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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 23, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

    Campaigning for arts

    Fiona McCann

    The National Campaign for the Arts is up and running, folks, with a brand new website: www.ncfa.ie, and a very real agenda – to assert the importance of the arts to economic recovery. The campaign also calls for the retention of Culture Ireland, the retention of the Irish Film Board, the maintenance of funding to the Arts Council, the retention of the artists’ income tax exemption scheme, and a commitment to retain the arts portfolio at cabinet as part of a senior ministerial portfolio. And why? Because those involved – producers, festivals, venues and organisations involved in all manner of arts – believe the arts are central to economic and social recovery. Here’s what Gerry Godley, director of Improvised Music Co, thinks . What do you think?

    • Liam says:

      Personally I don’t favour subsidies, starting off I pay for a TV (RTE) licence/tax and my taxes are higher because of the Arts budgets. So I could estimate that the average Irish family has €500 (big guess) less to spend on culture because of the upward transfer of wealth to a select group. Lets be honest , the main reason we punch above our weight in cultural exports compared to say Belgium is because of the English language and our large diaspora. The rest is just a lobby doing what it does best.

    • mise says:

      We should certainly encourage the arts, but I’m not sure that a focus on retaining administrative bodies is the way to go about it. Surely all this hardship that we’ve been promised in the form of civil service pay cuts will have the desired effect? It’s said that the arts are born of strife and sorrow, so I’m already looking forward to hard-hitting novels about a society in decline and operas loosely based on collections of frugal recipes.

    • Sarah says:

      I think the subsidy works out at about 1 or 2 euro per household per week…not a whole lot, considering.

    • Fiona says:

      Liam: I think there’s more to it than the language issue, though it does help disseminate work produced here. Do you see an argument in fostering the arts at all then?

      Mise: They do say that hard times breed good art, but I’m not sure that “they” are right. I know of a fair few writers who would not have completed their work without funding, though there’s always an argument that “true artists” would not be dissuaded by such paltry considerations as food and a roof over their heads. Back to leaky garret days, I guess. To be honest, I’d much rather the government spent my money on arts than on a host of other things. . .

      Sarah: Two euro a week does sound like it’s worth it, though that goes over 100 euro a year – hmm, still a bargain if you ask me.

    • david says:

      The Arts Council costs each household in Ireland 1euro a week. That’s 50euro per annum per household (so for many that’s 25euro per income). This is the main statement of the Arts Council’s Take A Bow! promotional campaign.

      One trip to the Abbey, or National Concert Hall, or to a Macnas parade a year and you’ve made the money back as an unsubsidised ticket would cost more than 25euro more – in the case of the free Macnas parade, there just wouldn’t be one.

      I don’t think people realise how small the funding of the arts in Ireland actually is. The TV licence is in a different league in terms of cost. It is more accessible though, so perhaps that’s fair. But the entire Arts budget wouldn’t buy you 3km of motorway. The restructured deal with the pharmacists saves the government more than twice the entire Arts Council budget after the 18% cut it got this year.

      Lobbying to save the administrative structures is about retaining a successful infrastructure, which has really come into its own in the last decade. Artists are actually accepting the cuts in funding though, just like all other elements of the economy. They all made less this year, and will make less again in 2010. It seems there’s a lot of important information about Ireland’s relationship to the arts that isn’t being communicated well.

    • Liam says:

      Fiona – Do you see an argument in fostering the arts at all then?

      Indeed, but I would try to use the GAA analogy here. As a parent it is more important for me to see my kids develop a love for the arts then to support a select elite. So that implies access to quality education , music art etc.

    • Fred Johnston says:

      I am mindful that the Arts Council presided over the withdrawing of funding from The Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin and the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway and it is hard to believe that there were not ‘political’ reasons for these moves, at least in part. Yes, there should be funding for the arts – but how it is disbursed and how such decisions are made is something we should know more about. And the arts in Ireland is not the arts in Dublin. If the Arts Council is more than just a bank, then it must take a more active role in watchdogging how the arts are administered – what is the role of City and County Arts Officers, for instance? Does the Arts Council care?

    • Vandala says:

      If we’re all to do our bit in supporting the arts, perhaps the IT’s flagship Saturday magazine might like to do so too. I’m getting a bit tired of reading about weddings in Dalkey, gastronomic “adventures” and the world of wine.

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