CAP’s welcome to Deirdre Hargey, new Minister for Communities

Congratulations to the former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Deirdre Hargey, now Minister for Communities in the new Assembly executive. Community Arts Partnership wishes her well and appreciates that as Lord Mayor she was supportive of the arts sector.

In her time as Lord Mayor she recognised the importance of the arts sector as a major contributor to the economic and social fabric of Belfast specifically and Northern Ireland generally.

When Belfast struggled in the aftermath of the Bank Buildings fire, she thanked the arts sector for the contribution to the reinvigoration of the city centre,

“We have been buoyed throughout by our arts and cultural sector who have helped to breathe life into the city centre with a range of activities including music, dance, street art, and theatre.”

She was an enthusiastic supporter of the A City Imagining consultation which had arts and culture as a central feature of the new cultural strategy.

While support for the sector is to be welcomed it does need to be noted that the new Minister takes over a department which has for some time reduced the budgetary allocation to the sector and as it stands now, arts practitioners and the organisations they work for have borne the brunt of substantial cuts for the best part of a decade..

It would not be unreasonable to say that these cuts have weakened the cultural infrastructure and this in turn weakens the possibility of using our creative cultural potential to forge the kind of society we all want to see, one of welcome, of prosperity, a society which encourages our creative potential.

Conor Shields, Community Arts Partnership’s Chief Executive, in his article “A resilient community of camaraderie  talked about how the arts community felt after years of cuts,

“Why should this community be penalised for its doggedness and devotion; its service to making things of beauty and connection? Why should it be faced with a constant battle to justify its very existence as a sector time and time again? For a community that gives so much for relatively little, the arts are constantly pressed to conform to new standards, to new initiatives that invariably means doing more for less.”

The article outlined just how substantial the cuts had been and how the cultural and creative offer to our citizens fell far below what was offered to our neighbours on this island.

In ArtsMatterNI campaign materials in 2018-19, and in response to an Assembly consultation on the Programme for Government Framework, the figures put forward suggested that citizens in Ireland received £14.50 in total per capita arts spending, compared to a total of £9.62 per capita for those living here. That gap is about to widen into a chasm as the new National Cultural Policy Framework for the Republic of Ireland, heralds a doubling of investment in the arts and culture in the South while locally many of us fear there will be further cuts up here.

If we invest, intellectually, politically and financially in our creative capacity, we can be a place that understands the power of the arts in and of themselves – that also has figured out how to translate that power into having meaningful, deep, resonating impact across our whole community.

There have been discussions recently on the question of wage parity. Our suggestion to the new minister is to look for inspiration to the south of our island and consider the arts sector, particularly those reaching deeply into our community, as worthy of renewed strategic investment.

Our sector creates impacts across all sections of our society, across ages and places, from community halls to international stages. Above all we strive to make this place a culturally vibrant home for all of us and an attractive destination for others.

We look forward to working alongside Minister Hargey in achieving that goal, throughout the New Decade and New Approach.

Analysis of mentions in the “New Decade, New Approach

Word No of mentions
Irish 69
language(s) 50
commissioner (s) 39
investment (s) 26
cultural 26
Ulster Scots 19
reconciliation 17
culture 15 1 re culture of workplace
climate (change) 13
paramilitarism 10
economy 9
tourism 8
accountability 7
transparent (cy) 7
arts 5
arm’s length (bodies) 5
Ulster British 4
events 4
jobs 4
flags 2
intercultural 1 re between regions of UK
participation 0
Ethnic minority 0
artist forms link
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.