Belfast Telegraph

Groups devastated after Arts Council wields funding axe

By Joanne Sweeney

The publisher of some of Northern Ireland's most critically acclaimed fiction, poetry and history has been left devastated after its funding was axed by the Arts Council.

Blackstaff Press managing editor Patsy Horton said she was still reeling from news of the budget cut.

It is one of six arts groups which had their funding applications reduced to zero after £900,000 was slashed from the Arts Council's budget.

The body announced funding decisions yesterday for 115 groups as it faces a 11% cut to its budget.

Blackstaff, which was formed in 1971, had hoped to get £82,200 for 2015/16.

"We had no indication at all that we should expect a complete withdrawal of funding," said Ms Horton.

"The message I get from the Arts Council is that they don't value literature.

"The question I'm being asked on Twitter is: 'Who now will support Northern Irish writers?'

"We are still absorbing the shock of this decision and cannot yet say with confidence how it will impact on our publishing and outreach programmes."

Blackstaff has been the publishing home of authors as diverse John Hewitt, Paul Durcan, Bernard McLaverty, Glenn Patterson, Ciaran Carson, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Leesa Harker, Tony Macaulay, John Richardson, Tim Brannigan and Tom Hartley.

Green Shoot Productions, led by Belfast playwright Martin Lynch, was also shocked to learn that its £78,000 application had been cut. "People don't realise when they talk about the arts that there are jobs at stake here," he said.

"We're now laying off three part-time people as a result of this.

"The Arts Council, I think, have handled this very badly."

Music Theatre 4 Youth, which has helped stars like Niamh Perry, Jayne Wisener, and Conleth Kane on to the next level in their stage careers, said that it will likely cease operations in April with the loss of its £35,500 core funding.

Two Irish language groups, POBAL and the McCracken Cultural Society, also saw funding axed by £25,905 and £16,490 respectively.

Janet Muller, chief executive of POBAL, said she would be appealing the decision.

Belfast Telegraph


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