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The Arts Council was unable to maintain standstill funding following orders from the Department for Communities.

Photo of exterior of The Mac
The MAC Belfast is facing a £28k funding cut

Ardfern (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Most arts organisations in receipt of annual funding from the Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) are facing cuts of around 3%.

Despite hopes the national funder would be able to maintain standstill funding, it has been forced to apply cuts following orders from the Department for Communities.

ACNI said it was able to mitigate the cuts through National Lottery funds, although it also confirmed to AP that its lottery income fell by 15% this year.

All 107 organisations that currently receive funding from ACNI will continue to be supported in 2017/18, although they will share £13m – down from £13.5m this year. The exchequer will provide £8.4m to cover core costs, with £4.7m coming from the national lottery to support programming.

“In the context of an uncertain funding environment, this announcement of £13 million will support the valuable work our artists and arts organisations deliver for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland,” said Roisín McDonough, ACNI Chief Executive.

“With the Arts Council’s National Lottery funding focused on arts programming costs, we can help protect elements of each art form, including theatre, dance, music, literature and more.”

Funding changes

Ulster Orchestra Society and The MAC Belfast are among the organisations shouldering cuts. They face a 4% (£70k) and 3% (£28k) cut respectively.

Ulster Youth Choir was hit the most heavily, being the only organisation to receive a cut of more than 5%. Manager Shane Farren told AP that the 28% cut – from £67k to £48k – was due to the choir receiving extra funding for a “specific project” last year.

“We asked for less for the current round, and our final budget actually equates to a 5% cut in core costs – in line with the vast majority of other Northern Ireland arts organisations,” he said.

At the other end of the spectrum, the second-most highly funded Northern Ireland arts organisation The Lyric Theatre’s funding remains unchanged; Streetwise Community Circus is set for a 7% increase to £73k; and Belfast International Arts Festival will receive a 15% uplift to £218k.

Directed cuts

An ACNI spokesperson said the Arts Council “had hoped” to maintain standstill funding for most arts organisations in receipt of annual funding.

“However the Council had to apply a cut to exchequer funding following recent direction from the Department for Communities on its reduced indicative budget for the arts this year,” they added.

ACNI was forced to withhold 50% of arts organisations’ annual grants for this year after political deadlock left the country without an executive or a budget.

Emergency powers have allowed the civil service to take control of a sum of money equivalent to 75% of last year’s budget. If no budget is in place by the end of July, they will gain the right to spend an amount equivalent to 95% of the budget.