Arts Matter NI Statement on the projected arts cuts

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Arts Matter NI, as the sector-wide campaign to save arts funding, held a sectoral meeting on 18th January in NICVA and now wishes to make this statement as a reflection of that event.


There comes a time in the ancient lingering execution lingchi, or Death by a Thousand Cuts, when the prisoner begs for the final stroke to end the torture. The only good news is that today as an arts sector, we find ourselves in January – not April and there is renewed optimism that our politicians may return to government and undo egregious cuts to the smallest budget that effects the most citizens – the arts.

The most recent N. Ireland Statistics and Research Agency report states that 91% of our population participate in the arts, that’s a staggering 1,680,000 local citizens who enjoy the cultural offering in theatres and venues, community spaces and schools, hospitals and homes. From the organisations who choose to locate their businesses here, to the tourists who come in their droves, it is the promise of vibrant, cultural colour that enhances and attracts. But these promises may soon be broken as the sector reels from the third significant cut in as many years to the Annual Funding Programme (AFP) from our principal funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI).

This cut is likely to be in the order of over 8%. The AFP and the over 100 key organisations that it supports, in turn represent the essential ecology of the arts in Northern Ireland. It is the bedrock upon which the stewardship of the arts locally is built – supporting everything from orchestras and operas, international festivals to community celebrations and workshops for the vulnerable and disabled, embracing creative, commercial and social entrepreneurs and almost every citizen. Historically underfunded for years, it has nonetheless given core support to a diverse, dynamic and multi-disciplined arts sector.

Despite the concerns of the ACNI and its promises of careful management of severely depleted funding, that arm’s length body will have little choice but to slice again into the essential ecology that has struggled to enable artists and arts organisations to perform, entertain, facilitate, educate, celebrate, produce and publish for years. For some however, further torturous slashing of their budgets may signal the final blow.

On the basis of an 8% reduction, exchequer investment in the arts here will plummet further. Colleagues elsewhere in Wales and the Republic of Ireland currently receive, per capita per year, £10.03 and £12.79, respectively, where ours’ would struggle to even reach £5.

Despite the UK Treasury announcement last year that Northern Ireland would get an additional £650 million over the next three years, of that £120 million toward day to day expenditure, not a penny extra has come to the smallest and most vulnerable budget, the arts sector.

We have all read the headlines of over £1 billion extra coming, with money being made available now. And despite the Confidence and Supply arrangements promising additional monies to assist with areas that the arts serve and support like ‘Health Transformation’ and ‘Mental Health’, the arts are to be cut.

And furthermore, despite executive departments in Northern Ireland bidding in the monitoring rounds last October and often successfully finding additional resources to support beleaguered services, the Department for Communities did not – instead it modelled cuts that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is now indicatively projecting at 8%.

We know there is some £19 million sitting, waiting to be deployed from a Community Finance Fund, coming from monies recovered from dormant bank accounts. Over £350m has been spent elsewhere in UK – not a penny here due in part to the suspension of our Assembly.

Without a change to this newly projected reduced budget, it means what stands for our local administration will provide every citizen, every day with just over 1p to enable their access to participate in arts and creativity or 0.07% of all DEL Resources.

Put another way, for every £100 spent, just 7p will go to the arts. If this were to rise by just a penny, the additional £1.5 m would go a long way to secure 5,500 jobs in a sector that reaches every nook and cranny of the country and touches the lives of 91% of the population.

We reject these cuts and instead ask for additional investment, at the very least, a penny a day extra for everyone, so that creativity and the enabling culture of hope that it provides, can offer residents and visitors with a reflection of the best of ourselves.

We ask for a strategy that consults and adequately projects the true resource needs of the arts and cultural sector be developed.

We urge the new Secretary of State, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, to alter these determinations, meet with our representatives and explore ways to support our sector.

We urge David Sterling, Head of the NI Civil Service and Leo O’Reilly, Permanent Secretary of Dept for Communities, to consult with us and develop strategies to properly invest in the creative future of Northern Ireland.

We urge our politicians to recognise the incredible value for money that the arts provide locally and the spectrum of services and supports offered in each and every constituency here.

We urge all colleagues in the arts to actively support this campaign and lobby and advocate at every opportunity to see these proposed cuts reversed and long term investment secured.

And we urge the public to support our campaign to provide adequate access for all sections of our community to enjoy the benefits of the arts.

The Arts Matter here… to everyone.

The following AFP (annually funded programme) organisations endorse this statement:

  1. Aisling Ghear Theatre Company
  2. All Set Cross Cultural Project
  3. An Droichead
  4. Andersonstown Music School
  5. Array Studios
  6. Arts & Business Northern Ireland
  7. Arts and Disability Forum
  8. Arts for All
  9. ArtsEkta
  10. Beat Carnival
  11. Belfast Community Circus School
  12. Belfast Exposed Photography
  13. Belfast International Arts Festival
  14. Belfast Music Society
  15. Belfast Print Workshop
  16. BelfastTrad
  17. Big Telly Theatre Company
  18. Bruiser Theatre Company
  19. Cahoots NI Ltd
  20. Catalyst Arts
  21. Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
  22. Centre for Contemporary Art
  23. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
  24. Community Arts Partnership
  25. Craft and Design Collective
  26. Craft Northern Ireland
  27. Creative Exchange
  28. Crescent Arts Centre
  29. Culturlann McAdam O Fiaich
  30. Dance Resource Base (NI) Ltd
  31. Digital Arts Studios
  32. Down Community Arts Ltd
  33. Du Dance
  34. Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre
  35. Dumbworld Ltd
  36. East Side Arts
  37. Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company
  38. Féile an Phobail
  39. Flax Art / Orchid Studios
  40. Glasgowbury
  41. Golden Thread Gallery
  42. Greater Shantallow Community Arts / Studio 2 Derry
  43. In Your Space (NI) Ltd
  44. Irish Pages: A Journal of Contemporary Writing
  45. Kabosh Theatre Ltd
  46. Kids in Control
  47. Maiden Voyage (NI) Ltd
  48. Moving on Music
  49. New Lodge Arts
  50. Northern Visions Ltd
  51. Oh Yeah Music Centre
  52. Open Arts
  53. Open House Traditional Arts Festival Ltd
  54. Panarts
  55. Paragon Studios / PS²
  56. Photo Works North/Source Photographic Magazine
  57. PLACE
  58. Play Resource Warehouse
  59. Portadown 2000 (Millennium Court Arts Centre)
  60. QSS @ Bedford Street
  61. Replay Productions Ltd
  62. Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association
  63. Sole Purpose Productions
  64. Spanner in the Works
  65. Sticky Fingers Arts
  66. Streetwise Community Circus
  67. Terra Nova Productions
  68. Tinderbox Theatre
  69. Thrive Audience Development (NI) Services Ltd
  70. The Armagh Rhymers
  71. The Black Box Trust
  72. The John Hewitt Society
  73. The Lyric Theatre (NI)
  74. The MAC
  75. TheatreNI
  76. Ulster Youth Choir
  77. Ulster Youth Orchestra
  78. Voluntary Arts Network
  79. Walled City Music Trust
  80. Waterside Theatre Company Ltd
  81. Wheelworks
  82. Young at Art
  83. Visual Artists Ireland