As you are no doubt aware, the arts and cultural sector in Northern Ireland faces a financially precarious future as a result of recent and forthcoming cuts to public investment.
The next eighteen months will be a turbulent period with difficult budgetary decisions to be made, a political impasse within the devolved assembly, looming uncertainty from the restructuring of local authorities and the 2015 general election. However, the overall Exchequer budget for the arts has been falling in actual and real terms for over a decade, and per capita spending on the arts is lower in Northern Ireland than in any other part of these islands. This despite stated Assembly priorities on education, community development, tourism and economic regeneration, all of which reference arts, culture and creativity. Investment in our sector deserves to be protected from further – and potentially devastating – cuts.
Since mid-September, arts organisations both large and small have engaged in public conversations about the funding situation. These meetings have resulted in a consensus: The best way we can ensure that our voices are heard in this debate is for the sector to adopt a collective, representative and professional voice. The key way put forward to achieve this was to follow the suit of similar sectors and secure the services of a professional lobbying organisation to help coordinate and advise us on an independent sustained lobbying and advocacy campaign on the single agenda of increased investment in the arts.