An interesting note from Nicki ffrench Davis

National Campaign For The Arts – Cork meeting
21st October 2009
Joe O’Connor’s diary on RTE Drivetime 21 October
22nd October 2009

Dear colleagues,

I hope the national campaign continues to gather momentum – I am writing to you from the European Diploma in Cultural Project Management residential session here in Spain where the sun is warm and the company exciting. During two intense and inspiring lectures on culture and globalisation by Raymond Weber I gained valuable new perspective on our campaign and formed some concrete strategy proposals which I would like to put to you all. I believe that if we each acted even on just one of these the campaign could build significantly.

Please find below:

  • a brief introduction to the perspective I am proposing
  • some areas in which I believe this can be applied
  • some further sources of arguments and more actions



We need to open the campaign and dialogue beyond cultural operators and the mass media and direct them to interest groups, policy makers and the specialised media of diverse sectors (including newsletters, forums, blogs etc). Our campaign to retain funding for culture is to protect the interests of all areas of society and it is vital that this is appreciated!

Essentially, what I am proposing we each do is utilise the networks we are each part of OUTSIDE the arts to build wider support and momentum.

The areas I have identified (there are doubtless more) are:

Integration & Diversity – Environment – Information Technology – International Relations – Legal– Economic reform – Anti-poverty

The kinds of action I suggest are:

  • first and foremost communicate why this issue affects them
  • appeal to partners you have worked with to spread the word
  • submit articles to newletters, post to forums
  • invite to join the campaign on Facebook etc.
  • ask to mail the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach, the ministry appropriate to their own work etc.


Integration & Diversity
Globalisation, geopolitical and climate change will lead to continued and rising migration across the world, and the cultural and ethnic make-up of Irish society will continue to change and be enriched. The cultural sector has proved itself very committed to the support of integration and diversity, and it is through cultural activities that tolerance and appreciation of others is developed and shared. Make sure those fighting for equality in this country are aware of the campaign and add their voices to it!

We are experiencing rapid ecological change at home and across the globe – there is an urgent need for society to form new representations of our situation and to learn to cope. Our common understanding of circumstance and behaviour are fundamentally influenced by culture and it is vital that this activity is supported to create and share a new understanding before climate change accelerates beyond our control. Many existing cultural projects deal with this area and deserve support, while there remains wide scope for more co-operation between the environmental and cultural sectors. Invite the huge community working to protect our environment to be aware of and support our campaign.

Information Technology
IT is a key industry for the future under the Lisbon agenda and to protect Ireland’s vital interests in the industry there is a continual need to remain creative in order to compete on the European and world market. The industry has proved in study after study to be hugely reliant on the cultural sector as source of innovation and it is essential that support is continued. Let’s get the weight of Ireland’s sophisticated IT industry behind the campaign.

International Relations
Through cultural activity we respond and adapt to the constantly shifting dynamics of civilisations. Cultural expression is the primary tool for intercultural dialogue and anyone concerned with achieving lasting peace and stability will recognise the potential for Ireland’s contribution, not least in the context of our own unique experience. Draw attention to our achievements in this area and ask for the support of Ireland’s peace campaigns.

Ireland is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 27 (i) of which states “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” This is already a constant challenge at current funding levels, we run the risk of being in contravention of international law by reducing state support! Appeal to the legal community to support the campaign.

Economic reform
Much has been done in this campaign to argue for the importance of the cultural sector in Ireland’s economic reform, but there is still much to be said about its role in national and international economic reform. The crisis has opened up the opportunity for the restoration of the state’s role in this area – it was lack of state action and control in the banking sector (both here and globally) which caused this crisis – we cannot let the markets decide our future, strong policy is needed. The voice of the cultural sector is vital both to call for and support the government to build strong and people-centred policy to keep in check vastly powerful international industrial interests. Ask for support from those calling for economic reform!

New cultural policies are needed to go beyond the twentieth-century approach to democratization of culture where cultural products and masterpiece were made accessible to all. 21st-century policy must focus on efforts to EMPOWER people within a dynamic of participatory democracy. There’s no doubt about it, culture is the most effective form of lifelong learning and the fastest and perhaps only route to critical thinking, through culture we acquire the capacity to help ourselves. As Nobel-prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen observed, the struggle for equality is best started not from a focus on poverty but on the hidden treasure that is in everyone. That treasure is discovered at an individual level and communicated to others through creative exploration and expression. Cultural empowerment is the most direct path to redistribution of economic and political power. Cultural support is intrinsically linked to the fight against poverty – make sure those calling for a fairer Ireland know about the campaign and ask them to lend their voice to it.


2 more actions:

Work with your local council: Local authorities should be making appeals to the ministries of Finance and the Taoiseach (who cannot be expected to appreciate needs at a local level) – contact your local authority and offer to supply relevant information to back up their arguments!

Draw up a pact: In Luxembourg in 1998 an arts coalition succeeded in getting each political party to sign a pact on culture funding, is this an action we can reproduce in Ireland? see

Finally here’s a key resource I’ve just discovered – there is a huge amount of references to resources for arguments for arts advocacy here:

Looking forward to seeing the campaign continue to build… and hoping this helps,

Nicki ffrench Davis

Help the NCFA continue to advocate for the arts in Ireland.