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Cutbacks to the arts remain a key issue in tough seat

By Michael McHugh

Published 20/04/2015

Northern Ireland Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin
Northern Ireland Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin

Keeping theatre prices affordable is unlikely to be a factor for voters in many constituencies in Northern Ireland - but in the leafy suburbs of South Belfast, things could be different.

South Belfast is home to two of Northern Ireland's biggest theatre venues - The Lyric in Stranmillis and the Metropolitan Arts Centre (Mac).

Set in the cobble-stoned Cathedral Quarter, advocates warn that the gleaming new Mac may have to charge three-figure sums for tickets if a public subsidy is removed due to austerity.

Anne McReynolds, the chief executive of the Mac, which sits just inside the city centre part of South Belfast's boundaries, said the cost of tickets could rise to £124 if that funding was removed.

Ali Fitzgibbon, who runs Belfast Children's Festival, said art would always need subsidy.

"If you want it to happen it is a small amount of money, but you are asking for a sustainable (business) model that does not exist.

"There is no core sustainable funding at a realistic level and it is a Sinn Fein minister who is responsible for that."

The Arts Minister is Caral Ni Chuilin, who has implemented savage cuts in her department.

The Kabosh and Tinderbox theatre companies in Belfast said their Arts Council funding was being cut by 44% last month.

And playwright Martin Lynch said his Green Shoot Productions would have to lay off three part-time members of staff after its entire budget of £87,000 was axed.

Belfast Telegraph

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