Shrinking Art Funding Hints At An All Out Strike By The Irish Artists
There has been a strong reaction from the arts community to the newly formed Irish government’s verdict to expand Heather Humphrey’s ministerial portfolio to include Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.
The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) has also indicated that strikes by the artists is in fact an option now on the table. In response to a question discussing the possibility of demonstrations or sector-wide actions from the artists like strikes, Jo Mangan, chair, NCFA indicated a possibility of it all. The latest changes are being interpreted as a galvanizing of the sector, she further added.
Established in 2009, and led by volunteers, NCFA is predominantly a grass-roots movement and is one of the most resilient supporters for arts in Ireland. Mangan also goes further on to mention that this unrest is relevant to and concerns more than just the artist community. It is related to the access to arts & culture for the whole nation and about its pride in itself. It is about the people of the nation realizing that they are a lot more than mere workforce to carry on the commands of the multinational conglomerates. These are the times when the people should take a breath, grow up and accept their identity as citizens and as a nation and to “stop apologizing for investing in it.” It is now time to disassociate arts from its identity of being a middle class pursuit and to realize that each individual that spends an average day is in fact interacting with arts in their lives every day. This is not exclusively for the artists, it is for everyone.
Last month NCFA representatives had a meeting with Heather Humphreys, Minister for the Arts which was said to have been quite a positive experience. The Minister does concur with the concerns of the organization for the need of bigger investments, reforms in the existing policies and a solid futuristic vision for the arts in the country. In spite of a pleasant meeting, the government made no commitments but only promised to put in all efforts to retain the 50 million euros that was to go into the Art department for the 2016 commemorations.
The government claims the move of expansion of the department as a positive step wherein the department would gain more heft. The art community as a whole and the NCFA are interpreting this as a demotion. There has been considerable discontent about heritage completely disappearing from the title of the department. Mangan claims that since arts have been involved deeply in the commemorations, a voice as strong as the arts need also be given to the heritage.
Ed Guiney of Element Pictures, an Oscar nominated film producer mentions that creative talent is the currency of the nation. The artistic acclamation of Ireland carries quite a heavy weight in terms of the success it has garnered at the international platforms. He further urges for some serious funds in the arts so that the Irish arts and artistic community can beat the rest of the world and live up to its full potential.
As per the records of the Council of Europe, in 2012 an average of 0.6% of the GDP was spent on culture. Ireland’s 0.11% expenditure puts it on the bottom of the league and NCFA has put forth a proposal and request for this figure to be raised to at least half of the average of the European Union that is 0.3%.
Fintan O’Toole has gone on to call the artists to come together and take a stand and announce a strike. He suggests that they must all pick a week and plan with great detail to do nothing. To bring the theatres, the galleries, the museums, the art centers, the concert halls, and the music venues all to a close, to a standstill. To stop the publishing of Irish books, to stop poetry readings, to not release any films, to hold the broadcast of soaps and to maintain a radio silence. To go for an all-out strike.