National Campaign For the Arts
"The arts are the books you are reading, the TV shows you’re watching, the music you’re listening to, the artworks you’re
fascinated with. They are the festivals you are missing, the live events you dream of, the galleries and spaces you yearn
to explore. Before and during this pandemic, it is the arts that have kept us company, been an escape, a voice, a release,
a hope. The arts are our endlessly entertaining companion, the music, books, poetry, films, stories, and more. The
arts provoke conversations, enrage radio show callers, provide heartbreaking reflection on our losses, and celebrate
the unbridled joy of our successes. The arts show us lives that reflect our own, making us feel safe, as well as lives
that are different and new to us, challenging our thinking.
We use the arts to interpret and make sense of our place in the world. When words fail us, when understanding fails
us, the arts articulate what we cannot. Musicians, writers, directors, producers, visual artists, performance artists, dancers, actors, designers and filmmakers,
and so many more - artists and arts workers tell our stories, they present us with the glories and failings of life in equal
measure, providing us with choices to reflect on and giving us tools to help navigate our own unique journeys.
All the enriching artistic and cultural activities and experiences which are integral to our everyday lives are the result of
work to create, work to make, work to manage, work to present. The arts provide multiple benefits for the individual,
and for society. Engaging with the arts contributes positively to education, health, and wellbeing. These are emotional
and societal benefits which cannot and should not be wholly measured through an economic lens. However, investment
in the arts sector also makes economic sense. The arts generate and create levels of revenue and ancillary work that far
outweigh the investment.
Arts and culture bolster two indigenous sectors that are currently most challenged - tourism and hospitality. Ireland’s
rich artistic and cultural landscape underscores our global offering, as a great place to live, work, visit and do business.
This is why we talk about investing in the arts, rather than funding the arts, because the exchequer and the country, in all of its business,
society, communities, and individuals, including the artist, all benefit from that investment; everyone reaps the rewards." See A NATIONAL ARTS RECOVERY PLAN
(Image from The Purple Cabaret. Firkin Crane. 2011)
The NCFA ensured that the Arts and Culture were on the agenda during the General Election campaign. Thanks to our Cork South West candidates for joining us at Uillinn West Cork Arts Center, Skibbereen.
NCFA called on all candidates to commit to at least doubling investment in Culture and the Arts by 2025. This included a commitment to doubling investment in the Arts Council and Culture Ireland over the same period.
All candidates were invited to attend and present their Arts and Culture policies. A strong turn out of local artists and arts workers, welcomed the candidates who made up the panel; from the Green Party, Bernie Connolly; Kevin O'Connor with People before Profit; Cllr. Paul Hayes, Sinn Féin; Cllr. Holly Cairns, Social Democrats; Cllr. Karen Coakley, Fine Gael; Deputy Michael Collins TD, an Independent candidate; and Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Christopher O'Sullivan Fianna Fáil.
Kevin O’Connor from People before Profit referenced a time where theatre and drama had been of great benefit to his own personal life, and went on to point out that Government investment in the Arts and Culture in Ireland is lower than any other country in Europe, representing just 0.11% of GDP compared to a European average of 0.6%, and that he would be committed to raising it to meet with the European average. He stated that, "In creating culture, those who work in the arts contribute to the health of our communities and our society. People Before Profit believe in collaborating with artists directly on their needs. We do not believe in collaborating with Fine Fáil or Fine Gael in coalition."
Cllr. Holly Cairns, who went on to win her seat in the Dáil, spotted her former drama teacher, Alison Glennie, in the crowd and recalled her short lived acting career playing, Lady Montgomery as a child, for a TV programme. One of the points made by Deputy Cairns later was that artists should look to the party policies more than the personal anecdotes, as she believed an individual will find it difficult to implement change, and we need a party with policies in place to have the power to follow through. She referenced the Social Democrats policy with arts at the heart of Irish life, in particular the proposal to add Theatre and Drama as a Leaving Cert subject. The Social Democrats policy recognises that the arts have a vital role in stimulating innovation through creative thinking, and this was applauded by those assembled. Holly also called for funding to the arts being brought in line with the EU average, and that, “During the recession, it was the arts that kept this country going. West Cork in particular has some of the best festivals in the country, with an international reputation that draws some of the best authors, artists and musicians to our part of the world every year. This country’s international reputation is almost entirely founded on our talent, our artistic output – we’ve always punched above our weight there and we should support it like we mean it.”
Leader funding, which Alice Rose Clifford relied on for her current ‘Wave Makers’ project, was a conversation that moved onto the negative implications of Brexit on the funding programme post 2020. The Wave Makers arts collective is a group of community minded creatives looking to address the lack of accessible, affordable arts facilities in the West Cork area. Carmel Winters suggested the candidates also be wary of arts spending on infrastructure that goes to builders and architects rather than directly to artists. The need for affordable studios and more arts centers was agreed, and the danger of money required for new buildings, or for meeting health and safety standards with old buildings, that could mean arts monies going to the building sector rather than directly to the artists, was debated by several participants in the heated discussion that followed.
The Mayor of the County, Cllr. Christopher O'Sullivan, who went on to become our Teachta Dála voiced his support for the arts as an intrinsic part of the make up of West Cork and Irish society and culture in general, referring to his own family connections to the musical arts, and an ability to hold a tune himself. He also cited the value of the great many arts festivals that keep the economy of West Cork alive and the cultural life vibrant. Cllr. Paul Hayes stated that whatever might happen by Sunday’s election count he would remain available at council level to continue the conversation in support of the arts and the artists present.
Reference was made to how in a more local recent construction of flood walls in Skibbereen, which is in the remit of local council, it had been a mistake that no artists had been consulted to make this necessary structural element at least in some way aesthetically pleasing to the beautiful West Cork town. The many faceted discussion between candidates and artists could have continued long into the evening, but the 7.30 bell had rung, so this pre-election meeting was brought to a close, with plans to meet with the soon to be elected South West Cork Teachtaí Dala in the very near future. Those assembled, including the Uilinn team of Stephen Canty, Operations and Facilities Manager; and Louise Forsyth, Front of House Coordinator and Communications Assistant, applauded the strong ballot of candidates in Cork South West competing for the three available seats.
Yvonne's final words before thanking all those present for their attendance, was an impassioned call for ‘investment’ in the arts, stating that, “we are NOT asking for a handout, we are telling you that the arts are not only at the heart of Ireland, with social benefits in a multitude, but are a financial staple, and paying dividends to our country.”
As the gallery emptied Uillinn director Ann Davoren commented on the success of the event, as an opportunity for so many of the candidates to hear the concerns of artists and arts workers in the area, and to hear and gauge the candidates understanding of the issues.
Pic. Anne Minihane. Southern Star. (Inset Yvonne Coughlan Coordinator NCFA Cork South West, Ann Davoran, Director, Uilinn.)
Thanks if you came to MEET YOUR Teachta Dáila Candidates 2016
- Maritime Hotel Bantry, courtesy of West Cork Chamber Music Festival; Monday 13th June. TD Michael Collins.
- Uileann-West Cork Arts Center, Skibbereen; Monday 20th June, 11am. TD Jim Daly. Also attended by Neasa Peters, Parliamentary Assistant to Deputy Michael Collins.
- The Friary Center, Kinsale. Monday 20th June, 7pm. TD Margaret Murphy O'Mahony.
- Many thanks to TD Michael Collins for speaking on behalf of the arts, artists and arts workers of Cork South West in the Dáil.
Take this link to find out more in general www.ncfa.ie