Arts Council of Northern Ireland Chief Executive Roisin McDonough today called on the NI Executive to implement no more cuts to the arts sector, warning that any further reduction to an already fragile budget will have a devastating impact on arts provision.

The Northern Ireland government currently invests just 13 pence per head of population per week in direct funding for the arts. The money received by the Arts Council is used to award grants to support a diverse range of arts activities from festivals and venues, to performances and community-based projects.

Arts Council NI

In 2014/15 the Arts Council received £12.3million pounds in government funding, representing just 0.1% (1,000th) of the NI Executive budget. The Arts Council has been asked by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure to plan for an 11.2% cut in the next financial year, as part of plans announced in the Finance Minister's Draft Budget in October.

Speaking today, the head of the Arts Council, called on the public to support a campaign calling for no more cuts to the arts budget, and said that for a small investment, the arts deliver great benefits to all areas of our life.

Roisin McDonough commented: "The arts receive a tiny amount of government funding but deliver big returns for our economy and for our society. For an investment of just 13p, just look at what we get back – events, performances, exhibitions, concerts, workshops – all of which contribute to improving our society, drive economic growth and jobs creation, and raise Northern Ireland's global profile as a place people want to live in and visit.

"We are now facing the biggest threat yet for the arts and cultural sector and we are asking all those who value the arts to support our petition and ask the Finance Minister for no more cuts to the arts budget. We have already shouldered six consecutive cuts in the last three years. Another cut would have a devastating effect on the sector, bringing us back to the level we were at in 2005, and reduce arts provision for everyone."

Actor James Nesbitt was among the first to add his support to the campaign, saying he along with many other successful local actors, all relied on public subsidised theatre companies to kick-start their careers.

Speaking in a special campaign video, he said: "I started my acting at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine when Interplay were there, a professional theatre company. Then I was in the Ulster Youth Theatre, alongside Michelle Fairly, who was in Game of Thrones and Llyod Hutchinson who is currently on Broadway, Briana Corrigan who was in the band the Beautiful South, Conleth Hill, a double Olivier award winner - all benefitted from the Ulster Youth Theatre and therefore from arts subsidy. They have all gone on to forge careers.

"Theatres, along with the likes of the Ulster Orchestra for example, are the cultural heartbeats of our towns and cities and without them we are much poorer for it. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn't take a lot of money and I would appeal to Stormont not to cut any more."

The Arts Council has launched a postcard petition and is asking the public to sign it in support of no more cuts to the arts budget. Postcards and petition collection boxes will soon be available Arts Centres across Northern Ireland. Alternatively, an online petition can be found here, as well as details of how you can write to the Finance Minister directly.


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