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Arts sector fears curtain will come down on funding

The people behind two landmark arts venues in Northern Ireland have said the major projects will not be threatened by Government cuts but have voiced fears over future funding.

They insist that the development of the new Lyric Theatre and the Metropolitan Art Centre (Mac), both in Belfast, will go ahead unaffected by budget cuts.

The organisations have, however, admitted to a growing “fear” within the arts community at future revenue being slashed.

The comments come after last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement.

The Arts Council England (Ace) has had its budget cut by 29.6%, a cut in real terms to its annual budge from £449.5m in this financial year to £349m by 2014.

This has led to concerns that tight budgets would result in a loss of jobs or axing of arts projects and groups in Northern Ireland.

Anne McReynolds, chief executive of The Mac, said it was “very concerned” about the arts sector.

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“If you were to choose the ideal time to be building, creating The Mac, this wouldn’t be it, but this is where we are,” she said. “But it is inconceivable to think the funders would not protect their capital investment.”

She said: “It is unthinkable that having significantly invested in the capital for the project that they wouldn’t then subsequently protect their capital investment by ensuring that it is adequately resourced so it could run.”

Lyric Theatre chief executive Ciaran McAuley said there is “fear” within arts community.

“It’s difficult to tell at this stage what the practical implications of the cuts will be. I think our concern would be generally as the whole of arts funding being cut.

“There is a fear, the same as any industry but there is a fear in the arts generally that these cuts will have significant impact on jobs. But that said, we will continue— and we have to continue— to create great work.”

Mac chairman Joris Minne said maintaining future funding will be tough.

“There is no way we can argue that an arts centre is more important in the immediate term than a proper mental health strategy,” he said. “It will be difficult but we succeeded in getting £17.5m capital, we will also succeed in getting the right revenue funding.”

Belfast Telegraph arts critic Grania McFadden said arts companies and organisations face a tough time in Northern Ireland.

“My concern is that over the last few years we had been struggling to get venues,” she said.

“In two years or so we will have two fantastic venues, but will there be the money to attract shows or the exhibitions to fill them?”

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