from the Arts Collaboration Network
Arts and Culture sector call for urgent and immediate action from NI Executive
100 arts organisations and individuals took part last week in an online meeting
of artists, freelancers, venues and festivals from every part of the arts and
culture sector organised by the Arts Collaboration Network (ACN). Representatives from the Arts Collaboration
Network said there is growing anxiety and frustration expressed at the second
Big Gathering on 21 January 2021, at the gap between words and actions when it
comes to providing practical and financial support.
ACN is now
calling on the NI Executive to take urgent action to protect the sector from
the impact of ongoing Covid restrictions.
an informal network of cultural organisations and individuals across NI, has
set out five key issues which need to be addressed in ‘Culture Beyond Covid’ a
document sent to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and other MLAs. The paper
sets out 5 keys asks which are:
- Building the sector’s infrastructure, capacity and skills so the arts
sector survives to play its part in NI’s recovery.
- Investment to address the very
significant hardship being experienced by artists, creatives and freelancers
many of whom have not benefited from financial support to date
- A partnership approach to planning a safe re opening of venues
- A commitment to increasing the annual arts spending to support the
renewal of the sector
- Establishment of a Northern Ireland Cultural Task Force
and culture sector welcomed the Executive’s allocation of £33m to support the
arts and heritage sectors. However, in many cases that financial support has
still not reached the numerous arts organisations and individuals who so
urgently need it, with funding decisions not due until later this month.
The current situation is that those monies will then need to be spent before
the end of March unless that budgetary restriction is lifted.
it has emerged that there is £300m of unallocated funds across the NI
Executive. This, at a time when many creative individuals and artists are
struggling to feed themselves and their families; and the end of the CRJIS
scheme could mean leading culture organizations face closure in the coming
weeks and months, with considerable associated job losses. This will lead to
irreparable damage to Northern Ireland’s vibrant, creative and unique arts
appealing to the Executive and to the Assembly to translate the vocal support
of Ministers, MLAs and civil servants into immediate action. Other regions
throughout these islands are planning for long-term cultural renewal and have
established Taskforces to map out a post-Covid strategy for the arts. As yet
there is no such Taskforce in Northern Ireland and no plans to create one.
There is no proactive planning in place to look at the safe reopening of our
venues or for the return of live theatre and music. At a time when politicians
across the spectrum express support for the sector, there is only a fleeting
mention of the arts and culture in the just published draft Programme for
beginning of this crisis arts organisations have responded with imagination and
creativity and continue to provide much needed support and respite in
innovative ways for people of all ages and backgrounds from across NI and
and culture sector plays a vital role in driving our economy and is an integral
pillar of society; directly employing thousands of people and supporting tens
of thousands others indirectly and attracting local and global tourists. Research has demonstrated the value the arts
play in protecting and enhancing the mental wellbeing of our citizens and the
public are missing live events, cultural activity and all the benefits these
bring. Unfortunately, the vocal support
from our politicians and civil servants has not translated into commensurate
levels of financial assistance. The pandemic has been a body blow to an arts
sector that has already been ravaged by years of cuts.
emerge from Covid-19, the arts and cultural sector can help Northern Ireland
adapt and grow again. The arts can play a unique role in breathing new life
into our towns and abandoned city centres; in helping our people heal and cope
with loss but only if we survive the pandemic intact.
Now is the
time for our Ministers and Executive to take urgent action to avoid a future in
which Northern Ireland becomes a cultural wasteland and our citizens lose out
on much that they value.
The Arts Collaboration Network is an informal network
of the main sector support organisations and a number of creative hubs across
Northern Ireland. The people involved are Margaret Henry, Thrive Audience
Development, Niamh Flanagan, Theatre and Dance NI, Mary Nagele, Arts &
Business NI, Rob Hilken & Noel Kelly, Visual Artists Ireland, Kevin Murphy,
Voluntary Arts Ireland, Katherine McDonald, Craft NI, Charlotte Dryden, Oh
Yeah, Sarah Jones, Creative & Cultural Skills, Peter Richards, Golden Thread
Gallery/Chair Belfast Visual Arts Forum, Sophie Hayles, Crescent Arts Centre,
Cath McBride In Your Space Circus / Chair: DCSDC Arts & Cultural Strategy,
Co-Delivery Group, Anne McReynolds and Maeve Hawkins, The MAC, Damien Coyle,
University of Atypical and Jenna Hall, Belfast Community Circus School/Co-Chair
Belfast Festivals Forum.