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Personal stories: Conor Shields on why the arts must be protected from cuts

'The impact on the lives of many is invaluable'

Conor is the chief executive of the Community Arts Partnership.

"For the last 15 years, I've been working almost exclusively with schools and community groups right across Northern Ireland through Community Arts Partnership.

"The arts matter to people here. For communities marginalised through social or economic circumstances, getting the chance to really make something, and be supported by actual artists, has an incredible impact.

"On a weekly basis, I get feedback from teachers or group leaders saying just how a group member has blossomed through participating or a child has developed new confidence.

"I've programmed workshops and facilitated projects in theatres, prisons, schools and community centres.

"The Community Arts Partnership supports participants to get involved in all the creative decisions in any project and get to actually make their own mark with a film, a song, a poem, sculpture or whatever. We enable people to be artists.

"When we make something original, we say something very powerful about ourselves. We say we can change things, we contribute, and our thoughts and imaginations matter.

"It is incredibly frustrating that so much good work and so many opportunities to help people achieve their creative potential are under threat through cuts. For the little the arts budget costs government, the impact on the lives of so many, who wouldn't otherwise get the chance, is invaluable."

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