| 7.9°C Belfast

Arts Council challenged over attitude to budget cuts

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been urged to state if it is genuinely standing against funding cuts after a controversial speech by its chairman.

Arts Matter NI, a group campaigning to save funding in the face of 8% budget cuts to the sector this year, hit out after Arts Council chairman John Edmund suggested that the creative sector here should be run more like a business.

The consultant marketing professional also appeared to suggest there was a handout culture in Northern Ireland's arts sector.

Last week's speech in Belfast's MAC theatre infuriated many arts groups.

Yesterday Arts Matter NI - a campaign supported by almost 50 groups across the sector - called on the Arts Council to clarify its position on the cuts.

It called for the body to assure artists "that the strongest advocacy messages are being made to maintain investment and indeed to urge greater support for our historically underfunded sector".

It added: "For clarification, may we ask if the membership of the board of the Arts Council unreservedly shares the welcome advocacy message from their executive's budget response as exemplified by the statement: 'The historic pattern of funding cuts threatens the very fabric of our cultural infrastructure and we urge a rethink on further reductions in Arts funding'?"

Mr Edmund had suggested that "business can learn from the arts, but the arts sector has much to learn from business; we need to develop your focus on outcomes, your skills - particularly with regard to planning and performance measurement - and your commercial know-how".

He added: "In Northern Ireland, a weak and unbalanced economy with poor levels of productivity, too many have ruled themselves out of the workforce and a high level of dependency has meant that day to day priorities have not made 'space' for the support needed to enable the arts sector to deliver the contribution to society and the economy of which it is capable."

Last week the Arts Council warned that "reducing an already fragile arts budget would have a devastating impact on our cultural infrastructure".

Belfast Telegraph