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Northern Irish arts organisations warn of ‘death by a thousand cuts’

A supporter of #artsmatterNI. Photo: Richard Lavery A supporter of #artsmatterNI. Photo: Richard Lavery
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Arts organisations in Northern Ireland have launched a campaign calling for greater public support for the arts. They warned of “death by a thousand cuts” if a proposed 8% reduction in funding goes ahead.

Eight of the region’s most prominent arts organisations – including Belfast’s Grand Opera House and the Metropolitan Arts Centre – have signed up to the #ArtsMatterNI campaign. A further 36 organisations have also registered as campaign supporters.

Alarm has been mounting since it emerged that grant-aid could fall by 8% or more in 2018/19. Grant-aid is provided by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s annual funding programme.

The move would deepen funding woes in the region. Public spending on the arts has fallen in each of the last 11 years and reduced by more than a quarter since 2015.

A statement by the campaign group, headed Red Alert: State of Emergency, points to the failure of the Department for Communities to argue for greater support for the arts.

“On the basis of an 8% reduction, exchequer investment in the arts will plummet. Colleagues elsewhere in Wales and the Republic of Ireland receive, per capita per year, £10.03 and £12.79, respectively. [Northern Ireland’s] would struggle to even reach £5”, it claims.

Calling for the proposed cuts to be reversed, the campaign adds: “For every £100 [of public money] spent, 7p will go to the arts. If this were to rise by a penny, the additional £1.5 million would go a long way to secure 5,500 jobs. The sector reaches every nook and cranny of the country and touches the lives of 91% of the population”.

It called for meetings with the incoming secretary of state and former culture secretary Karen Bradley, as well as politicians and civil servants. It also hopes to “develop strategies to invest in the creative future of Northern Ireland”.

In January, the Mac and the Ulster Orchestra shared emergency funding of £625,000 to enable them to continue operating until the end of the present financial year.

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