The Arts in NI: The Key Facts

Arts and Society – reaching across all levels of society

  • Bringing people and communities closer together
  • Supporting the work of our teachers in the classroom
  • Supporting positive physical and mental health and well-being for all and in particular in our healthcare environments
  • Strengthening the voice of vulnerable people and marginalised communities
  • Creating a place where we all want to live

The Value of the Arts to NI Society

  • 79% of Arts Council investment goes to the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland
  • 53% of the work undertaken by the Arts Council’s Regularly Funded Organisations takes place in Neighbourhood Renewal areas
  • 68% of the work undertaken by the Arts Council’s RFOs is delivered on a cross-community basis
  • 55% of the work undertaken by the Arts Council’s RFOs takes place in hospitals, schools and with community organisations
  • Arts-led community regeneration programmes, such as the ‘Building Peace through the Arts – Re-imaging Communities Programme’ have engaged over 1,500 individuals in arts-based activity, helping local neighbourhoods across NI to tackle sectarianism and racism and find positive ways to express community identity
  • Arts organisations working with young people provide creative learning experiences for children of all abilities, from Early Years on, helping to develop language and communications skills, improve interaction with others, self-expression and the creative skills that will improve social mobility and employability
  • The Arts lead by example when it comes to promoting cultural pluralism, with arts-led initiatives such as the Community Arts Partnership’s PICAS Intercultural Arts Programme designed to increase opportunities for greater engagement between our diverse communities and funding support for minority ethnic arts
  • The ‘Arts and Older People’ programme has been strengthening the voice of older people, promoting active ageing and addressing social issues affecting older people. With over 6,000 participants with many reporting marked decreases in levels of loneliness, boredom and isolation, and improvements to their mental wellbeing, sense of purpose and physical health
  • Organisations such as ArtsCare have been helping to promote the quality of life of patients, their families and the healthcare staff through a range of initiatives, including the Clown Doctors at children’s units in acute hospitals.
  • The Arts & Disability Forum’s Bounce! Arts Festival offers seamless access and reaches both disabled and non-disabled audiences by showcasing excellence from disabled/deaf artists. The Arts & Disability Equality Charter supports and rewards disability access in venues: many now target disabled and deaf people by offering sign language interpretation and/or captioning for deaf audiences, audio description for visually impaired audiences and ‘relaxed’ performances. A range of organisations, including Open Arts and Kids in Control, Stage Beyond and Drake Music specialise in participatory arts with disabled/deaf people.
  • Culture connects people to space. American political theorist, Benjamin R. Barber says, “Cities flourish where art thrives because the arts help create the public space cities need”
  • Arts and Culture are the lens through which we understand the world that we live in. It’s how we connect to our surroundings, our built environment and each other. Without the colour and energy that a vibrant creative sector, our surroundings are merely functional with no identity
  • Great cities are built on the creativity of their population and while a large amount of that creativity can be delivered via the private sector, innovation, training and access for all can only really be delivered with a partnership approach – public and private money working together
  • With modern labour mobility talented people will choose to live in cities with the best cultural offering. In this way a vibrant cultural offering will rejuvenate an entire city and all the industries it houses
  • 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s white paper: A Policy for the Arts – First Steps. The first and, to date, only white paper on the arts, is as relevant today as it was 50 years so. It argued that the arts must occupy a central place in life and be part of everyday life for children and adults. For that to happen, Lee recognised that the arts needed to be embedded in the education system, that they had to be valued as highly as any other industry, that it was crucial that the population had equality of access to the arts wherever they lived, that new ventures needed to be supported as much as established institutions, and that participation was essential. Lee considered the Arts as crucial to our everyday lives and wellbeing as the NHS.

The public support the Arts in Northern Ireland:*

  • 81% of the public believe the Arts enrich the quality of our lives
  • 75% of the public agree that there should be public funding for the Arts
  • The number of adults engaging in the Arts has grown to 79%
  • 70% of people living in the most deprived areas engage in the Arts
  • 96% of young people engage in the Arts
  • 87% of the public appreciate that the Arts attract tourists
  • 52% of disabled people engage in the Arts

The value of the Arts

  • The Arts deliver big returns for our economy and for our society
  • The Arts currently receive just 0.1% of the Northern Ireland budget. It makes no sense to make further cuts to a sector which generates such a high rate of return on its investment
  • Cuts to the Arts budget will result in the contraction of frontline services and reduction of education and outreach programmes
  • The Arts bring people and communities together and make our lives richer. We saw this in action during Derry~Londonderry’s transformation into UK City of Culture 2013
  • Public investment is the key to building confidence and leveraging additional funding from sponsors and private investors
  • The creative sector is one of the fastest growing in the economy, creating economic growth and jobs
  • The Arts support the work of many government partners, helping them to achieve their objectives in regeneration, reconciliation, tourism, creative industries, education and health
  • The Arts distinguish us from other places, make the world talk about us for all the right reasons and raise our global profile as a progressive place that’s ready to compete and do business

Economy and the Arts – providing clear economic benefits:

  • Promoting Northern Ireland as a creative place and a location of choice for international businesses
  • Generating major employment and revenue through the Creative Industries
  • Reviving our towns and cities through the network of venues and our arts-led regeneration programmes, for example ‘Building Peace through the Arts – Re-imaging Communities’ programme
  • Providing one of the main attractions for the tourist industry
  • Here are some of the statistics on the value of the Arts to Northern Ireland’s economy:

Arts Events

  • The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) provides strong evidence in support of the economic impact of the Arts. For example, five of the big arts events of the Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 together produced:
    • £20 return on every £1 invested by NITB
    • £15.5m tourism impact
    • 330,396 visitors
  • The 2012 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s generated:
    • £2m benefit to local businesses
    • £577,180 tourism revenue (including £112,637 accommodation and £464,543 food, drink, transport, shopping)
    • 311 full-time equivalent jobs

Creative Industries

  • Prosperous economies are characterised by a strong creative sector and the creative industries are recognised across the world for their potential for wealth and job creation.
  • They create wealth and jobs through the development of intellectual property and creative content, products, services and experiences.
  • This diverse sector can also stimulate wider innovation across the economy and new ways to add value to other more traditional business sectors such as manufacturing and tourism.
  • In 2012 Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries employed 40,000 people, representing 5% of total employment in Northern Ireland
  • The Creative Industries generated £714m Gross Value Added to the local economy
  • In the UK, 2.62m jobs were in the Creative Economy** in 2013, 1 in 12 UK jobs. The Creative Industries are highly important to the UK economy, supporting employment, generating economic activity and exporting services internationally. It shows that the Creative Industries have been resilient in times of recession and their performance compares favourably with other sectors, delivering continued growth
  • Thousands of NI artists work on a freelance basis, each bringing diverse skills to a number of different organisations, art forms & communities over the course of a year
  • Self-employed artists in NI make, on average, less than £7,500 per year. Freelance contracts are often the most vulnerable when larger organisations face cuts, and investment in grants for individual artists in NI has fallen steadily for the past decade
  • Increasingly, Fewer arts organisations can afford employee benefits such as salary increments, pensions or redundancy — even for high-level permanent staff
  • Public investment in venues and festivals means that established organisations don’t have to rely on artists to provide work for free, and that ticket prices for the public remain affordable while all costs of the event are covered

This evidence contributes to ArtsMatterNI beliefs that:

  • The Arts can bring economic benefits to individuals and communities
  • The Arts is a powerful force for renewal regeneration and sustainability.
  • The Arts raises the profile of Northern Ireland home and abroad, connecting to the world.

Arts Venues

  • Arts venues are helping to regenerate our towns and cities, revive the evening economy, and restore civic pride
  • Arts venues outside of Belfast contribute a total of:
  • £8.2m annual net economic impact
  • The Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry, for example, contributed a net economic impact of £2.8m to the local economy
  • 40% of venue users come from outside the local area
  • In Belfast, 300,000 people visited the new Metropolitan Arts Centre (The MAC) in its opening year, smashing its visitor target by over 75%.

Arts Organisations

  • The Arts Council’s 109 Regularly Funded Organisations provide year-round the full range of professional arts and entertainment services for the public, from carnival and circus skills to theatre and opera
  • Employing 5,108 staff plus 1,835 volunteers
  • Generating income of £48.1m
  • Delivering 24,171 performances, 4,693 participation-based events, 445 exhibitions

* General Population Survey –

** Gov.UK – Official Statistics measuring the contribution made by the Creative Industries to the UK Economy, including Employment, GVA and Exports of Services.