When something is right, it shouldn’t have to be shouted. It can even be whispered
I enjoy a noisy gathering as much as the next person, in fact I enjoy noisy gatherings more than most people if I’m honest, but there are times when it pains me that noisy gatherings have to happen to actually make people listen, when it is their job to listen and act upon what they hear.
When something is right, it shouldn’t have to be shouted. It can even be whispered.
Right is right, regardless of volume. Unfortunately such things are easily ignored on The Hill.
What I am referring to is a demonstration tomorrow at Stormont opposing the recent, ongoing and undoubtedly future cuts to the arts in Northern Ireland.
The dismantling of the creative industries and the wilful destruction of an important asset that they know little to nothing about.
Yes, I know it’s something I bleat on about a lot, but hear me out and I’ll get back to poking fun at stuff later.
The plan is to gather at the steps of Stormont and make lots of noise and be colourful and just unite in showing those inside that art is the colour of any society.
Which it is. I mean if you remember Belfast in the 70s and 80s, the place looked like an industrial estate. It closed at 5pm and you couldn’t get on the swings on a Sunday.
Now, there may be aspects of the arts that you don’t necessarily have any time for; there are things I don’t have much time for, if I’m honest. Stiltwalkers for one, mimes, interpretive dance, jugglers, comedy that is reliant on archaic sectarian themes or misogyny.
But that’s my personal taste. It doesn’t do much for me, but I wouldn’t want to get rid of it. It’s not my right to do that, I just don’t have to support it.
There are other things that absolutely light me up, inspire me and make me realise just what a creative force we have here.
What annoys me is when politicians, who rarely if ever see the inside of a gallery or theatre or even go see public art, try to suggest the arts is by the middle classes for the middle classes.
See, that is a nonsense. Utter dismissive, shortsighted erroneous nonsense. I grew up in North Belfast with not a lot of money coming through the house and as I grew up most of the people I became friends with were into art/music/film/theatre as well and none of us had any money to make any serious career out of it, fearful that it wouldn’t pay us enough of what was regarded as a “living wage”.
Now there’s a phrase that is rarely used now, because there are a lot of people living below “living wage” standard. I know this.
Anyone I know that has made any serious success of the arts either commercially and artistically, has done so through natural talent and hard graft.
I know a few heads whose daily work routine would astonish you. I couldn’t do it and I doubt many of you reading this could either. I know it isn’t exactly doing a double shift as a nurse in A & E or running into a burning building to save lives but not everyone is good enough to be a nurse or a firefighter, their skills lie elsewhere. It doesn’t make them any less of a worker.
See, my point is, these things are thrown up in response anytime the subject of arts cuts comes up. “Well, it’s not exactly saving lives is it?” was an argument put to me recently on the subject of the cuts. I disagree. it can and it often does. Underestimating and belittling self-expression is an irresponsible stance to take.
I’ve seen how the arts has benefitted people, helped them find some sort of voice, be it through music, painting, acting, just something to get it out there, to lift some weight.
The protest tomorrow isn’t just a bunch of dreadlocked kale-eating Trustafarians banging homemade organic drums. No harm to such types but they give me a dry boke.
Apologies if that sounds unkind. Those in opposition to the arts love painting such people as your typical art lover. Painting cliches….like I just did. Not good, is it?
Tomorrow there will be people who make art and people who have been positively affected by it. The suggestion has been made that money can be better spent in communities.
Few can argue with that, we have some of the most deprived communities in the UK in our country, but that also suggests those in the arts are in an ivory tower making art for other ivory tower dwellers. Again, not true.
That probably does happen in a tiny tiny minority of cases, but I have no time for them either and neither should you
Ask any artist, musician, performer here what they do for communities and they will be able to tell you. Because everyone does. The outreach programmes within the arts here are extremely impressive and I’ve seen the results.
Drama productions with a cast of people with learning difficulties, music and storytelling sessions for older people, workshops for people with dementia. All of those people will be represented and the people who work tirelessly with them.
Ask any artist here about what they got out of working with community groups and they will tell you. It is a two-way street, it’s not a trickle down. They actually listen.
How many times can we say that about our elected representatives?
Time we stopped spending money indulging protests centred around sectarianism and time we put it to better use.
There are some here who can only see three colours. Time to show them there are more out there. Loudly. Tomorrow, steps of Stormont, 1pm.