Nineteen ideas for a national cultural policy

The Government’s framework national cultural policy is low on specifics. Here are our suggestions to help the arts sector now

 

Set up an Irish music office

Ireland is rich with musical talent, but like many artistic sectors, the State approach has been to let it farm itself.

Any management, help or advice is fractured across different organisations and agencies, many of which do an excellent job – First Music Contact being the obvious example – but they are operating on tiny resources. This limits their wider impact, and the coherent help that the sector needs.

A dedicated music office will work on a large-scale export level – it will help Irish acts make the transition from strong, local act to international outfits. For example, Iceland Music Export was set up in 2006, with governmental and private funds, to promote that country’s music via a “one-stop resource for all interested parties”. Its success can be replicated.

On the domestic front, an Irish music office could also play a key role in helping musicians and acts get the basics right and turn what for many is a hobby into something more sustainable and substantial.

The artistic benefits from an Irish music office are obvious; the economic benefits through increased employment, training and income are even more self-evident. Laurence Mackin

Flat fees for artists

Regularise the payment of artists’ fees for exhibitions at public venues. Far too often, artists are at the end of the queue when it comes to payment, even as they face considerable and increasing costs. The production of contemporary art is likely to entail significant financial investment. Aidan Dunne

RTÉ needs a film unit

Approach RTÉ for discussions about setting up a dedicated feature-film division. We need to encourage wholly indigenous film productions aimed at the domestic audience. When British film returned to health in the 1980s and 1990s, it did so with the indispensable assistance of Channel 4 Films and BBC Films. A committed RTÉ film wing would, in conjunction with Section 481 tax credit, The Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, complete a matrix capable of powering Irish cinema to even greater heights. Donald Clarke

Tax visiting performers

There is a neat little loophole in Irish taxation law that visiting performers routinely take advantage of. Artists performing here are supposed to pay tax on income earned here, and are required to file a self-assessment return. However, because they are not tax-resident here, it’s almost unenforceable. Almost all EU countries (with the exception of Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands) have closed this off, typically charging 20 per cent.

The amount earned could be substantial, given the number of festivals and large-scale outdoor events taking place in Ireland. Croke Park has a typical capacity of 82,300 for sporting events. Given that tickets for Beyoncé’s recent concert started at roughly €85, with prices much higher for premium areas, ticket sales would probably have been worth in the region of €9 million.

A 20 per cent tax take on this event alone could easily bring in €1 million – which, in one evening, could go a long way towards funding a full-time music office, which would enormously help the indigenous music industry. LM

Take the Central Bank

Prioritise studio space for artists in cities, and start by securing the former Central Bank building on Dame Street as a studio and exhibition complex. On the edge of Temple Bar, it is a prime site for a cultural centre, and if the Government means what it says about the vital nature of culture, it should be a no-brainer. Gemma Tipton

Focused support for commercial galleries

Culture Ireland has supported Irish commercial contemporary art galleries attending art fairs to promote the work of Irish artists, but in a sporadic, unpredictable way. Recalibrating State support for commercial galleries, not only for art fairs but in other contexts such as specific exhibitions, would have a positive effect at a time when trading conditions remain extremely challenging. AD

Get the Cinemobile back

Lobby to restore public funding for the recently cancelled Cinemobile or devise some replacement for the much-missed travelling picture house. The vehicle brought cinema to underserved parts of the country and served as a useful alternative venue for film festivals. Films should be seen on a large screen – even if that screen is on wheels. DC

More arts advocates

Have an advocate for the arts in every Government department. The Framework Policy aims to: “Ensure that culture is seen as a core component of the work across Government”.

So how could this work? Department of Health: develop cultural prescriptions, art in hospitals, and art therapy. Department of Finance: tax incentives and supports for culture projects. Department of Education: an artist-in-residence in every school in Ireland. Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: work with the ever-expanding tech sector to encourage them to see the benefits of engaging with creative artists and makers. GT

Funding guides

Publish guides to explain to artists just how the funding system works. It’s currently a process that’s only understood by insiders and those already in the game. Make it like First Music Contact, but across the arts. Jim Carroll

Large musical works

Irish composers can write solo pieces, string quartets, works for small ensembles and orchestral works with some hope of a performance. But they are largely shut off from pieces in the 15-30 instrument range, the kind of repertoire performed by the likes of the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain or Ensemble Modern, which is the backbone of the international new music scene. A dedicated scheme or ensemble is badly needed to fill the gap. Michael Dervan

Encourage newbies

Some 50 per cent of all arts funding should be ringfenced for people who’ve never been funded before. To fund this, Aosdána should be scrapped and its budget allocated to new art practitioners. JC

More Irish music 

The recording and dissemination not just of music by Irish composers but also of recordings of the centuries-wide gamut of repertoire played by Irish performers is neglected and calls for a structured, developmental approach. MD

Make opera sing

Opera in Ireland is in a broken state. Report after report has recommended that extra money be allocated to fix the problem. It’s never been done. It’s time now to define that support in real money and on a realistic time-scale. MD

Play and pay policy

Stop funding events at commercial festivals, and there should be no funding or support for events that don’t pay their artists (that’s pay as in cash, not beer). JC

More art on TV

Up the requirement for arts programming on RTÉ television. It’s as simple as that. GT

Pot luck

Acquire a recreation of Grayson Perry’s 2007 artwork This Pot Will Reduce Crime by 29 per cent, or perhaps a large photograph, and install it in every Government department, State agency, local government office and cultural institution that will determine “the value of culture as a means of fostering a more sustainable future for Ireland, including through economic and social policy”, as per the Department of Arts’ Culture 2025 document.

Ask what exactly you mean by this, how you intend to measure it, and why it is important. Refer frequently to the pot. Peter Crawley

Increase residencies

Two modest ventures, the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Co Mayo and Cill Rialaig in Co Kerry, have been disproportionately significant in drawing artists from abroad and in spreading Ireland’s cultural reputation abroad. The fellowships and residencies model is well worth developing further in other locations. AD

No more plaques

Huge reserves of “capital projects” already exist in regional arts centres. They are starved for content. The local and rural communities you hope to “engage” are losing their appetites for lack of opportunities. Anything you can put a plaque on appeals to political imaginations, but now you need to support the spaces and the work – the art, the culture – to put into it. Support touring, venue networks, local artists. PC

Ask the artists

Don’t ask artists what they can do for you. Ask what you can do for them. It’s their job to engage, delight, inspire, provoke, bore and fail. The arts policy document is driven by the notion that Ireland does and will listen to them. So listen to them. PC

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