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Arts Care Clown Doctors appeal for a healthy arts budget

Monday 15th December 2014 at 3pm 1 Comments

Joan Dempster, Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Sinn Fein MLA for South Belfast, and Janine Walker, General Manager of Arts Care, are pictured with Clown Doctors, Dr Sparky, Jennifer Jordan and Dr Jumble, Patrick Sanders Image: Joan Dempster, Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Sinn Fein MLA for South Belfast, and Janine Walker, General Manager of Arts Care, are pictured with Clown Doctors, Dr Sparky, Jennifer Jordan and Dr Jumble, Patrick Sanders

South Belfast-based arts and health organisation, Arts Care met today with local MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to outline why the arts matter and make the case for no more cuts to the arts budget.

Their team of Clown Doctors, who bring a welcome distraction to thousands of profoundly disabled, seriously ill and life-limited children in hospitals, hospices and health care settings across Northern Ireland, met the former Lord Mayor as part of the Arts Council’s campaign to protect the 13 pence per person per week currently spent on arts provision here.

Janine Walker, General Manager of Arts Care, commented: “The Clown Doctors are part of the team of care, working alongside clinical and nursing staff, hospital play specialists and family members. They are professionally trained Clown Doctors, who work in the hospital environment, helping to bring fun, laughter and colour to what can be a very challenging environment for children, their families, carers, and even the medical staff. 

“Clown Doctors use comic acting, music, movement, poetry, juggling, magic, storytelling and other clowndoctoring skills to help children cope with the range of emotions they may experience whilst in hospital, such as fear, anxiety, loneliness, boredom.”

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Sinn Fein MLA for South Belfast, commented: "I applaud the work of Arts Care, this unique charity working with the health and social care trusts, which employs 19 artists in residence, a team of Clown Doctors and many project artists who facilitate life-enhancing performances for people in health and social care. It is my view that arts organisations like Arts Care provide a vital role in building up community and putting uplifting arts activities at the very heart of the lives of our people who are often suffering from the legacy of our past.

"Arts organisations are at the forefront of promoting reconciliation, healing the wounds of the past and building peace. They need adequate funding to enable them to continue this essential work. With the block grant reduced by £1.5billion in real terms since 2011, pressures on arts group have intensified. I am committed to helping them make their case.”

The South Belfast MLA said he has joined with fellow MLAs Chris Lyttle (Alliance) and Sammy Douglas (DUP) to request meetings with Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and Minister Arlene Foster (DUP) on behalf of arts and events groups which are facing budget cuts.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented: “Arts Care is just one of many arts organisations who are making a real difference in communities across Northern Ireland. Some 55% of the work delivered by the Arts Council’s annually funded organisations takes place in hospitals, schools and with community organisations. At the moment we are looking at an 11.2% cut to the arts budget. In real terms, this will mean fewer community based arts projects and programmes going forward. That’s why we are appealing to everyone to get involved in the public consultation and ask for no more cuts to the arts budget.”

The Arts Council has launched a postcard petition and is asking the public to sign it in support of no more cuts to the arts budget in the Northern Ireland budget 2015/16, currently out for consultation. Postcards and petition collection boxes are available in arts centres across Northern Ireland. Alternatively, an online petition can be found here as well as details of how to write to the Finance Minister directly.

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  • Jennifer Jordan, Monday 15th December 2014 at 7pm

    The full title is Northern Ireland Clown Doctors. We serve over 7,000 people per year . 13 pence is insulting considering how hard all the artists work in NI bringing hope and beauty to everyone in a place where despair often runs rampant .

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