Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Artists, politicians & communities must work together and make life better - Ní Chuilín
Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, today responded to comments made in the media about the Arts.
Minister Ní Chuilín said: “Austerity is not the choice of my party or indeed any of the parties in the Executive. I am aware that the arts community and those who avail of their services are currently facing serious difficulties and challenges.
“Hundreds of millions of pounds in cuts by the Conservative Government in London have continued to erode the block grant, impacting on the Executive’s ability to deliver core frontline public services. In the past I have been able to bid for additional funds but with frontline services now under intense pressure as a result of the British government’s cuts there are no additional monies.
“My priority is to support those who are most in need in our society, for example, people who face exclusion, suffer from poor mental health or severe physical disability. I do not apologise for this.
“Many within our society have been ignored and still struggle against the worst impacts of deprivation. My colleagues and I will continue to challenge this. I remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and since I became Minister in DCAL I have been determined that arts and culture are a means to promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion.
“Access to arts, culture and language is a right for everyone. It is not a privilege. We can all agree that arts and culture deliver a range of benefits to people who participate and engage in them. In the coming weeks I will bring forward a ten-year inter-departmental Strategy for Culture and Arts for public consultation.
“In my time as Minister, I have:
· provided the Arts Council with £72m in funding;
· supported major capital projects such as the Lyric and the MAC – almost £11m in capital funding to the MAC;
· secured £200,000 capital for the purchase of the Wheelworks ArtCart, a fully accessible mobile arts vehicle with the latest software and digital technology which delivers directly to communities;
· secured almost £400,000 for the purchase and refurbishment of the Beat Carnival premises in the Lower Shankill;
· supported the City of Culture, providing £6.5m in 2012/13 and £5.8m in 2013/14 (a total of £12.3m) in funding. Up to 1 million people attended or participated in events throughout the period;
· supported and will continue to support a number of programmes in the North West to embed a lasting legacy of the City of Culture, allocating an additional £6m between January 2014 and March 2015. This includes support for community cultural activity, capacity building and key events in the North West;
· put in place a culture programme last year and have made available £200,000 this year. This is a cross-community programme of arts and cultural events and festivals delivered by cultural partners from across Belfast and also for the first time from a rural area. The programme will celebrate all cultural traditions on a co-ordinated and inclusive basis, with a primary focus on targeting deprived communities;
· ensured that funding of £200,000 has been made available this year to community festivals, including Féile an Phobail, ArtsEkta, Shankill Spectrum Centre, Belfast Film Festival, Eastside Arts. These festivals bring arts and culture right into the heart of the community.
“These examples are just a snapshot of what my Department is delivering in arts and culture.
“My Department has also directly supported, and continues to support, a range of projects and groups right across the north that are bringing arts and culture to, among others, children and young people in care, prisoners and ex-prisoners, people with mental health issues, older people and people with physical disabilities. These are communities too.
“In addition, I am bringing forward a project focused directly at children in care to allow them to access and enjoy digital arts facilities as well as a scheme to give homeless people opportunities to participate in the arts.
“Through my work as an Executive Minister and also as a political representative I have been privileged to meet and work with a great number of people over the years. Artists are an integral part of the community and I will continue to champion the rights of all to take part in, to enjoy and access the arts.
“We still have a society where there is a widening gap between those who are more affluent and those less well off. This is leading to increasing levels of poverty. It is only by directly tackling inequalities that we will ever manage to change this.
“In conclusion, I would suggest that we should work together and create an anti-austerity alliance which will champion the protection of essential public services. It is easy to criticise and destroy, it is harder to build. It
is only through working together that we improve things and I am keen to ensure that artists, politicians and communities come together and make life better for all of the public.”