Belfast Telegraph

Pianist Barry Douglas makes his point over Stormont cuts to arts

By Harriet Crawford

World-famous classical pianist and conductor Barry Douglas has joined the star line-up calling on Stormont to save our arts.

He is the latest celebrity to back the Arts Council Northern Ireland's No More Cuts To The Arts campaign.

The Camerata Ireland director highlighted the contribution the arts make to life in Northern Ireland: "The value of arts in society is enormous and it means a lot of jobs, it means social cohesion, it means education," he said.

"We can't turn our back on the arts, we have to keep funding them at a consistent level.

"All it costs is 13 pence per person per week to fund the arts here in Northern Ireland.

"Let's do it."

The Belfast-born musician joins a string of international celebrities including James Nesbitt, Stephen Rea and 'Rocky' actress Geraldine Hughes, who have made personal pleas to Stormont to maintain the current level of arts provision. Other high-profile people to have come out in support of the campaign this week include writers Carlos Gebler, Owen McCafferty and Martin Lynch, and singer-songwriter Gareth Dunlop.

In a letter submitted to the Northern Ireland Executive in response to its draft budget, west Belfast born actress Geraldine Hughes, who appeared alongside Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, wrote: "A wise person once said: 'Economics are how we live and the arts are WHY we live'.

"I am writing to you as a concerned artist, who was born and raised in Northern Ireland.

Without access to the arts, I may not have survived, never mind thrived in this life.

"It is an extremely important part of our society and without it we wouldn't have the enormously successful Game Of Thrones for example, which is a huge source of revenue for Northern Ireland at the moment and for years to come.

"Do not underestimate the need for this to remain a crucial part of the budget.

"It is a tiny fraction that cannot afford to be cut any further.

"The repercussions of that would be just devastating."

Factfile

Proposed cuts to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure budget for the next financial year would translate as an 11.2% reduction in direct public funding for the arts, according to the Arts Council Northern Ireland.

The Executive currently invests 13p per person, per week in direct funding for the arts.

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