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In advance of the general election I am writing to draw your attention to government funding for the arts and, as our situation continues to improve economically, to ask you to commit to increasing that spend.
Fact - Ireland is currently at the bottom of the European League for Government Investment in Culture and the Arts.
The Council of Europe data shows that in 2012 Ireland spent just 0.11% of GDP on the arts and culture, compared to a European average of 0.6% of GDP.
This is a compelling fact and a concerning one, particularly for a country and a government that claims to honour and take pride in its rich cultural heritage, celebrated artists and world-class artistic output.
XXXXX [name of candidate], if you truly value our culture, our art and our artists, my challenge to you is to:
1. Get Ireland off the bottom of the Arts and Culture Investment League.
2. Commit to state investment in the arts of 0.3% of GDP over the lifetime of the next government, taking us halfway to the European average.
I recognise that this is a bold ambition. But our arts and culture are worth the investment.
On an international stage, Ireland's culture is held up as vibrant, diverse, valued and valuable. But how is this reflected in real terms? Since 2009, €30 million worth of cuts have been imposed on the Arts Council, leading to the closure of dozens of excellent arts organisations and decreased resources made available to artists and the public. Irish citizens have been robbed of the chance to enjoy and participate in the cultural life of their own communities.
My ask of you and of the forthcoming government is to reverse this trend – to give the arts, artists and the public a fair deal, that reflects the recovery and investment we are seeing in other sectors.
Please take a moment to consider the huge contribution made by the arts to the life of the community and the electorate you wish to serve here in XXXX. (please add your local examples].
The arts matter to your voters.
In schools, the arts promote attendance, accelerate learning and build confidence. In hospitals and healthcare settings, the arts create opportunities for people who face long-term illness and treatment to be creative, joyful, and strong. And where people are marginalised, the arts can help them find their voice, to be empowered, heard and understood.
Over the last few difficult years, the arts have proved their resilience, popularity and value. They have borne harsh economic circumstances and have met the challenge to endure in spite of these. In 2016, as our nation reflects on the last 100 and more of its history, the arts remain a touch point to commemorate, celebrate and take pride in who we are and who we wish to be as we look forward to the future.
If you are elected, please consider the arts. Make them matter to you.
Wexford Arts Centre (WAC) hosted the first local arts hustings on a blustery evening Thursday 21st January, 2016. Elizabeth Whyte Executive Director in association with Lucy Medlycott, Director of Irish Street Arts Circus & Spectacle Network. (ISACS) took the initiative to host the event with Jo Mangan, Chair of NCFA and Artistic Director/CEO of Performance Corporation and invite local candidates running for election to share their views and party policies on the arts in a public event with art sector representatives and supporters
There was a modest turnout, on a rainy night, of participants but representing a good cross sector of the local arts scene who contributed to lively debate. The event was also live streamed via Boast App.
There are seventeen local candidates running for elections and eight of these candidates were able to attend and participate in the event. The candidates attending were Aoife Byrne, Fianna Fail, Malcolm Byrne, Fianna Fail, Julie Hogan, Fine Gael, Leonard Kelly, Social Democrats, George Lawlor on behalf of Minister Brendan Howlin, Labour, Emmet Moloney, Independent, Deirdre Wadding, People Before Profit Alliance, Ann Walsh, Green Party.
Jo welcomed the candidates and outlined the NCFA's pre-election manifesto points. In democratic fashion, the names of the candidates were pulled out of a box to set the running order for each candidate to give a their statements about their vision and policies for the arts.
Many of the candidates had direct experience in the arts either growing up or involved in local community arts events. For those that weren't engaged with the arts there was an awareness of the importance of the arts sector for tourism and health and wellbeing in the community.
Jo Mangan highlighted the fact that Ireland is at the bottom of the European league for government investment in Culture and the Arts. The Council of Europe data shows that in 2012 Ireland spent just 0.11% of GDP on Culture and the Arts compared to a European average of 0.6% of GDP. There was a need for the next government to commit to an investment of 0.3% of GDP over the lifetime of the next government, taking us halfway to the European average.
Julie Hogan for Fine Gael advised there was funding out there and artists and arts organisations needed to find out how to access that funding. Aoife Byrne highlighted the need to enhance access to arts. Deirdre Wadding, People for Profit advised on the need to change priorities on supporting creative expression and to look at alternatives for funding such as getting larger international corporations availing of tax benefits to contribute funding support. Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fail, advised the local arts officer position was being re-advertised. This was a major concern for participants who noted a significant impact on the local arts sector because of the position being left open for so long.
Ann Walsh of the Green Party and as a psychologist emphasised the need to support arts for benefits of mental health. George Lawlor for Labour, standing in for Brendan Howlin TD, advised of a new capital funding scheme which will provide €3 million a year in captial support over the next three years. He acknowledged the importance of support funds in particular for somewhere like Wexford Arts Centre which is still limited for accessibility. He raised a concern about the divide between community production organisations and professional organisations. He noted local companies like Light Opera Society not getting funding support yet contributing signficantly in local community arts. Jo noted the importance of community organisations but the primary concerns for NCFA was improving working conditions for artists depending on paid work for their liveliehood. Deirdre Wadding as an artist also further addressed the concern of artists doing work for free.
Emmett Moloney as an independent advised he did not have alot of experience with the arts sector but acknowledged the importance of the sector in particular for tourism. Leonard Kelly, for Social Democrats noted it was a disgrace Ireland was bottom of European League for government investment expecially when Ireland is the most recognised country in Europe for its arts and culture; and if he is successful on getting into office, would be committed to raising that percentage of gdp investment. He emphasised how arts contributes to a healthy society, and society is strong when the arts sector is strong. George Lawlor also thought more work could be done to get diaspora to contrinbute through philantropy. Perhaps enhanced corporate tax benefits for support would encourage more investment in the arts sector.
Input from the audience included
Artist living and work residency space was another request to be able to host local, national and international artists in the community which would also contribute to cultural tourism as well as economic and cultural benefit to the community similar to European standards. A recommendation to look at the French model of support to artists and organisations was recommended.
Michael D'arcy of the Three Sisters Bid team gave an update on the bid which has been shortlisted for the European Capital of Culture for 2020. This is a joint bid between Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny and will result in €31 million investment in culture development in the region so it is important that the Wexford community gets behind the bid. This also further demonstrates the significant impact arts contributes for programmes that help secure this high level of investment in the region - justifies better support for the sector.
One sad comment was from young soprano singer who recently graduated from college but felt due to lack of professional arts support available to her out there she could no longer call herself a soprano and was dependent on internship administration work to get by.
The final comment in response to some facebook comments that candidates should spend more time getting hospital beds than on the arts stated that more investment in the arts could result in less beds required with arts being a preventative medicine for health and wellbeing.
Overall the opportunity to discuss the arts sector needs in a public forum style was greatly welcomed. Candidates felt they were better informed about needs of the sector to keep in consideration should they be elected and participants welcomed opportunities to air their concerns and recommendations for support in the future. The model is one we would recommend for replication in all counties leading up to the election.
If our government truly values our Culture, our Arts and our Artists then their course of action is straightforward.
Bringing investment in line with our European partners is a necessary first step. In order to ensure the sustainable development of the Arts and Culture sector the following are required:
1. MINISTERIAL ADVICE/ARTISTS PARTICIPATION
Appoint an expert panel of Artists/Cultural Managers to function as Policy and Strategy Advisors to the Minister and the Department. Members of the Arts community are also available for selection to serve on the boards of all cultural and other institutions in their capacity as experts
2. FINANCE AND FUNDING
3. LOCAL AUTHORITIES
The severe cuts in government funding for the arts in recent years have led to the closure of many excellent arts organisations, robbing citizens of their rightful access to the arts, as set out in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The next and subsequent governments must acknowledge and enforce Article 27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
In preparation for the election of 2016, the NCFA wants each political party to pledge its support for the above action points and work with the cultural community to advance these.
 Source: Council of Europe 2012
click on icon (below left) for PDF of manifesto available to download and share/send to your local candidates for election.
Press release – Tuesday 13th October
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE ARTS - 2016 FUNDING WELL BELOW
The National Campaign for the Arts today (Tuesday 13 October)
expressed serious disappointment at the level of funding allocated for
the arts sector in the 2016 Budget. When the special provision for the
2016 Centenary Programme is excluded, the increased allocation of
€4.5 million to the entire department will do little or nothing to repair
the significant damage suffered by the arts during the many years of
relentless cuts and the standstill funding in 2015. Regrettably, Ireland's
unenviable position at the bottom of the EU league in terms of average
GDP spending on the arts looks set to continue for the foreseeable
future, given government commitment to the Department is set for
cuts and standstill allocations into 2017.
Commenting on the provision for the arts, NCFA Chairperson Jo Mangan
"In its pre-Budget submission the NCFA stressed the need to work
urgently toward restoring the €30 million stripped from the Arts Council
funding since 2008. This would have provided some much needed stability
for artists and arts organisations, enabling them to again make the valuable
contribution to our society and economy, which has long been an essential
part of our national identity. The allocation announced today does not even
compensate for the effects of inflation and is a major disappointment to
those who have struggled tirelessly to sustain a viable arts infrastructure
against the odds for so many years. Ireland has long enjoyed an
outstanding reputation for artistic excellence, at home and abroad, in the
face of Government spending on arts and culture at just 0.11% of GDP.
This has placed Ireland at the bottom of the list of EU countries compared
with an average of 0.6%, surely something no country can condone. The
NCFA calls on the Government to rethink their ongoing strategy for the arts
and work actively with the arts community to raise arts funding to the EU
average as a matter of urgency”
ABOUT THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE ARTS
Established in 2009 as a response to the McCarthy Report, The National Campaign for the Arts is a nationwide, volunteer-led, grass roots movement that makes the case for the arts in Ireland. It seeks to ensure that the arts are on local and national government agendas and are recognised as a vital part of contemporary Irish life.
The NCFA’s ambitious but inclusive proposition is to work with the Government and the sector to ensure Ireland is a “Republic of Culture” in 2016 and beyond: to recognise the centrality of the arts to the future, as well as the history, of our nation, and to achieve an appropriate and functional level of state investment in the arts and culture.
For further information, visit http://www.ncfa.ie.