Professor Brian Walker, Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), has called on the new administration at Stormont to redress the chronic under-funding of the arts, following the publication of figures which show that Northern Ireland has fallen even further behind the rest of the UK in terms of per capita spend.
Expressing his dismay at the figures, he said the figures ?tell a bleak story and describe a level of neglect which is, frankly, unacceptable?. Per capita spend on the arts in Northern Ireland stands at £4.34 in the 2002/3 financial year, having decreased from £4.49 in 2001/2. By contrast, in Scotland, Wales and England per capita arts-spend has increased in the past year to levels of £6.69, £6.43 and £5.90 respectively.
Professor Walker?s statement was made at a meeting of ACNI, at which he also warned that continued poor funding would jeopardise the existence of some arts organisations, and that initiatives such as increasing access to the arts and programmes pursuing social inclusion were also under threat. He said ?The arts communities right across Northern Ireland deserve a break from persistent hardship. The Arts Council has made great efforts over the last two years to maximise the impact of the funding available. This has included making National Lottery funds more immediately accessible, integrating them with the funds voted by government, not to mention reshaping the entire Council to enhance ease of application and more effective customer care. But such measures can only go so far in the face of chronic, long-term under-funding.? His outspoken remarks reinforce the message being championed by Belfast?s Professional Arts Lobby, which earlier this month boycotted an awards ceremony as part of a protest by leading members of Belfast?s arts community at the arts funding policies of Belfast City Council (ArtsProfessional issue 38, p1) . The group is protesting at having to ?survive years of significant under-funding and under-resourcing from the statutory organisations that are charged with supporting and nurturing the arts.?