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Michael McGimpsey MLA

Friday 6th October 2000 at 5pm 0 Comments

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure

(Reproduced from ArtsLink October 2000)

It is with a sense of pride and anticipation that I pen these words for ArtsLink as the first Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the new Executive. The creation of this new Department, known as DCAL, has, for the first time, given a new and welcome focus to culture, arts and leisure and their potential to make a real difference to the quality of life of everyone in our community.

The range of events listed each month in ArtsLink demonstrates that Northern Ireland has a thriving cultural life, with a diverse programme of performances, exhibitions, tours, festivals and workshops which is the envy of many regions larger or more populous then ours. We have some way to go before we harness the full potential of our creativity; but that is why I believe I have the best job in the Executive.

The sectors falling within the ambit of DCAL are concerned with fostering creativity, with giving individuals a sense of identity and with providing everyone with the opportunity to engage in activities that contribute to their education and enjoyment, and to their health and personal development. The culture, arts and leisure sectors also provide wider benefits for society at all levels. These benefits include job creation, the further development of tourism, and the promotion of community access to learning. The many positive features of our community can be enhanced if we emphasise the cultural strengths of Northern Ireland, including our creative community of performers, artists, writers, craftspeople and film-makers and the growing network of arts and heritage facilities offering opportunities for access and participation to residents and visitors alike.

Moreover, by providing opportunities for cross-community activity across the wide spectrum of functions which fall to DCAL, there is now a tremendous new opportunity to make a positive contribution to community confidence. I am thinking here of the promotion of social inclusion and greater social cohesion which will help build a climate of understanding and peace which, in turn, can only enhance the image of Northern Ireland at home and abroad. The very nature of the arts makes them particularly important in this respect as they help us to explore and to understand our cultural identity. The cultural fabric of Northern Ireland is incredibly rich and diverse and I firmly believe that cultural diversity is a great strength upon which we must build.

I am in no doubt that the realisation of the vision for DCAL will require commitment both from my own staff and from the many individuals and organisations outside my Department who are involved in shaping and delivering services in the culture, arts and leisure sectors. One of my priorities will be to develop an integrated approach to the delivery of services through the establishment of effective linkages and partnerships with all relevant stakeholder groups.

Nowhere is my commitment to this principle better demonstrated than by the FutureSearch process through which we are currently forging a new and inclusive strategic vision for the arts and culture in Northern Ireland. Already we have published a consultation paper on creativity in education, drawing widely on expertise across the culture and education sectors and with the support of Ministers responsible for education, training, employment, enterprise and investment. Children and young people are our most valuable resource and realising their creative potential is the key to a peaceful and prosperous future.

Political and financial support will of course also be vital ingredients for progress. Within the context of the new devolved administration in Northern Ireland, I believe that there exists considerable goodwill right across our community and that most people wish to see the Assembly and its Ministers succeed in their new task. I will certainly do everything possible to ensure that the importance of culture, arts and leisure is recognised and that they get the funding and support they deserve.

Michael McGimpsey MLA

Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure

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