Belfast Telegraph

UUP paper details plan to return stability to arts sector

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland councils could play a key role in boosting the arts, the Ulster Unionist Party has proposed.

A policy paper flags up the danger of the arts becoming "lost" in the new Stormont Department of Communities.

With the current Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure being scrapped from May, "it is not difficult to see why there could be an anxiety over the future positioning of the arts within the department," the party warned.

"It is important that the arts are not lost as a much broader and more diverse set of policies are subsumed into one department," the UUP's blueprint - the latest in a series including health and education - argued.

Instead, the party proposed "greater cohesion and integration" in the arts through partnerships between the new department and local government administrations using their community planning functions.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "The explosion of the creative industries in Northern Ireland has scratched at the surface of the abilities of people in this field.

"It would seem a total contradiction that at a time when multimillion-pound production companies are recognising the potential of Northern Ireland, the Executive would not be investing for the future by supporting excellence in the local arts sector."

The UUP said it wanted to develop a 10-year "strategy for excellence" challenging the arts sector, the creative industries, universities, FE colleges and business to plan to put the region "on the world stage".

Mr Nesbitt said the outgoing Assembly saw a period of instability in the Arts Council Budget, with reductions that caused great stress in the sector.

"We recognise the pressures our economy is experiencing, but we also recognise that we cannot starve the arts," he added.

"The current short lifetime of grants needs a rethink in the next mandate.

"The aim should be to put in place a model that will allow the sector to be given a clearer picture of what they have to work with over a number of years.

"The nature of having to survive hand to mouth limits the ability of the sector to think strategically, retain essential staff and build confidence in the future.

"The next Executive must seek to give stability back to the sector," the UUP document concluded.

Belfast Telegraph


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