Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Arts funding can't chop and change

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland caught arts groups on the hop again last night by restoring most of the grand aid which he had so summarily axed at the start of the month without any consultation.

Obviously the £250,000 lifeline thrown to the small arts groups in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter is very welcome, and will enable the groups to put on their planned events.

Even more importantly, it will give them time to source alternative funding for the future.

For Mr McCausland warned that the funding is for the coming year only and that arts groups will have to lessen their dependence on the public purse.

This is a strange way for Stormont to do business. One week there is no funding for arts groups, the next it is restored but with a health warning.

Arts groups can well wonder how they are supposed to plan ahead when there are no financial guarantees.

And performers who would want to come here could well look at other destinations if they suspect that the group hiring them for an event may not be solvent by the time that it comes around.

The festivals for which the Cathedral Quarter has built a glowing reputation don't just happen - they are the product of many months of planning - yet the organisers have to press ahead with fingers crossed.

The groups who faced having their funding axed are small, but they have a wide outreach and a populist appeal.

They draw crowds into the city centre even in the darkest dimmest winter days, boosting the economy and restoring the reputation of a city which has seen its own dark days not so long ago.

While there is appreciation of a dwindling public purse, the arts should not be seen as something tacked onto the end of budgets in good times, but rather as an essential part of the fabric of society and deserving of well planned resources.

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