DCAL Minister, Ms Ní Chuilín, in the Assembly Chamber for Question Time

A selection of questions and answers from The DCAL Minister, from Question Time on Tuesday 28th April.

  • Arts Council: Budget Cuts

Mrs Overend asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what discussions her Department has had with the Arts Council to explore ways of minimising the impact of the £1.4 million cut in its budget. (AQO 8054/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: I thank the Member for her question.

I met the chair of the Arts Council in advance of budget reductions being implemented and asked that, in considering funding applications for 2015-16, it seek to ensure that front-line services are protected.

My officials continued to liaise with the Arts Council and affected organisations following the communication of the arts funding decisions for 2015-16 to discuss other potential funding sources or opportunities for collaboration and partnership that would allow programmes to continue to be delivered, albeit in an alternative way.

I fully recognise the value that the arts can bring to individuals, communities, the economy and, indeed, wider society.

I continue to promote that value, and I am bringing forward an arts and culture strategy that will emphasise the importance of arts and culture in creating a cohesive society, contributing to positive health and well-being, promoting tourism, helping the economy and acting as a driver for the creative industries and, indeed, for artistic excellence.

Mrs Overend: I thank the Minister.

Does the Minister agree, given that the arts sector, including the performing arts, is a major contributor to the health and well-being of our people, that serious efforts need to be made to deliver the finance needed for it?

Ms Ní Chuilín: I totally agree.

To that end, we are bringing in an overarching strategy in which all the Departments can help to contribute to the arts and the economy.

  • EastSide Arts Festival

T1. Mr Lyttle asked the DCAL Minister for her assessment of the contribution of the EastSide Arts Festival to the growth of the arts and the social and economic regeneration in east Belfast and whether her Department has been able to invest in that fantastic festival. (AQT 2431/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: I totally agree with everything the Member has said.

Indeed, DCAL, through the Arts Council, has contributed to EastSide Arts; it is one of the cultural partners.

They have been working together since well before the World Police and Fire Games.

Along with other cultural partners, EastSide Arts put on a brilliant exhibition and continues to do excellent work in the east of Belfast.

Mr Lyttle: I thank the Minister for her response.

Given the significant public support for maintaining the 2014-15 level of public funding for the arts, how does the Minister propose to secure appropriate funding for the arts and creative industries in Northern Ireland?

Ms Ní Chuilín: EastSide Arts is one of the groups that was awarded a level of funding that it had never received before.

Unfortunately, the situation with other groups that received funding prior to groups like EastSide Arts was that they were unhappy that the new groups received money when their budgets were being reduced, and a small number of groups did not receive any support from the Arts Council.

I know that they are extremely disappointed.

It is important that there is overall recognition of the role that arts, culture and the creative industries have to play not only in the sense that they make people feel better about themselves and their communities but in their regeneration contribution to the economy, to education and to further skills.

When the overarching strategy is brought to the Executive, I hope that all parties will give it support.

  • Festivals: Funding

T9. Mr McKinney asked the DCAL Minister whether she accepts that an unfortunate phrase — “counter-strategic” — has been creeping into Governmentspeak and is effectively allowing Departments and others to say that, although we feel your pain, we have no money; and, if she accepts that, notwithstanding the decision that Queen’s made about the Belfast Festival, does she agree that there is an onus on her and her Department to ensure that festivals that provide great cultural and tourism value succeed and are fully funded. (AQT 2439/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: It is not my responsibility to fund the Queen’s festival.

The Queen’s festival receives a substantial amount of money from the Arts Council, and that contribution remains.

It is regrettable that Queen’s University made its decision.

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.