Minister Asked: Show You Love The Arts

Artists and arts sector employees appeal to the spirit of St Valentine in a last ditch bid to stave off funding cuts

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland received an early Valentine’s Day card with a difference this week. The card was produced by the children of the Play Resource Centre in Belfast and urged the minister and his department to 'Show You Love The Arts'.

Around 30 artists and art sector employees gathered outside the headquarters of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to deliver the card as part of the Fair Deal for the Arts NI campaign. Unfortunately the minister was not present to receive the card, but a DCAL representative did accept it on his behalf.

The campaign asks the public to write to the Northern Ireland Executive and urge it to reconsider the potentially devastating 23% cut for the arts proposed in the NI Draft budget. This Valentine-themed demonstration highlighted the importance of the arts to the future of Northern Ireland's young people in particular.

'For the Belfast Children’s Festival and Young at Art, the budget will have a major effect on what we can do for local children and families,' said Ali Fitzgibbon, director at Young at Art. 'A small cut from our funding could mean the difference between keeping open for business and closing our doors. It has taken 14 years to build up this service and one draft budget could wipe it out.'

The arts may lose £4.2million, yet the amount of money the NIE currently invests in the arts is already tiny. It works out at less than the annual cost per person of two cinema tickets.

Mary Trainor-Nagele, director of Arts & Business NI, said that with the private sector also under pressure arts organisations will find it increasingly difficult to secure and retain corporate support. 'There is a view that the private sector will step in to plug the funding gap in the arts. Arts & Business passionately advocates for the value of private investment and partnership with the arts, and indeed in NI there are many excellent examples of such partnerships.

'However, my concern would be that although the arts have huge amounts to offer the business sector, particularly in these times when innovative thinking is critical, the private sector itself will be squeezed and therefore sponsorship will be harder to find and harder to retain.'

Speaking about what the proposed cuts will mean, Anne O’Donoghue from Play Resource said: 'Over the past 25 years we have developed a highly successful social economy enterprise which accounts for over 50% of our income. However, without public funding the future for this service could be in real jeopardy.

'We, along with others in the arts, want to look forward to a future where we can deliver exciting and stimulating programmes which help thousands of children and young people to acquire valuable life skills for a successful future. We are here today to urge the public to support the case for the arts by going to the Facebook page and sending the Fair Deal for the Arts campaign letter.'

The public consultation on the Northern Ireland Draft Budget 2011-2015 closes on Wednesday, February 16. To find out more about the Fair Deal for the Arts Facebook Campaign visit fairdealfortheartsni on Facebook or pick up one of the campaign postcards at arts venues across Northern Ireland.

Watch the Fair Deal for the Arts NI campaign videos at www.youtube.com/cultureni.