Belfast Telegraph

Culture events back on as £1m fund is restored

By Amanda Ferguson

Three of Belfast's most popular arts events are breathing a sign of relief after a crucial £1m funding pot was reinstated.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster was praised yesterday after she lifted the axe from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Tourism Events Scheme.

Its withdrawal had threatened to put an end to events such as Culture Night, Cathedral Quarter Festival and the Out to Lunch Festival.

Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir took to social media - where campaigns urging support against cuts to cultural events were harnessed - to praise the minister.

"Good work Minister Foster on restoring a £1m events fund but we need bigger mainstreamed annual events kitty," he wrote on Twitter.

The DUP minister set out the way ahead for NITB and broader tourism structures following the Hunter Review, which contains 33 recommendations. "International events such as Tall Ships and Giro d'Italia attract large numbers of visitors and spectators and showcase us on a global stage. However, smaller events and festivals also play their part adding to the vibrancy and cultural life of Northern Ireland," she said.

"The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is currently working up the detail, however I expect them to open both the International and the National Events Fund in early February and would encourage all tourism events to start developing their applications and proposals for submission to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board."

Last night, Adam Turkington from Culture Night - which should take place in Belfast on September 18 - said the team was thrilled it could apply for £30,000 of funding from the national fund next month, but warned cuts to the arts elsewhere meant this year's offering could be impacted.

"At least there won't be a 100% cut to that income stream, which would have been devastating," he said.

"It is exciting that online campaigns against cuts seem to have had an effect, but this decision comes on the back of pretty devasting cuts to the arts sector.

"We are a platform event, so if organisations go to the wall it doesn't matter how much money Culture Night gets."

The Finance Minister's budget for 2015/16 revealed that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will be allocated £91.7m, down 8.7% from £99m, rather than the previous proposed reduction of 10%.

Roisin McDonough from the Arts Council had said it "sets spending on the arts back by a decade" and colleague Damian Smyth said the decision not to find £1.38m for the arts "seems close to hostility".

Story so far

Late last year, DETI Minister Arlene Foster said the NITB Tourism Events Scheme would not go ahead in 2015.This decision placed a number of events such as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Out to Lunch Festival and Culture Night in jeopardy. £1m has now been secured. Culture Night Belfast shared the news on Twitter. "So the great news today is the NITB events fund has been restored. Now all we have to do is successfully apply to it and a few others :)"

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