Ulster Orchestra gets more cash than 11 leading NW arts groups

Audience gathered for a performance in the auditorium at the Waterside Theatre.
Audience gathered for a performance in the auditorium at the Waterside Theatre.

The Ulster Orchestra has been allocated more funding from the Arts Council for 2016/17 than eleven leading cultural organisations in Londonderry combined, it’s been revealed.

The fifty-year-old Ulster Orchestra Society Ltd. will receive £1,779,568 in this it’s semicentennial year.

By contrast, all the main artistic and cultural players in the Maiden City, will receive just £1,552,275 collectively.

But at least it’s more than the Lyric Theatre (NI) (£968,500 and The MAC (£950,000), two more Belfast institutions, will receive.

The Arts Council (ACNI) has announced annual funding of £13.4million for 107 key arts organisations.

This followed advice from the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure that the reduction to the ACNI exchequer budget for 2016/17 will not be more than 5.7 per cent and will be subject to Ministerial decisions in the new NI Assembly mandate.

The Arts Council says it has succeeded in maintaining standstill grants to 102 organisations based on last year’s funding figures, with a further 5 receiving uplifts. The Arts Council has announced exchequer grants totalling £8,772,245 which will cover core running costs for arts organisations, while lottery funding of £4,693,715 will cover associated programming costs.

Here’s what the main Londonderry arts groups are getting: The Playhouse (£249,012); Verbal Arts Centre (£225,496); The Void Art Centre (£202,768); An Gaeláras Ltd., Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin (£154,535); Waterside Theatre Company Ltd (£130,930); Walled City Music Trust (£115,000); CCA Derry - Londonderry (£112,000); Echo Echo Dance Theatre (£109,758); Greater Shantallow Community Arts (£102,551); Derry Theatre Trust - the Millennium Forum (£100,000); and the Nerve Centre (£50,225).

Bob Collins, Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The arts sector is again facing another financially challenging year. It is expected that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will receive a further 5.7 per cent cut to its exchequer funding once the new Executive takes office in May.

“We are left with just £8.77million to core fund the valuable work our artists and arts organisations deliver for the benefit of all in Northern Ireland.

“It is with a degree of relief that the Arts Council has been able to mitigate any further damage to the sector by offering largely standstill funding to 107 arts organisations across Northern Ireland. Even in a low inflation environment, this still represents a further reduction as it follows significant cuts. We have found it challenging to find efficiency savings but we made staff reductions and, together with our move to new premises, this has helped prevent us passing this particular cut onto our arts organisations.

“This gloomy outlook has to be seen against the background of ten years of disinvestment by government in the Arts in Northern Ireland. There has been a cumulative loss of £3.5m of exchequer funding for the arts over the last three years alone, a reduction of over 25%. As we make our transition into the new Department for Communities, it is with sincere concern for the future that I call on the new Minister and the new Northern Ireland Executive to begin to focus anew on the value of the arts, on their relationship to everyone in Northern Ireland and to begin a programme of reinvestment in the Arts.”

Arts Council Chief Executive, Roisin McDonough, commented: “It is with some disappointment that we reflect that in 2016/17, we are left with a significantly smaller publicly funded art sector than ten years ago and a per capita spend on the arts in Northern Ireland that has shrunk to less than 11p per person per week.

“A reduced arts sector, delivering fewer performances and exhibitions, with fewer staff, results in fewer opportunities for people to engage with the arts, which is their fundamental right.

“In taking some exceptionally difficult funding decisions last year, and absorbing the majority of cuts to our exchequer budget this year, we have protected some of the core elements of each art form. With the help of lottery funding for programming costs, our annually funded arts organisations are to be congratulated for proposing an inspirational range of arts events and activities delivered to people across Northern Ireland and beyond”.