Greetings from the North: Art & Resistance to the cuts – would you ‘Adam & Eve’ it?


Well the race to the bottom in Cranky Corner continues. We excel at that. We are compelled it seems. In March the Arts Council (ACNI) were forced to implement cuts of £1.38M (11%) for the year 2015/16. In recent weeks, (yes, we are still in the financial year 2015/16) the Department of Culture Arts & Leisure has announced cuts of a further 8% – £870K. Nice.

These cuts are as a result of maverick ministerial decisions by the (salaried) SF Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and her merry band of (salaried) civil servants and the various (salaried) MLA’s on the DCAL committee. She is creating some £500K fund to give to ‘communities,’ in the face of what she says are cuts by the Tories.

I try to understand this woman. I really do. In a spectacularly garbled speech at a conference called ‘Voices for the Voiceless.’ Ms Ní Chuilín tells us about having her buttons pushed by nuns, Antigone and the art of resistance. ‘Why did art turn its back on communities?’ she asks herself, in a question about art and resistance. She whinges about the place of the Irish language and makes a few gratuitous uses of the words refugees and orchestra before ‘concluding’ that ……….oh, I don’t know what she concludes. I wonder how she got that job. You can hear the speech here: (15/10/2015) Brace yourself.

I have listened to this speech several times. I left some weeks between listening and re-listening. I am well educated and I am not stupid, I have listened, but I have no clue what her core points are. I have tried to understand how this might translate into coherent policy decisions relating to arts and arts funding. I can’t, because it isn’t coherent, though I’m surmising that she thinks ‘communities’ are being shat upon by an artistic elite, and that artists and arts organisations are not contributing to making the arts accessible. Poor baby: she doesn’t get it that as she snuffs out the organisations and fails to fund the artists….. we can’t work with communities, nor anyone.

Nelson McCausland, a (salaried) DUP MLA and former Minster for Culture Arts & Leisure and current Chair of the Culture Arts & Leisure Committee, weighed-in to the fray. In case you might think this is support for the arts and artists, think again. Mr. McCausland used his own ministerial tenure, circa 2009/11, to propose that the museums should promote creationism and anti-evolution stories and ‘reflect people’s beliefs’. That’s what he did for the arts when he had the chance.

He has, wrongfully, conflated this year’s cuts of £870k with spend made several years ago, by Ms Ní Chuilín, during the World Police and Fire Games, which Belfast hosted in 2013. He has triggered a round of sectarian ping-pong. He can’t help himself either. He hasn’t gotten his facts right but that’s just your everyday bigotry. Business as usual in Cranky Corner.

Either way, I am just sick of them both – the arts creates the only progressive shared space in the north. The philistines are snuffing that out between them, with their ignorance, their arrogance, their misuse of their power, their wrong-headed decision-making, flawed rationales and refusal to be informed and learn from people who actually do know better. People on salaries can afford such thinking.

What are artists doing?

32 arts organisations are facing cuts. The organisations and artists, most of whom are free-lance and on low wages, are getting organised. Tomorrow we go to Stormont and take our protests directly there. Let’s show Carál the art of resistance, and let’s see if Nelson will ‘adam and eve’ it.

1.00 pm. Stormont, Tuesday 3rd November 2015.

More later, people.

Maria McManus