Barriers to NI arts says report

Working class communities in Northern Ireland still face ‘significant barriers’ when accessing arts and culture, says a new report.

 The report, from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure committee at the Northern Ireland assembly said arts events cost too much, venues were too hard to get to, or that arts events were not publicised enough.

It called for more publicly-owned art to be displayed in libraries and schools and funding for musical instruments should be made more accessible.

It also wants to see greater spending on the arts from other departments and called on the sector to do more to engage with potential audiences in “disadvantaged, marginalised or deprived communities.”

The committee’s report made more than 20 recommendations, including more inclusive partnerships between theatre companies and venues and community groups, a greater role for the arts in schools, and improved public transport for easier access to arts venues, particularly in rural areas.

Northern Ireland’s arts council has invested £70 million in refurbishing and building new venues. It claims no one in the country is further than 20 miles from a dedicated arts venue. Research conducted by development agency Audiences NI in 2014 showed 80% of adults attended at least one arts event per year. The creative industries currently employ nearly 6,000 people – equivalent to 5% of the region’s total workforce – and are estimated to generate £797 million gross added value to the local economy.

The committee's 'Inclusion in the Arts of Working Class Communities' report is the result of a two-year inquiry into the level of participation in the arts by people from working-class urban and rural areas. The report said that "there is a great deal of arts and cultural activity going on in working-class communities".

However, it also found that there were some significant barriers to "disadvantaged, marginalised or deprived communities" when it came to participation in the arts.

Arts minister Caral Ni Chuilin welcomed the report.  “The arts are not a luxury to be enjoyed by an elite few; they should be enjoyed by all who wish to enjoy them, regardless of community background, age, gender, disability, race, sexual orientation, political opinion or income level,” she said.



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