Today is the National Day of Action for the arts in Ireland. Anyone interested in campaigning against funding cuts for the arts sector in the next budget are encouraged to contact their local representatives and TDs in an effort to show them how important the arts are to Ireland.
The importance of the arts is difficult to weigh up, not many theatres or art galleries turn over a tidy profit, in fact some don’t turn any profit at all and even more run into a loss every year. I would imagine every arts organisation in this country relies on government funding of some sort. But what does the country get back as a result – well €2 billion in tourism! And the Dept of Sports, Culture and Tourism (formerly Arts, Sports and Tourism) has an annual budget of €501 million, so that’s a pretty good return on the tax payers’ investment isn’t it! About the only return we do get!!!!!
The arts community has been very active in efforts to keep their funding since the beginning of this disaster (can’t bring myself to type the R word), including campaigns by artistic heavyweights such as Brendan Gleeson and Colum McCann. Making your voice heard is very easy to do and takes all of a few clicks, you can visit the NCFA website: http://ncfa.ie/, click on “Email Your TD”, select your constituency and fill in your details and hey presto the already worded email will get sent to your local representatives. I sent my email last week and got two fairly generic “your comments have been noted” emails from Charlie O’Connor and Conor Lenihan (I guess he had other matters on his mind!), and was nicely surprised with an albeit obviously pre-formatted, fairly positive response from Pat Rabbitte, which I’ve pasted below:
Thank you very much for your e-mail regarding the need to protect funding for the Arts in the forthcoming Budget.
I wish to confirm that my colleague, Mary Upton T.D., as Party Spokesperson for the Arts, fully recognises the need to sustain investment in the Arts and we appreciate the very important role of the Arts and Culture in our society. Unfortunately Arts and Culture is often seen as an easy target for cuts in straitened economic times. As you will be aware, between 2008 and 2009 funding for the Arts Council was cut by 16%. At that time the Labour Party expressed our concerns for this level of cut in the Arts budget.
A 2009 Report commissioned by the Arts Council stated that the Arts contribute a total of €782 million to the economy and provide 26,519 jobs. This sector is therefore of great importance to the economy. But, the value of Arts and Culture cannot be measured in economic terms alone – as the Arts nurture the cultural and spiritual elements of society, enhances our reputation abroad and provides much needed “lift” in difficult and challenging times.
At a time when all Government spending is under review, the Labour Party will continue to seek to protect funding for this vital area of our society and our economy.
Pat Rabbitte T.D.
And if you don’t want to take a politician’s word for it, the NCFA have put together a video explaining just why the arts are worth saving: