Activists in the arts sector successfully challenged plans by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to cut the NI Events Fund in 2014, which potentially could have caused job losses and placed many of Northern Ireland’s Arts and Culture festivals in grave danger. Now, the attack is coming from the Arts Council, who have carried out cuts in funding totalling £1.38 million, a potentially lethal blow to a sector that is worth £317m to the local economy and supports hundreds of jobs.
Some organisations such as Pobal (an Irish Language group) and Green Shoot Productions have lost their entire funding from the Arts Council with many more losing a substantial amount of funding which inevitably leads to job losses and harms the important role the arts play in social cohesion, health and tourism.
The cuts carried out by the Arts Council were mandated by the Stormont Executive and are an attack on the vibrant arts sector that exists in here. Whilst Stormont is slashing budgets for community art and theatre groups, it is lobbying for a cut in corporation tax (a tax that most corporations avoid and evade paying!) which is set to remove £400m from the Westminster block grant.
This is the politics of austerity, taking funding away from local arts organisations and destroying jobs in the arts sector to feed the corporate begging bowl. Meanwhile, NI Screen has handed over huge amounts to HBO to keep Games of Thrones production in Northern Ireland. To defend the arts, artists and groups need to link up with wider anti cuts struggles and resist Stormont led austerity. It is positive that hundreds from the sector plan to join this year’s International Workers’ Day demonstration in Belfast.