Is there a future for the arts in Northern Ireland?

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Image: The panel at the Question Time event at the Mac in Belfast.

By Brian Pelan, VIEW editor,

Those who attended the ‘Question Time’ event at the Mac theatre in Belfast last night, who were looking for an answer to the question; Is there a future for the arts in Northern Ireland?, probably left none the wiser.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, SDLP councillor Claire Hanna, Sinn Fein councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile and Ulster Unionist Party election candidate Rodney McCune were on the panel alongside the chair, journalist and broadcaster Wendy Austin.

14 April 2015 -   Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.


The evening started with a strong introduction by Mac chief executive Anne McReynolds, above.

Ms McReynolds pointed that a show, currently on at the Mac, if public subsidy was stripped out, would cost £123 per ticket.

We want the arts to be seen as many people as possible and that means having public subsidy.”

Some core message about this is not getting through to our politicians, because if it was we would not be languishing at the absolute bottom of the pile in the UK in terms of public investment in the arts.”

Ms Austin then took a number of pre-selected questions from the audience to put the politicians.

This approach led to a very controlled discussion with the politicians rarely having to really engage with the audience. Debates in the future need to be more open-ended.

I heard the phrase, ‘We need to have more conversations’. mentioned many times during the evening’. Surely we need to have less ‘conversations’ and more determination to stop implementing a cuts agenda from those politicians who say they care about the arts.

For if the present cuts to the arts budget continue then we could arrive at a scenario, when the only people who will be able to afford to go to shows, exhibitions and plays are the wealthy. The rest of us will be on the outside looking in the window.


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