Time to Act… or Sing, or Paint, or Dance…

Fight the Cuts in Arts Funding

In the past number of weeks, we have learnt a lot about the current and future state of the arts in Northern Ireland.

We learned that the DCAL Minister has removed £870,000 from the Arts Council at the same time as saying that she was not asking for any cuts in funding to arts organisations funded by the department.

We learned that she described a fund of £500,000 for “communities” was additional funding she had remarkably conjured up despite the Tories’ austerity cuts.

We also learned that the Minister then explained that she had taken a decision to take away £870,000 from the Arts Council so that she could give it to communities in a way which has not been decided and has no published criteria, so it seems.

But, we do know that the arts organisations and the infrastructure for the arts is threatened like never before with 20% of Exchequer funding for the Arts Council disappearing in 1 year with more presumably set to go next year – if there is an Arts Council once the new Department for Communities comes into being.

And the reaction to this appalling situation? Pretty much nothing. No political outcry. No media indignation. No Arts Council rallying cry. And worst of all, no uproar from the arts sector – just an exhausted and resigned, quiet disgust.

It is abundantly clear that we are being extremely poorly served by the Minister.

The downward trajectory for the arts in Northern Ireland must be stopped before it is too late and we find ourselves waking up in a place with an arts sector consisting of nothing more than bouncy castles and balloon models.

Of course, we must talk to politicians and civil servants to try and get them to understand what is happening. But we believe that it is time for the arts world to make some noise, to bring the gravity of the situation to the attention of the public and at the same time ensure that politicians are fully aware of the situation. We should start taking action, putting our creativity to use to save Northern Ireland from becoming a backwater devoid of artistic freedom and expression.

We need to show what the world will look like with the funding cuts. A 20% reduction in funds would mean losing the last 18 minutes of a 90 minute play; the walls of an art gallery would have blank canvases hanging for 10 weeks each year. Even Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony would lose 5 minutes!

Maybe we need to stage some kind of creative picket outside the Minister’s Constituency Office, or at her places of work.

What action we take is not for any individual to say, so we would like to invite you all to a meeting to brainstorm some ideas and settle on some action if you are fed up with witnessing the incompetent and ineffective mismanagement of the arts funding in Northern Ireland.

If you want to stand up and be counted, then come along to Belfast Circus School, 23 Gordon Street on Friday 16th October at 2pm.

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