Arts Matter NI statement

23 January 2015

ArtsMatterNI shares the disappointment and frustration of so many that the call to preserve the level of revenue funding to the arts has fallen on deaf ears. Despite 23,000 responses to the DCAL Budget consultation, the current revenue budget for the arts states that cuts in excess of 10% will be made in 15-16.

ArtsMatterNI is glad to see that the executive has listened to some of the arguments and responses to the budget consultation and found extra funding for the film exhibition sector and the Ulster Orchestra. DETI has also announced the NITB Events Fund in 15-16 will be partially restored in response to the LightsOut campaign. However these short-term decisions do not address the threat to the long term future of the arts sector given the cuts will be more than 10% in the coming year.

The ArtsMatterNI campaign steering group members have met to review what we can do next? We know that the challenge to convince politicians why the arts matter and at the same time, manage ever decreasing budgets has never been greater. But, we are optimists, determined and creative, and we are working to represent not only arts organisations but artists, colleagues, participants and supporters who together create the real value of the arts.

We have questions around various aspects of this draft budget consultation process and the financial sums involved. This budget doesn’t add up to a strategy that “is dedicated to fully harnessing the transformative power of culture, arts …to deliver wider social and economic change.“

In addition ArtsMatterNI, the arts sector and its supporters are opposed to the proposed changes to arts and culture within the NI Assembly leaked to the press on 21 January 2015. The proposal is to subsume the portfolio of responsibilities of the Department of Culture Arts & Leisure into the Department for Social Development under a new title of Department of Social Welfare, Communities and Sport.

If this proposal goes ahead, NI will be the only part of these islands that is not prioritising culture and arts in its department. GB has a department for ‘Culture, Media & Sport’, Scotland has ‘Arts, Culture and Sport’, Wales has ‘Culture and sport’ and ROI has ‘Arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht’.

The Arts is an industry that provides significant cultural, social and economic benefit. Culture and the arts must be a priority within a government department, its investment priorities and its title.

We see our role, with your support, as working to convince policy-makers and people of influence that the Arts still matter, that the Arts MUST matter, to all of us, in a myriad of ways and settings.

Please continue to use the hash tag #artsmatterni on Facebook and Twitter to show why the arts matter to you.

Thank you