Belfast Telegraph

Arts groups left ‘resigned and frustrated’ over 4.7% funds cut

By Allan Preston

Arts organisations in Northern Ireland are facing the future with a mixture of "fear and resignation", campaigners have said.

Earlier this month, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland announced funding of £13.1m for the sector in 2018/19 - a cut of 4.7%.

There were reductions for 43 out of 100 groups which rely heavily on the funding, with seven having their Arts Council money withdrawn completely.

Conor Shields of the campaign group Arts Matter NI said he expected "further casualties" next year.

"There's anger and frustration in the arts sector. The 4.7% cuts are disproportionate to other sectors," he said.

"We recognise the Arts Council's hands were tied in that they had to make cuts, but the way they have done this has left people uncertain as to what the strategy is and where it will go over the next two years."

He said this had shaken the creative sector.

"There's fear, uncertainty and a certain level of resignation as well," he said. "But this has caused massive mobilisation and effort to try and challenge them.

"We're insisting that if you want a proper arts offering in Northern Ireland, we need parity of funding with the rest of these islands where we've fallen so far behind."

Mr Shields said those already sidelined from accessing the arts would have even less chance going forward.

"We have one in four children and pensioners from Northern Ireland living in absolute poverty, their opportunities have just taken another hammering," he said.

"Our taxpayers have the least opportunity of any in these islands to access arts activity.

"We lost seven organisations this year to annual funding, chances are they won't be funded next year and there may be further casualties.

"At this rate, we'll lose another £1m next year if this isn't challenged and turned around for what passes to be government here."

The Arts Council explained at the time that the cuts followed a pattern of successive reductions of £23m in public funding over the last six years, but that 57 of the 100 organisations offered annual funding received an increase or standstill funding.

Belfast Telegraph

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