Northern Ireland’s Culture, Arts & Heritage Strategy Taskforce says a cross-government approach to investing in the sectors is needed ahead of development of 10-year strategy.
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Funding for Northern Ireland’s culture, arts and heritage sectors must be put on par with sectorial investment across the UK and Ireland, the country’s Culture, Arts & Heritage Strategy Taskforce has said.
The taskforce has outlined the investment ambition in its report, Investing in Creative Delivery, presented to Northern Ireland’s Department for Communities (DfC) at the end of last month.
The report sets out 36 recommendations and conclusions and will inform the process of developing a culture, arts and heritage strategy in Northern Ireland.
It is published amid a precarious funding climate in Northern Ireland, which earlier this year saw the DfC cut Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s (ACNI) budget by 5%, to help bridge a funding gap in excess of £111m.
According to the taskforce’s report, government investment in the arts through ACNI stands at £5.44 per capita, compared with £10.35 in Wales and £25.90 in the Republic of Ireland.
In the report’s foreword, Chair of the taskforce, Dame Rotha Johnston, says investment in Northern Ireland’s cultural sector “pales in comparison to the focus and intent of our neighbours”.
“Fiscal circumstances may be a contributing factor elsewhere but governmental policy in these jurisdictions is also clear on the rationale for such investment.”
Johnston added the report “provides government with recommendations to catalyse and support transformation”.
“We have complex social, economic and environmental challenges. We continue to navigate turbulence and trauma from a difficult past. Amid ongoing uncertainty, there is urgency for transformative change.”
“We need to invest in creative delivery and the means to inspire, catalyse and move from what is now, to what can be. Our region has creative talent, ideas, organisations and places which deliver and can amplify innovative solutions and better ways of working together.”
In its recommendations, the taskforce says Northern Ireland’s culture, arts and heritage strategy must “provide a framework and impetus for investment”.
It calls for the strategy to address imbalances and barriers in Northern Ireland’s cultural ecosystem and to engage people and communities to build momentum.
The need for a NI Executive-wide strategy is reiterated across several recommendations. The taskforce says both the executive and local government must “reassess the value they place on culture, arts and heritage”, noting a lack of recognition has become a “fundamental barrier” directly leading to decreased investment.
In response, it suggests the culture, heritage and arts sectors can be “collectively positioned across government” to help recognise their contribution and stimulus across wider policy areas.
It also calls on DfC to secure increased investment to its 15 arm’s lengths bodies, which includes ACNI.
The taskforce has urged the DfC to commence a public consultation on a draft 10-year strategy this autumn.
Prior to the launch of the consultation, it suggests the department engage more widely across the culture, arts and heritage sectors to “share the thrust of this report’s recommendations”.
It sets a recommended deadline to launch an approved culture, arts and heritage strategy of early 2024.