Hustings on the future of the Arts in Northern Ireland. Does it have one?

All 5 Executive parties were represented at the first MAC Question Time earlier this week which was focussed on the Arts. The #MACQT debate posed the question “Is there a future for the arts in Northern Ireland?”

The event was opened by MAC Chief Executive Anne McReynolds who boldly challenged the assertion that all arts events must ‘wash their face’. “Do hospitals wash their face? Do roads wash their face?”

140415dk2003The lively discussion was chaired by Wendy Austin and the panel was:

  • Nelson McCausland MLA – Former DUP DCAL Minister
  • Cllr Claire Hanna – SDLP South Belfast
  • Rodney McCune – UUP Westminster candidate
  • Cllr Niall O’Donnghaile – former Lord Mayor and Westminster candidate
  • Cllr Emmet McDonagh Brown, South Belfast Alliance

It may be easy for politicians to say ‘yes we support the arts’ but the audience didn’t let the panel off too lightly, given recent cuts across the arts sector. It picked up some interesting comment via Twitter:

Niall Ó Donnghaile in particular felt a bit of heat and had to answer to some extent for the actions of party colleague DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Unsurprisingly he deflected the funding challenge to the ‘Tory block grant.’

The MAC event followed on from a discussion on the Nolan Show with David Vance, Brendan Mulgrew and Malachi O’Doherty…

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  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Would Michelangelo’s name be known to us today if it wasn’t for the patronage of the DeMedicis and the church? Would Ancient Greek drama have flourished if it weren’t an inherent part of the polis? Who gave Shakespeare, Mozart and Rubens the leg up? Would anyone visit Paris, Florence, Rome today if it hadn’t been for the patrons of their arts: emperors, popes, archbishops, monarchs, aristocrats, Napoleon, Mitterand. The legacies of Jennie Lee, André Malraux and Jack Lang as state advocates of the arts is undeniable.

    The arts help us make sense of the world and force us to ask questions to life’s endless uncertainties. Often these questions make us feel uncomfortable as they should. Without the depictions of our lives, of humanity and our dilemmas presented back to us we will go mad. This was known to 5th cent. Athenians. Greek notions of harmony, proportion and balance are evident in the edifice at Stormont. It’s frustratingly sad that its philistine occupants seem oblivious to such a concept today.

  • Practically_Family

    The Arts Council should follow the lead of those folk who are making the crisp sandwich magazine and get into crowd funding. I’m sure they’ll be swimming, Scrooge McDuck stylee in money from their thousands of willing supporters and the business which benefit to the tune of millions from their tireless endeavours.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I always thought that the Phillistines were great shakes at the old art business.

  • murdockp

    But what is art? I doubt the luvvies in London would see DUP arts and culture any more than funding the KKK to burn crosses.

  • Croiteir

    Arts generates £714million to local economy – govt only spends less than £11million – were are these figures from?

  • Practically_Family

    I don’t know, but if they’re anything approaching being true there is an obvious course of action available.

    Withdrawal of labour.

    A body with such an obvious stake in the local economy can plainly make its absence felt in very short order, a week or two without a festival of something or other in Belfast and we’ll all be on our uppers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Try this:

    http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/Economy%20Infographic.pdf

    Mind you, a lot of this is coming from things I’d not not consider strictly as “art”, speaking as someone with a lot of animated commercials and music videos in my past that I don’t mention. But hey, it’s politicians and bureaucratic apparatchiks coining the term “art” for what they are putting these figures together for, not front line artists like me!

  • Practically_Family

    So the figures are from an Arts Council infographic?

    Standard.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Seriously, though, the “arts”, both commercial and “ivory tower” do bring in real money, and in an economy where about 70% of all money spent comes from public coffers, any money generated by something (now becoming fully) outside of this is valuable in itself.

    And the balance of figures does not take into account all of us creatives who would never fill in an arts council grant application even if we were begging on the streets. If I wanted to be told what to create I’d go and work for someone like the brilliant John Hegarty who has some idea of what “creative” really means:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hegarty-Creativity-There-are-Rules/dp/050051724X/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429441362&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=creativity+hegerty

    I’d not beg a few shekels from someone earning the full amount of my grant every three hours who spent three years bored out of his head getting a BA in arts management, and who now judges real creativity from a tick list that scores any application by points for socially important issues met.

  • Practically_Family

    The more it moves outside the public purse the better it will be for all concerned. The arts/culture sector (probably best lumping them together, the budget does) will have it’s own “horse in the race” with which to exert political pressure and those elements which are not commercially sustainable benefit from exclusive use of such public funds as are allocated.

  • Croiteir

    These figures mean nothing to me, they are just statements. Let me put it a different way – for every pound from my pocket, be it rates or other taxes, do I get back? Is it a net revenue giver or taker for the taxpayer. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing for the arts to be a taker, it is the extent that would matter. In short are they worth it?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yeah…….

  • Practically_Family

    Poe’s Law may be in effect..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d feel that you get a lot more than just direct money back, but not necessarily from what the arts council money is being spent on.

    Any other commercial activity that uses innovation and is not simply ripping off the success of someone elsewhere in some way is also drawing on a local culture of creativity, but this is not recognised particularly. The discrete categorisations of arts and sciences are entirely artificial in any real innovative work.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Can anyone sincerely comment on anything happening here without at least smidgen of irony?

  • Practically_Family

    Point made

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Did I really see Nelson McCausland in the line up above………

  • Practically_Family

    Did ancient Greece and renaissance Italy have Arts Councils?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    No, so re-read what’s written above.

  • Practically_Family

    Has it changed from the gash dribbling whinge it was initially?