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Arts sector's plea to Stormont for £33m lifeline


Deirdre Hargey

Deirdre Hargey

Deirdre Hargey

The arts sector has called for urgent action from the Executive as it still awaits the allocation of a promised £33m in emergency Covid funding.

More than 100 cultural organisations and individuals took part in an online forum involving artists, freelancers, venues and festivals from every part of the industry in an event organised by the Arts Collaboration Network (ACN).

It said there is growing anxiety and frustration expressed at the gap between words and actions when it comes to providing practical and financial support from Stormont.

"This week it has emerged that there is £300m of unallocated funds across the NI Executive, this at a time when many creative individuals and artists are struggling and leading culture organisations face closure, with considerable associated job losses," ACN said.

"This will lead to irreparable damage to our vibrant, creative and unique arts sector."

The organisation has set out five key issues it says need to be addressed in a document, Culture Beyond Covid.

It has been sent to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and other MLAs.

ACN is calling for a commitment to build the sector's infrastructure, capacity and skills so the arts sector survives to play its part in the recovery; and wants to see investment to address the very significant hardship being experienced by artists, creatives and freelancers, many of whom have not benefited from financial support.

In addition, it is calling for a partnership approach to planning a safe reopening of venues; a commitment to increasing the annual arts spending to support renewal, and the establishment of a Northern Ireland Cultural Task Force.

"When we emerge from Covid-19, the arts and cultural sector can help Northern Ireland adapt and grow again," ACN added.

"The arts can play a unique role in breathing new life into our towns and abandoned city centres and in helping our people heal and cope with loss, but only if we survive the pandemic.

"Now is the time for our ministers and Executive to take urgent action to avoid a future in which Northern Ireland becomes a cultural wasteland and our citizens lose out on much that they value."

Belfast Telegraph