Conor Shields, convenor of the #ArtsMatterNI campaign, on the recently announced Annual Funding Programme 18/19 from the Arts Council NI.
Today has been a much anticipated and dreaded one. For some among us the worst possible outcome has been delivered today, with organisations being cut totally from the AFP – we know of a handful so far. For others, it may have been less of an upheaval.
To all those colleagues and friends whose livelihoods and organisations find themselves today in extremely difficult circumstances, members of this campaign have been consistently determined to work collectively and supportively across all disciplines, to oppose these cuts and offer solidarity in our response and to demand fair and proportionate funding. As the ArtsMatterNI campaign, it is clear we have a lot of work ahead, to persuade others of the need for that recognition and investment to be made.
But this is a difficult day for the whole of the Arts Sector – it is a day when all our organisations, staff, trustees, artists, participants, audiences and beneficiaries know the challenge that lies ahead for all of us if we are to see a meaningful arts ecology survive – we must campaign vigorously for the required invest, which is only the tiniest fraction of the Department for Communities expenditure.
On behalf of the Arts Matter NI campaign, we offer our sincerest sympathies to all that have lost funding whether partially or more devastatingly, by being absolutely cut from the Annual Funding Programme. It must be devastating news to have the work you so carefully nurtured over time, made so precarious by these cuts.
Whether the exact quantum is less than the 8% cut, first-feared, across all organisations, the fact that there are winners and losers will make this funding news all the more difficult to bear.
We all of us should respond robustly as a sector to these egregious cuts, and respond not just to Arts Council, for whom today’s decisions cannot have been easy to arrive at, particularly without a current strategy and with the reported governance issues still reportedly unresolved but to the Department for Communities for instigating these cuts without any challenge to budgetary proposals or mitigation advocated.
20 years on, to the very day from the realisation of the Good Friday Agreement, with all its hope for a better, brighter, more shared future, it is breathtakingly bewildering and absolutely galling that the shared space that the arts represent and have so expertly maintained and grown for those years, should be such a casualty of funding cuts and the lack of political progress and cultural champion here. The Arts Matter, even more today than they ever did.
Conor Shields , Convener ArtsMatterNI
And click below to view the full list of organisations offered Annual Funding in 2018/19