ACNI announces round of cuts in funding

But boost for Ulster Orchestra and Belfast MAC

Arts Council Northern Ireland has cut its grants to more than 40 organisations and axed seven arts groups from its funding portfolio.

Among those which lost out were Queen Street and Paragon Studios, which provide spaces for artists and community arts organisations, New Lodge Arts and Arts for All.

The Grand Opera House in Belfast and Derry Playhouse also received substantial cuts.

However two major recipients of funding, the Ulster Orchestra and the MAC centre IN Belfast got a major uplift in funding. The orchestra has received about £2.1m in 2018/19, up from £1.7m in 2017/18, while the MAC’s funding was boosted to £1.1m this year compared to £922,500 last year.

The move comes after ACNI’s funding was cut by 4.7% in the recent budget for the region. However, the amount of money distributed this year remains at about £13.1m.

ACNI chair John Edmund said the substantial reduction in public funding for the arts in Northern Ireland had led to difficult decisions.

"There simply weren't the resources to fund all that was asked for" he said. "The majority of organisations were offered standstill funding or strategic uplifts, while the remainder received cuts."

Ian Wilson, chief executive of the Grand Opera House, said that "although a reduction in funding was expected" there was no indication as to its extent. "It's extremely disappointing that the Arts Council has resolved to reduce its annual subsidy to the Grand Opera House Trust by £108,407 to £375,880 for the 2018/2019 financial year. This represents a 22% cut in funding compared to 2017/18. The Arts Council did not give the Grand Opera House Trust advance notice of the scale of the cut and the news was received by letter.”

He said that he would be asking for an urgent meeting with ACNI to discuss the decision.

Conor Shields from the campaign group Arts Matter NI said: “These are incredibly difficult times for the arts in general in Northern Ireland".

Arts spending in Northern Ireland per head of population was now below £5 per yea , less than half the spend in Great Britain and in the Republic of Ireland.


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