IT is with despair, sadness and shame that I learn that the Assembly plans to cut the budget for the arts.
Despair and sadness that, after all this time of the arts proving their worth and positive contribution, the Assembly has chosen to devalue the arts by imposing cuts in a traditionally underfunded sector. I am of that older generation who remember the arts having little impact, or presence, for the majority of people in Northern Ireland, whereas today the arts have made great strides to be inclusive, accessible and enjoyed by everyone.
Shame that the Assembly perpetuates a funding situation where many arts groups and arts activities would disappear if it were not for funds derived through gambling via the Lottery and drink through sponsorship.
Northern Ireland per head of population lags well behind the UK and Ireland when it comes to public funding of the arts. Government reports have time and again stated that the arts are positive contributors to health, the economy, tourism and the creative industries (I would also add that the arts and creativity bring joy).
For our younger generation, underpinning the arts with adequate funding will signal a brighter and more hopeful future.
The arts receive the tiniest fraction of the overall Government budget in Northern Ireland. Cutting this tiny budget even more has greater impact.
I appeal to MLAs to not only reinstate the previous level of funding, but to consider ways in which funding for the arts can be enhanced.