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Belfast council weighs in against cuts to Northern Ireland arts funding



Deputy Mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown

Deputy Mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown

Councillor Lee Reynolds

Councillor Lee Reynolds


Deputy Mayor Emmet McDonough-Brown

Belfast City Council has joined in the fight for more money for the arts, in the wake of drastic cuts that have left some groups without any public funding whatsoever.

A motion calling on the council to declare its formal support for the Arts Matter NI campaign, which fights for equality in arts funding with the rest of the UK and Ireland, was unanimously passed at City Hall on Monday night.

Last month the Arts Council for Northern Ireland announced its funding for 2018/19 would total £13.1m, an annual reduction of 4.7%. This would see less cash going to 43 out of 100 publicly-funded organisations, many of which need the money to survive, and leave seven groups completely cut off.

The Alliance Party's Emmet McDonough-Brown had originally tabled the motion. However, representatives from the DUP and UUP said there could be a conflict of interest as the new Deputy Lord Mayor's mother is chief executive of the Arts Council.

The motion was instead proposed by Alliance group leader Michael Long, who said it was imperative the council does all it can to ensure the arts in Northern Ireland can not only survive, but thrive.

DUP council group leader Lee Reynolds said his party would be happy to support the motion, referencing Belfast's growing film industry as one success story. SDLP representative Donal Lyons said it was long overdue that we "recognised the creativity of our city" and its value to our culture, on both sides of the community.

Monday night's motion also asked the council to send an all-party delegation to Stormont's Department for Communities, where overall arts and culture decisions are made, to "demand more funds for the arts".

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The full motion reads: "This council asserts the value of the arts in our everyday lives, including our wellbeing, education, inclusion as well as our creative and evening economy and our tourism offering. Accordingly, the council extends its formal support to the Arts Matter NI campaign for equal funding and agrees that an all-party delegation meet the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities to demand more funds for the arts."

In May, Arts Matter NI led a debate between representatives from 60 arts organisations over the cuts that they say could "kill the arts" here. The debate was held in Belfast's Grand Opera House, which has seen its public funding slashed by more than £100,000 this year.

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