It’s hard to think of a working sector in society that delivers quite so much social, cultural, and economic benefits to society at large but where the living for those talented individuals who often devote their lives to it is quite so precarious than in the Arts and Cultural industries.
In today’s Cargo of Bricks, I speak to Ali FitzGibbon and discover how the long slow and steady bottom-up development of Northern Ireland’s cultural industries over the last thirty years provided the backbone for the recent big payoffs from TV and film, but which has yet to see any peace dividend…
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In it we cover…
- The Covid lockdown’s withdrawal of vast numbers of people from the workforce has shown just how crucial culture and the arts are to us. But the pipeline behind NetFlix, the BBC, and even the National Theatre in London and the Abbey in Dublin has halted, and creators are not getting paid.
- Local companies export new and very different accounts of life in Northern Ireland from the more negative ones the world has been used to hearing from us through news and current affairs. How do we maintain those connections when travel is more limited than before.
- More generally let’s review what work is, and how we pay for it. The current basic income support regime was designed for full-employment. Portfolio work in the unsubsidised cultural industries left many ineligible for government support during Covid, and unable to pay their mortgages.
It’s clear that, with some few exceptions, Northern Ireland’s politicians have been happy to take the low hanging fruit offered by Northern Ireland’s arts sector, but have been reluctant to take seriously how its ground-up activities might be maintained and invested in.
The average artist is not wealthy or markedly different from other citizens, and most are not looking for government handouts, just a means of being able to continue to do their work. Lip service is paid to words like sustainability and resilience until they have been tested (and found wanting) with lockdown.
The sheer fluidity of technology is asking questions of our society to which we have no clear answers means we should put creativity and the ability (or indeed, willingness) to ask new questions about who we are and where we are going at the centre of our concerns not leaving them to labour at the edge.
If you would like to get involved in #TheReset, either as an individual or as part of an organisation, please do get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] with an idea for inclusion in a range of articles or events over September and October.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty