So, as we had forecast, National Lottery funding from Arts Council NI has been reduced and most organisations across the sector have experienced some cuts to their programme capacity as a result. There have been very few uplifts (three in the dance sector, one in verbal arts) but sadly the biggest headline is regrettably that some organisations have been de-funded completely. Whilst the outcome is better than the Arts Council of N Ireland had asked organisations to prepare for, nevertheless it represents further stretching of budgets that have not been increased for approaching ten years.
This is another dark moment for the arts here. Another year of cuts imposed on this historically underfunded sector albeit that they were not handed down by a government department per se. But unlike in England and Scotland, there was no offsetting of struggling lottery revenues, instead we have to make do with less.
This is another dark moment as we see organisations now threatened with potential closure as result of the removal of funding. Some may indeed find ways to continue, but it may signal the loss of jobs, livelihoods, productions and participation. For the others, it may mean the end.
It signals that we are reduced as a sector again, year after year, cut after cut. It means we fall further behind our nearest neighbours, when we need to be as culturally resilient as possible to deal with the increasing and alarming level of change occurring all around us. It says that ultimately, without political champions for the arts locally, the slide continues.
If we are to see the concept of a ‘creative ecology’ truly understood and enabled, we need all aspects of creativity nourished and the conditions for renewal and regeneration supported. Balancing the equilibrium by assisting those most in need, not most able, would seem an appropriate intervention. An ecological response cannot be Darwinian, instead it requires nurture and sensitive management, relating to the interconnectedness of our fragile eco-system that is our arts sector here.
So, there is little to cheer about. Some can count themselves winners maybe, with some uplift to their coffers but we doubt they feel anything beyond relief. But the Arts in N Ireland are losers today and as a result, this place and all our people lose out as well.