Pauline Hadaway 0

Response to NI Executive Draft Budget 2011 - 2015 Consultation

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For: Northern Ireland Executive (public consultation on draft budget)

Despite being responsible for only 1% of total government spending, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) faces one of the largest cuts of all the government departments: over 9% of its budget over a four year period. According to the draft budget published on 15 December, the DCAL is in turn proposing to pass on almost 30% of these cuts directly to the Northern Irish arts sector, with the danger that front line organizations- theatres, public galleries, community arts providers, festival groups, production companies and so on- will be bearing the brunt.  We are concerned that the implementation of the Northern Ireland Executive’s draft budget not only threatens to disproportionately harm delivery of arts and access to the arts for individuals and communities across the region, but overlooks the potentially catastrophic impact on the industries, businesses and communities, who work alongside the arts sector, including: education, creative industries, community regeneration, construction, tourism and hospitality sectors.

Although ranked as one of the lowest areas of public spending in Northern Ireland, the arts have become one of the region’s major success stories.  Northern Ireland’s arts and cultural tourism offer is diverse and appeals to a wide range of ages, interests and tastes, serving visitors and residents alike. Forty percent of tourists say they come to Northern Ireland to enjoy its arts and cultural offer - that’s a quarter of a million visitors each year, making cultural tourism the fastest growing sector of the tourist market. Apart from attracting growing audiences to galleries, theatres, festivals, performance, music and literary events, artists and arts organizations make a very tangible contribution to the region’s weekend and evening economies, helping the cross flow of customers to restaurants, hotels and retail outlets.  Committed to independent thinking and free expression, the arts continue to make an important contribution to rebuilding civil society bringing the arts within reach of disadvantaged communities and those at risk of social exclusion, alongside supporting educational, community regeneration and conflict resolution initiatives. Meanwhile the quality of Northern Irish arts practice wins substantial recognition and awards on the world stage, attracting inward investment and opening up opportunities for young and emerging talent at home.

By helping to make Northern Ireland a more attractive place to live, work in and visit, investment in the arts has supported the growth, not only of hospitality, retail and tourism business, but also education, print, publishing, Film and TV production, construction, design and IT. The creative industries remain one of our major sources of job and wealth creation currently employing over 33,000 people and generating £582 million annually. The arts provide the life’s blood of the knowledge and creative economies, providing business opportunities and acting as a platform for innovation, creativity and cutting edge design.  Supporting a fair deal for the arts through Budget 2011-2015 is not about special pleading, but means arguing that any cuts to the arts budget should be fair and proportionate. In a climate of general anxiety around imminent public sector cuts, we want to highlight front line commitment to support the broader economy and help drive future economic recovery and ultimate security for all.

People are rightly concerned about the immediate impact of cuts on jobs and services, but beyond simply surviving the cuts, we want to see politicians and policy makers focus on supporting Northern Ireland 's potential for growth, by endorsing successful sectors in the economy and recognizing the interconnectivity of arts, business and community interests. We would also urge you to maximize strategic thinking at the political level, by developing a joined up response to the government spending plans, which considers the way cutting spending on front line arts delivery will impact on the broader social economy. There is a real danger of de-railing initiatives that are already attracting international, national and regional investment as well as public interest and support.  We believe it is short sighted to have a political/policy lead focus on simply ‘surviving the cuts’, in the absence of discussion about the potential for growth and the kind of society we want to build for the future.


Pauline Hadaway Director Belfast Exposed photography 23 Donegall Street Belfast BT1 2FF


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