Cut in NI arts budget 'could signal final blow'

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

Image caption,
The warning follows meetings with the Northern Ireland Arts Council

Northern Ireland's arts budget is likely to be cut by over 8% in 2018/19, according to a statement jointly released by over 50 arts organisations.

The warning follows recent meetings held by the groups with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI).

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Community Arts Partnership, East Side Arts and Oh Yeah Music Centre are among those behind the statement.

They said an 8% cut "may signal the final blow" for some organisations.

ACNI's funding comes from the Department for Communities (DfC) and the bulk of the money is used to pay annual running and staffing costs for arts organisations.

In 2017/18, ACNI distributed £8,369,796 to 107 arts organisations through the annual funding programme.

According to the statement from the arts groups, ACNI's funding is likely to fall by 8% in 2018/19.

That would follow significant cuts to the arts budget in previous years.

"On the basis of an 8% reduction, exchequer investment in the arts here will plummet further," the statement said.

"Despite the concerns of the ACNI and its promises of careful management of severely depleted funding, the arm's length body will have little choice but to slice again.

Meetings appeal

"For some, further tortuous slashing of their budgets may signal the final blow.

"Despite Executive departments in Northern Ireland bidding in the monitoring rounds last October and often successfully finding additional resources to support beleaguered services, the Department for Communities did not - instead it modelled cuts that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is now indicatively projecting at 8%."

The groups - who are collectively calling themselves Arts Matter NI - also point out that spending on the arts accounts for only 0.07% of the Executive budget.

They have called for meetings with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley as well as the head of the civil service David Sterling and the permanent secretary of the Department for Communities, Leo O'Reilly.

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