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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.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
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.