding cut by £4.2m over the next four years.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure faces one of the largest funding cuts compared to the other government departments, despite being the smallest with an annual budget of just 1% of total government spending. It is set to lose over 9% of its budget, equating to a loss of £14.5m over the four year budget period. Almost 30% of these cuts have been passed directly on to the arts sector.

ACNI are warning that their ability to support the work of artists and arts organisations will be severely constrained, particularly when inflation and the funding needs of new venues like The Mac and Lyric Theatre are taken into account.

'Spending on the arts is tiny in relation to other departments, so any savings made by cutting the arts budget will make next to no difference to Northern Ireland’s financial deficit. Yet these cuts will cause significant and potentially irreversible harm to the arts, putting jobs and front line services at risk,' McDonough said.

'All we ask for is a fair deal for the arts, but the arts sector is instead being asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the public sector cuts.

“The Arts Council will continue over the eight-week consultation period to put forward the case on behalf of the arts sector. We would urge everyone who has ever valued the arts - from seeing a great festival production to experiencing the benefits of a re-imaging project in their community - to make their views known to the Executive. Vocal support from the arts community and the wider public will also help to strengthen Minister McCausland’s hand as he defends his arts budget.'

Comments on the Draft Budget 2011-15 can be submitted by writing, no later than February 9, 2011, to: Budget Consultation, S1, New Building, Rathgael House, Balloo Road, Bangor, BT19 7NA.


An in promptu carol service was held before Christmas at the Grand Opera House to call on the NIE to take a fair approach to the arts budget, with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. ACNI staff were joined by members of the Ulster Orchestra, the Ulster Youth Choir, the Belfast Philharmonic Choir and others employed in the arts sector. Watch a video of the event below.

Philip Hammond's topical lyrics to 'The Twelve Days of Christmas':

In this time of austerity when budgets are so tight, the arts are a beacon of light!

All this doom and gloom and cut-backs will now begin to bite... hold on a minute, ‘cos the arts are a beacon of light!

Are you seriously saying the arts make life worthwhile? Yes, they’re important, healing our divides, bringing joy to many... yes, the arts are a beacon of light!

Will the politicians realise, what cases can you cite? Arts Council data, look at the statistics, economic factors, see the research! It’s a sector with a future that’s bright!

Now we’ll list the many areas that make the arts so right...starting with jobs. Thirty thousand people are employed creatively... that’s a huge, powerful industry!

There are painters, poets, playwrights, there’s actors working too. Film is expanding, should we repeat?
Thirty thousand people are employed creatively... that’s a huge, powerful industry!

We’ll continue with a list that will make our case quite clear. Arts in education, arts in healthcare settings, arts for young and old, regeneration, reimagination. Nightlife economy, value for money... arts for every one!

Arts bring cultural tourists, positive profile abroad, and a small investment pays back so much.

Now we raise our voices loudly and show our case is strong. Please politicians, listen to this message, arts are at the heart of our society! All we ask from you is to be given a fair deal… So Merry and a Happy New Year!