Monday 26 February 2018

Centenary celebrations take centre stage as Arts Council blasts funding as a 'real blow' to crafts

Heather Humphreys
Heather Humphreys
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

THE 2016 Centenary celebrations took centre stage as the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht saw their budget increase 12pc to €310m.

However, several key players in the Irish arts community have criticised the 2016 budget, claiming it fails to support "everyday artists" and describing it as "a blow to the arts community".

The Arts Council's funding increased €2.5m to €59.1m when compared to the 2015 budget. Arts Council Chair, Sheila Pratschke, says this increase simply does not meet the ambitions of the council.

"We are deeply disappointed with the budget," Pratschke told the Irish Independent.

"It's a real blow for arts organisations around Ireland who are holding on by their fingernails. So many artists are struggling and working for little or no money. This budget doesn't give us sufficient funds to help them."

The council recently published a 10-year strategy titled 'Making Great Art Work' which aimed to support "new generations of artists" and "develop the arts in diverse communities across the country".

Pratschke believes this allocation will "challenge our capacity to deliver on this ambition".

Over €48m of the Department of Arts budget will go towards the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

The Centenary Celebrations will be broken into seven separate strands - including State Ceremonial, Historical Reflection, Community Participation, the Living Language, Youth and Imagination, Cultural Expression and Global and Diaspora.

Over €31m will fund major capital works such as the installation of a museum at the GPO and a new visitor centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh.

Director of the Dublin Theatre Festival, Willie White, acknowledged the budget was "moving in the right direction" but said funding should be given to people and practitioners not just historic buildings.

"We need money to go towards people, programmes and projects," he said.

Director of the Gate Theatre, Michael Colgan, also criticised the budget.

"The government don't understand that art is not a luxury - it is essential for society to survive and thrive," he said.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht defended the budget saying, while many agencies may have expected a large rise in funding, "this is not realistic at a time when the Government is committed to managing the economy responsibly".

The spokesperson added that The Arts Council receive almost one fifth of the budget. Yesterday, Minister Heather Humphreys stressed the importance of commemorating The Rising.

"My department's biggest priority is the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme," she said.

"These projects will leave a lasting legacy."

An additional €8m of the budget will fund a new scheme of grants helping to enhance regional arts and cultural centres.

A further €3m has been allocated to Culture Ireland, which supports Irish artists overseas, while funding allocations for the Islands and for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language have both increased.

"We are now in a position once again to invest in our arts, culture and heritage," Humphreys said. "Which will benefit communities right across the country."

Irish Independent

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