“Cut (verb)” – Darren Ferguson (Beyond Skin)

Cut (verb):

To make an incision, or wound in something. To remove (something) from something larger. To Separate. To Divide. To Exclude. To Cause something to fall by cutting it through at the base.

Austerity & Budget Cuts seem to have become the norm which most people now accept, behind deep sighs and apathy, being of the opinion that it will ever be anyway different – but there is nothing normal about this state of affairs. It is not normal that the last to sit at the gathering of the sectors’ funding table is always the community/voluntary sector whilst outside waiting on the scraps is the Arts in a box.

For those who know Beyond Skin’s history without multi-annual core funding for 7 years we managed to grow locally and internationally. Complementing the organisation’s impact in the community, delivering innovative projects, we have provided paid employment to a diverse team of artists wishing to use their skills for the greater good.

For Beyond Skin we have always been living in an environment where we did not have the financial security that some multi-annual core funded programme groups take for granted.

In year 8 through to our current 13th year, the Arts Council invested in Beyond Skin through lottery funding which helped us to develop our capacity and creative ideas . This included a percentage towards the management of specific projects, something we have never taken for granted.

We may not be a AFP (KEY) client but that doesn’t make us ungrateful or any less important than those who are. If we are to come together as one voice for the Arts, language and perceptions towards each other is something we must be more aware of.


It has always been sleepless nights for us and rarely has the organisation moaned about it, but being in that situation makes you resilient, forces you to draw on the expertise, creative minds and energies around you.
You develop a belief that things can happen against the odds and develop ideas around the dream not the idea around the cash. Artists don’t work for you. Artists work with you and buy into your vision.

How have we done it?

Interestingly we get asked that question consistently from organisations outside of Northern Ireland wishing to adopt our sustainability models, but we very rarely get asked that question in Northern Ireland.

One reason we have sustained our selves is down to partnerships and relationships – Arts Organisations, Community Groups, Businesses and Public Sector agencies and units. And that is where we feel the sharp edge of the scalpel, the cuts to those who wish to use our services and resources which benefits needs in the community. Like a twin we feel the pain and cuts to our friends in the sector who are doing vital work and no one likes to see their friend bleed.


What many funders and people holding the purse strings fail to understand is that if you don’t feed the core everything else collapses.

At the start of 2017 Comic Relief recognised our struggle at the core as it was getting greater with some government funders punishing organisations that didn’t have core financial support by asking them to cash flow projects in a claim back process of funding.

So on one hand institutions are encouraging organisations to be less dependent on core funding whilst at the same time penalising those who are. Comic Relief have come to the rescue providing for the first time some multi-annual core support for Beyond Skin. Already we are planning our exit sustainability strategy for when that fund completes.

Human DNA make-up & brain is the creative soul of our physical presence, that is how we have all come so far.

Problem solving, designing, building, exploring, creating, sharing, communicating and expression. So when I see Arts described as a separate entity to Health, Education, Environment, Tourism and even Politics my blood boils as the Arts is the thread through all of this. Why? Because each of these things relates to Humans. Creative beings. It is that simple.

The evidence is strong of the value of the Arts in society, just look at the impact music has on Mental Health. Once we put that idea back into our society, that the Arts function as part of our needs as humans, that the Arts allows us to evolve, find our feet and grow.

That means we need to unite, rather than work independently, campaigning together for recognition of our worth and what is required to fund our work.

Find out more about the ArtsMatterNI campaign on Twitter – #ArtsMatterNI and the website www.artsmatterni.co.uk

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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.