Belfast Telegraph

Danny Boyle and Ray Winstone back campaign to save the Foyle Film Festival and the Nerve Centre from art budget cuts

 “I cannot over-emphasise the importance of festivals in general, and Foyle Film Festival in particular, in providing a platform for independent films dealing with subjects outside of mainstream cinema,” Ray Winstone said.

By Amanda Ferguson

Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and celebrated actor Ray Winstone are backing the campaign against proposed cuts to the Foyle Film Festival and the Nerve Centre’s film education programmes.

This comes after the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure asked Northern Ireland Screen to prepare for its budget to be slashed by almost 50% from £1.9m to £1m.

Danny Boyle, known for movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later, said: “Trainspotting had its first ever public screening at the Foyle Film Festival in Derry~Londonderry 18 years ago and throughout those years film has played an important role in the transformation of the city.

"Once the subject of heart-rending tragedies, Derry is now the shining host for cinema from around the world and for the promotion of local talent in the film industry.”

Ray Winstone, whose work includes The Departed, Nil by Mouth, Sexy Beast and Scum, has also backed the Nerve Centre’s campaign against the cuts.

 “I cannot over-emphasise the importance of festivals in general, and Foyle Film Festival in particular, in providing a platform for independent films dealing with subjects outside of mainstream cinema,” he said.

“I had the huge honour of launching the Foyle Film Festival in 2012 with Ashes, the first time the film had been shown on the big screen. Without the Foyle Film Festival, Ashes would not have received that platform or the exposure thereafter.

“I also appreciated the opportunity to connect with the audience in a post-screening discussion, and was delighted to be able to pass on my own experiences working in the film industry.

"For someone who has come from a working class background, it was very rewarding to be given the opportunity to hopefully inspire others in the same position to strive to achieve their dreams and ambitions.”

The Foyle Film Festival is one of a small number worldwide whose winners are recognised by the Academy Awards panel..

This means that films that win at Foyle Film Festival can go on to win an Oscar.

Past Oscar winners to have qualified at Foyle include Terry George for The Shore (2012) and Martin McDonagh for Six Shooter (2006).

Last year’s winner of Best Irish Short Film at Foyle Film Festival, SLR, made it on to the shortlist for best live-action short at the 2015 Academy Awards.

SLR’s director Stephen Fingleton, who was born in Derry and raised in Enniskillen, is also backing the campaign to save the arts.

“The proposed cuts would have a devastating impact on many important educational, training and cultural schemes that are essential to supporting the creative industries," he said.

“My short film SLR screened at the Foyle Film Festival and as a result has been shortlisted for an Oscar. It would never have achieved this without Foyle's support.”

The Nerve Centre’s work in the area of creative learning and film education reached on over 30,000 people last year, including many from disadvantaged communities.

“When I was growing up I had nowhere to train and was forced to move to England to study – without the Nerve Centre, young people will have to leave the country to study or worse will never be inspired to pursue a career in the arts," Mr Fingleton added.

“The arts generate a huge amount of revenue through bringing in investment – do we really want Northern Irish people simply making the catering and carrying the cameras for foreign crews, or do we want them leading productions and bringing investment that would never have come here in the first place?”

The Nerve Centre is asking the public to to send objections to the budget cut via www.nervecentre.org or direct to DCAL on budgetconsultation@dcalni.gov.uk

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