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Arts Council Welcomes Extra £18 Million

Monday 16th December 2002 at 1pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council today welcomed the commitment of an additional £18 million over three years as a major contribution to bridging the gap between central government funding for the arts in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

Professor Brian Walker, Chairman, saw the additional funding from the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure as addressing the critical needs faced by the arts here. 

"The Arts Council will now be able to complete negotiations with the Department to target assistance to those many organisations currently under financial stress and to further the Council’s priorities in access, participation, sustainability, and in strengthening our partnerships with local government and in pursuing key programmes, such as youth arts," Prof Walker said.

Welcoming the government’s commitment to improving facilities at the Grand Opera House, Prof Walker said the Council had reminded government for several years of the straitened circumstances in which many arts organisations operate day-to-day. 

"We have consistently campaigned for additional funds from government. While we are aware of the many claims upon the public purse, we have always been clear about the value of the arts to our economy and to the regeneration of our communities. The recognition of this value today by government is a tremendous boost for everyone. We will begin immediately working with government to put real detail on this additional funding."

"Our ambition was that our Arts Plan would not simply be viewed as an Arts Council strategy," he said, "but that it would be accepted by government and the community as a common strategy for the arts in Northern Ireland. We see this additional and substantial funding as the means to transform both the extent of arts infrastructure, the sustainability of arts organisations right across Northern Ireland and the quality of arts product."

In the current year, Arts Council spending on the arts totalled £7.3 million.

  • The four priorities of the Arts Council five-year strategy are: increase opportunities for creative participation in the arts; development new audiences for the arts & build on existing ones; extend opportunities for artists to develop their work & practice; strengthen capacity of organisations to deliver quality experiences of the arts.
  • Highlights of this morning’s press statement from Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure:

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Angela Smith MP, today said that the extra funding she had secured in the budget was good news for Northern Ireland. Welcoming the additional resources being made available for culture, arts and leisure over the next three years, including around £15 million for sport and £18 million for the arts, Angela Smith said: "This new money will enable us to embark on a long-term strategy to enhance and develop the sporting and artistic infrastructure in Northern Ireland to everyone’s benefit.

Turning to the arts, Angela Smith said that although Belfast was not shortlisted for the European Capital of Culture title, she was determined that the hard work which went into preparing that bid should not go to waste. She emphasised: "Northern Ireland’s capital city can still become an international cultural venue and realising that vision remains a firm objective.

"For many years, Belfast’s flagship theatre has been the Grand Opera House but time marches on and the facilities at this very popular venue need to keep pace with what the public expect in the 21st century. I am therefore delighted that funding is being made available through the Strategic Investment Programme to allow work to start on an extension to the building and on improving its current facilities.

"The investment will enable the theatre to cater for increased audience numbers, make the building more accessible to everyone and ensure that customers, staff and performers alike can all enjoy a better standard of accommodation.

"However, I intend to address not just the shortcomings of the arts infrastructure in our capital city, but that of the whole of Northern Ireland. In doing so, I will be working with the Strategic Investment Board to ensure we make the most of the opportunities now available to us. I also recognise that everyone has the potential to gain from participation in the arts and that it is an expansive area.

"That is why over the coming months, I will be giving very careful consideration to how the remainder of this additional £18 million allocated over the next three years can be best used as a long-term investment in the arts."

The Minister said that she had no doubt that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure could play a central role in making Northern Ireland a better place to live and in which to invest. She concluded: "It is not always necessary to spend very large amounts of money to improve people’s lives. I am in no doubt that the investment which my Department is making has the potential to make a real difference to the quality of life in Northern Ireland.

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