Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's creative renaissance faces a cuts catastrophe

Claims our reputation as screen innovator is threatened by cuts to the arts budget

By Amanda Ferguson

One of the world's leading creative education figures has warned the proposed cut to the arts budget in Northern Ireland will "cause untold damage".

Sir Ken Robinson has said reduced budgets would see a "tragic reversal" of the progress made by arts programmes here in building an international reputation for excellence.

The Department of Culture Arts and Leisure's draft budget proposal reveals a reduction of 10% to £89.9million.

The department has written to the chief executives of the Arts Council, Libraries NI, National Museums NI and NI Screen among others about the potential impact on services.

Various campaigns aimed at saving the arts have since been launched as the December 29 deadline for submissions to a public consultation looms.

NI Screen has been asked to prepare for its budget next year to be slashed from £1.9m to £1m, which will cause a crisis for the Nerve Centre in Londonderry, Cinemagic, the Belfast Film Festival, the Queen's Film Theatre and CultureTECH, among others.

Sir Ken Robinson, an international adviser on creative and cultural education, warned of the impact this will have.

"Over the last 15 years, Northern Ireland has gained a new reputation around the world as an international centre of creativity and innovation; as such, it is attracting new forms of investment and generating new jobs and opportunities for people of all ages," he said.

"This reputation is especially strong in film, television and digital media.

"The Creative Learning Centres have been at the heart of these developments. And yet, it is now proposed that their relatively modest budgets be cut in half.

"Compared to the savings they would make, these cuts would cause untold damage for the many people, schools and businesses that these centres benefit across Northern Ireland."

In a statement through the Nerve Centre, Sir Ken appealed directly to Stormont politicians.

"For the past 15 years, I have been telling the story around the world of Northern Ireland's creative renaissance and its emergence from a conflicted past into a more collaborative and creative future," he said.

"It's a story about investing in people and their diverse talents; it's about the ability of communities to create their futures with hope and confidence.

"It's a story in Northern Ireland that must be allowed to unfold with the full financial and political investment it actually needs.

"The work of the Creative Learning Centres is vitally important in itself and for how it represents a new vision for Northern Ireland as a whole."

Award-winning children's author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, the creative mind behind last year's City of Culture spectacular in Derry, The Return of Colmcille, echoed Sir Ken's comments.

"Unique education programmes such as the Digital Book of Kells are developing digital literacy and creative skills in children and young people from some of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I fear that the proposed 50% funding cut will have a damaging effect on these communities and leave hundreds of teachers without the hands-on support and expertise that they require."


Sir Ken Robinson is an international leader in the development of creativity and innovation in education. He led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education and was a central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce is an award-winning author and one of the creative minds behind the London 2012 summer Olympics opening ceremony. He was involved in last year's City of Culture outdoor spectacular in Derry, The Return of Colmcille. He also worked with the Nerve Centre on the Digital Book of Kells, an education programme involving 22 primary schools.

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