Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 14 May 2009

Inquiry into the Funding of the Arts

14 May 2009

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:

Ms Heather Floyd )
Ms Caragh O’Donnell ) Community Arts Forum
Mr Conor Shields )

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):

I welcome representatives from the Community Arts Forum. Good morning; it is great to have you here. Heather Floyd, Conor Shields and Caragh O’Donnell are here to represent the organisation. I will hand over to Heather to introduce the team and to describe their roles in the forum. I will ask you to please make a brief opening statement, after which members will ask questions.

Ms Heather Floyd (Community Arts Forum):

Thank you for inviting us to give evidence today. I am the director of the Community Arts Forum, and I will tell you a little about it and the community arts sector. Conor is our treasurer, and he will talk about community arts and what it does and the kind of outcomes that it produces. Caragh is our information officer, and she will talk about issues that face the community arts sector. I will finish by going through our recommendations to the Committee.

The Community Arts Forum is an umbrella and networking organisation for community arts across the North of Ireland. It was formed in 1993, and it aims to develop the community arts sector through a programme of training, publications, and information.

We have an extensive information service and a website that receives just under 2,000 hits a day. We have an ebulletin that goes out weekly, and Committee members are more than welcome to sign up for that. We also produce a bulletin, copies of which I will leave for members. In addition, we do a lot of lobbying, advocacy work and networking, encouraging community groups to have arts events in their programming. The forum also talks to Government, the Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) about community arts and the impact that it has in a community context.

We define the community arts sector as one that comprises provider organisations; that is, organisations that provide community arts activities. Examples of such organisations include the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative, Belfast Community Circus School, and Northern Visions media arts centre, which holds community workshops. There is also a range of community arts groups across the region that are involved in arts projects. In addition, many artists work on their own material in a community context, and they are saying increasingly that working in a community context is really helping to inform their work at a deep level. The Community Arts Forum is the umbrella and networking organisation.

I will now hand over to Conor, who will talk about defining community arts.

Mr Conor Shields (Community Arts Forum):

Heather mentioned the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative, of which I am programme director. I have been a practitioner in community arts for more than 20 years. Community art is a process of harnessing the transformative power of original artistic expression and of producing a range of outcomes that are not just artistic — they could be social, cultural, educational or environmental.

Socially, community art can develop confidence in individuals and communities. It can develop cohesion in those communities by working collectively and by making shared, creative statements. It can also develop relationships in communities, but also between communities and between different age groups and abilities and, indeed, different sexualities.

Culturally, community art can give voice and can shape cultural expression by drawing on local identities. It can build the capacity in those areas to not only make art, but to enjoy art. The key element is about making and enjoying art in a collective experience. Community art can also be used instrumentally to deal with issues such as health and environmentalism. It can be the informal reintroduction for many to a learning environment. It can give people the opportunity to re-engage with training and to offer the first steps to accreditation, which can help with employability issues. It can also promote the arts among communities that traditionally do not have access to the arts or that are not great patrons of the arts.

Therefore, whether looked at culturally, socially or economically, community art aims to establish and maximise inclusive and collective ways of working, providing opportunities for communities and participants to find ways to develop their own skills as artists and for artists to explore ways of transferring their skills into communities and to offer a range of potential outcomes. Community art is, therefore, an incredibly flexible tool in developing the arts socially, culturally, environmentally and with a whole range of potential outcomes. The key issue, through those processes, is that community art aims to maximise the access, participation in, authorship of and ownership of collective arts practice.

That is a broad definition of how we see community art in Northern Ireland.

Ms Caragh O’Donnell (Community Arts Forum):

Part of my role in the Community Arts Forum is running the information service, a large part of which is to offer guidance to groups on funding opportunities for them so that they can run community arts projects.

I will talk about some of the obstacles that groups face accessing funding. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) is the main source of funding for the arts in Northern Ireland. Competition for those funds is very high. It can often be difficult for new and community-based groups to compete for funding with well-established arts groups that have been working for many years.

An example of that is project funding, where demand outstrips supply by a ratio of over 2:1. The major fund to which I refer people frequently is the small grants programme, which is a lottery programme that, since January this year, has been administered through the Arts Council. It offers small grants of £500 to £10,000, and the officers who work on it, although very dedicated, report that two thirds of applications are eligible for funding, but they can fund only one in four. The demand for it exists, and, judging by the number of enquiries that I get for funding for community arts projects, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond that, numerous groups are unaware of funding opportunities or do not have the capacity to apply for funding because of the work that is involved in drawing up budgets, reporting to funders, and administration. In those cases, groups such as the Community Arts Forum and New Belfast Community Arts Initiative, which are well established, are able to provide arts programmes because they can do the administration, allowing the groups to get on with the projects. More funding is needed for both those types of funding programme.

There are lots of other issues to do with funding and interdepartmental support. Groups may be referred to the Arts Council, even though their projects address numerous objectives of other Departments. Even though Departments frequently provide funding for arts projects, there is not necessarily a clear policy or system for accessing that funding. That is an issue.

Ms Floyd:

I will finish by talking about our recommendations. We recommend that the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure lobby the Assembly to increase significantly the per capita spend on the arts. I know that the Committee has considered per capita spend on the arts in Northern Ireland throughout this inquiry.

We recommend that DCAL work with local councils to increase council funding to the arts and that ACNI increase its budget allocation to community arts. We also recommend the development of interdepartmental arts policies and strategies and the promotion of joint working between Departments. That is particularly relevant to community arts projects that frequently contribute to the objectives of many different Departments, but that have difficulty accessing financial support. I brought a copy of this piece of research that Arts for All, which is based in north Belfast, has just completed. It finds that community arts often fall between stools, namely, the Department for Social Development (DSD), the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), but that none of those Departments takes responsibility for community arts.

We also recommend that, in consultation with the arts sector, DCAL and ACNI should develop and implement a long-term funding strategy and introduce appropriate five- to 10-year funding programmes. That would help support stability and sustainability in the sector. Arts Council funding packages are for three years, and, even within that, it is necessary to reapply year on year.

In consultation with the arts sector, we would like DCAL and ACNI to develop and implement a transparent policy and procedures for reviewing ACNI decisions. At present, if groups do not receive ACNI funding, there is no appeals process, and that can be frustrating for groups. I know that members do this already, but our final recommendation is that members of the Committee become active advocates of the arts across the region. That would involve practical measures such as attending arts events and promoting the arts at full Executive meetings, and presenting, on behalf of the arts, to other Departments.

The Chairperson:

Thank you, Heather. I will ask the first question. We have heard evidence from an organisation called Voluntary Arts Ireland. How does the Community Arts Forum’s work differ from that of Voluntary Arts Ireland?

Ms Floyd:

The Community Arts Forum deals with organisations that work in a community development context or framework. We follow through the principles to which Conor referred — access, participation, authorship, and ownership. That is quite a specific model. Voluntary Arts Ireland works with anyone who works on the arts voluntarily, including bands, sewing circles and other activities.

Ms O’Donnell:

It covers pretty much any kind of arts activity that could be leisure related, whereas the Community Arts Forum tends to work in a more community development context.

Ms Floyd:

We work very closely with Voluntary Arts Ireland, and together we chair the arts policy subgroup in the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA). Therefore, we do quite a lot of cross-cutting work together.

Mr Shields:

Another distinction to make is that the artists and arts organisations that work under CAF’s umbrella are professional, rather than purely voluntary or hobbyists’ organisations.

Mr McCarthy:

Thank you for your presentation. Your submission states that you find it difficult for community arts groups to access sponsorship and financial support from the private sector. Is there anything that DCAL or the Arts Council could do — or should do — to make it easier to attract private-sector funding and sponsorship?

Ms O’Donnell:

In my experience, sponsorship is very hard to get, even for well-established, well-staffed groups. Such groups frequently have to make numerous applications before they can access even one sponsor. Community arts groups do not have that capacity. They do not have the staff or the time, and it might not be as appealing to business organisations to support small community projects. I am not sure what ACNI can do to support that; it simply may not be viable.

Mr Shields:

Even the Ulster Orchestra, which is one of our largest recipients of arts funding, is experiencing great difficulties in retaining sponsorship, and I suppose that that is because of the economic downturn. However, it is very hard to attract sponsors who want to target the whole social strata, when we are talking about arts in hard-to-reach communities that, for the most part, are found in targeting social need (TSN) areas that may rate highly on the Noble deprivation index. Our profile in community arts does not tend to attract a lot of private sponsorship, although we are always looking for it.

Mr McNarry:

Good morning. You suggested that DCAL should set up interdepartmental arts policies and strategies to increase the engagement of other Departments in the arts. Are you suggesting that that is not happening in the Department of Education (DE), or in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), which deals with tourism? What would be the overall benefits of such a move?

Ms Floyd:

If there were a cross-departmental policy, such as those of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), every Department would have some responsibility for the delivery of the arts and for supporting the arts. There should be some acknowledgement and recognition that the arts have an impact on all areas of Government. Therefore, all Departments should have responsibility for the arts, and it should not fall back solely on DCAL. A lot of community arts groups are being shifted from pillar to post, and that would not happen if every Department had a little bit of responsibility for arts in the region.

Mr McNarry:

The same pool of money would be open to everyone. Are you suggesting that if awareness were increased, that pool would also increase?

Ms Floyd:

That is a possible outcome. It would be a very welcome outcome for the arts sector if every Department were to have an arts policy and a small resource pool.

Mr McNarry:

Does the Department of Education contribute?

Ms O’Donnell:

I think that all Departments probably support arts, but it is unclear how groups apply for funding through different Departments. We know of instances where groups have asked for support from other Departments, and they have been told that they should go back to DCAL, because that is the appropriate Department. That is where an arts policy could perhaps help Departments to recognise that they can also meet those groups’ aims and objectives.

Ms Floyd:

When DCAL was first set up, it launched the Unlocking Creativity initiative, which encompassed DETI, the Department for Employment and Learning ( DEL), DCAL and the Department of Education.

That means that there have been cross-cutting strategies in the past, but not all Departments were involved. We would like to expand those strategies. The Department of Education’s creative youth partnership programme has been running for the past four or five years and has had a hugely successful effect on the promotion of the arts in schools and on out-of-schools programmes.

Mr McNarry:

Do you know how much the Department of Education has spent on that programme?

Ms Floyd:

No.

Mr McCarthy:

That programme got £50,000 from the Department of Education, but DCAL has not yet followed suit.

The Chairperson:

That is right. The Department of Education has recommitted money to the creative youth partnership programme. We are waiting for confirmation of a similar commitment from DCAL.

Mr McNarry:

In your submission, you recommend that Committee members become active advocates of the arts across the region. If I narrow the discussion to my Strangford constituency, could you write to the Committee and give me a list of arts activities that are happening there?

Ms Floyd:

We will do that.

Mr McNarry:

That would be very interesting.

Mr Shields:

To answer the previous question, the difficulty with community arts is that it involves a range of varied outcomes. It can be instrumentalist; not only can one make art for art’s sake, but there are additional outcomes for health issues, environmental concerns and inter-community dialogue. Community arts can fall into the remits of different Departments; it is not purely about art for art’s sake. Most Departments use art in certain ways, but there are no clear policies or relationships between them when it comes to access for organisations such as CAF or the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative. Therefore, we are asking that those relationships be streamlined or made more accessible.

Mr McNarry:

That is a point well made, Chairperson.

Mr McCartney:

My question follows on from David’s. We have heard from various sources about the problem of going round the Departments, and community arts organisations in particular have discussed that with us. Neighbourhood renewal groups that have a relationship with one Department have the same difficulty. Other Departments may offer a commitment, but when people go to their door they respond by saying that the responsibility lies elsewhere. What practical measures should come out of this inquiry about making all Departments relate to the arts? How can they live up to what they are supposed to, but beyond that, deliver in real terms?

Conor gave us a definition of community arts. I know that other members share my view that the Committee’s inquiry should come up with a definition for the sector. If the figures are correct, only 9% of the available funding goes to community arts groups. How can community arts make a greater impact? Should money for community arts be ring-fenced? One of the problems is that it is sometimes difficult to define community arts. We heard from a group from the New Lodge Road in Belfast, which, while it was not saying that community arts cannot be delivered in city-centre buildings, suggested that projects that are housed in city-centre buildings attract more participants. How can that be done in reverse? That might be more of a view than a question.

Ms Floyd:

I will deal with the second part of your question first. Conor touched on that issue in his comments. We define community arts as the production of original artwork in a collaborative process between an artist and a community, and that has significant elements of access to the arts. It is also about individuals’ active participation rather than their just being members of an audience. Authorship is important — it is not about a community group putting on a production of ‘Hamlet’; they will be producing a play that usually reflects issues in their community. The community group should own the work of art; it should not belong to the artist or the playwright concerned. The first practical benefit that should come out of the Committee’s inquiry should be the establishment of an all-party interdepartmental arts group that would develop a policy for supporting the arts.

Mr Shields:

To expand further on the definition that I gave earlier, quite a few different chief executives of community arts organisations came together for the Arts Council’s strategy that was developed three years ago. Given that community arts is a multifaceted activity, in that there is pedagogic activity where people teach and transfer skills, there can be collective realisation of pieces of art. At the same time, some pieces may be participant driven and led, meaning that the community is facilitated by a professional artist.

Having quite a flexible definition is the way to capture the full ambit of community arts. Inherently, community arts is about being flexible and about shaping itself so that it maximises the access, participation, ownership and authorship of processes. We have to be careful not to be too prescriptive about what community arts is; we must still allow a flexible definition, which, I hope, will allow various Departments to develop their own policies so that they can see the instrumental benefits that community arts can bring to their remits. One may find that different Departments could offer community arts clear ways in.

Hopefully, we would have more than the 9% funding, and, hopefully, the level of need could be reflected in those terms. Ms O’Donnell said that a great many more applications for funding are submitted than are successful. Of course, that is about capacity and resources, but there are so many ways in which community arts could be utilised in a very utilitarian sense by Departments and used as a tool to develop different ways in which they could talk about and disseminate policy in the community. It would be helpful if the Committee could come up with a definition that retained the flexibility of community arts but allowed for the maximum embrace of community arts.

The Chairperson:

Is there any European Peace funding for community arts?

Mr Shields:

There is. New Belfast has been very successful through Peace I and Peace II, and we are about to go into a Peace III programme. As community arts positions itself as an aid to the most marginalised and to intercommunity dialogue, one finds that a lot of community arts activity fits within the scheme of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or European Social Fund (ESF) money.

Mr McCartney:

I am not trying to put you on the spot, but do you know of any arts groups, collaborative or collective that have gone to other Committees, such as the Committee for Education, the Committee for Social Development or the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and said that those Committees were not living up to their expectations in the delivery of the arts, with the result that all the direction and money comes from DCAL?

Ms Floyd:

Not as far as any of us know. However, in 2007, the Community Development and Health Network researched the impact on the health of those who participated in arts projects; indeed, the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety was informed about that research.

Mr McNarry:

Will you let the Committee know how much Peace money has contributed to your organisation? More critically, when that money runs out, how much of a shortfall do you envisage and what ideas do you have for bridging that shortfall?

Ms Floyd:

We had Peace II funding that ran between January 2006 and August 2008. That amounted to between £130,000 and £150,000 over that period.

That funding has now run out. We prepared for that during the two and a half years of the programme. During that time, we decided to work much more strategically with groups if we were not doing workshop delivery ourselves. Many other groups are engaged in that activity, such as the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative or Belfast Community Circus, but we have more of a strategic research role.

At the minute, we are working on an application to the Big Lottery Fund research programme for funding to work with 10 community groups to research the impact of community arts on participants. That research will build on the report by the Community Development and Health Network, which I mentioned earlier, and similar reports. The most major recent research on community arts was carried out in 1998, but that needs to be updated. Since our Peace II funding ran out, we have tried to be positive. We have taken the chance to consider the organisation’s work and to think about how to work differently in the future, because the Peace II money was used on direct workshop delivery.

Mr McNarry:

I am sorry to be parochial. In my constituency, I work closely with loyalist groups that have a genuine keenness for what they call community arts. They struggle and feel neglected — I will not go so far as to say that they feel discriminated against — about their inability to access money to engage their interests in comparison with other areas. They are anxious about Peace III, because they do not receive funding for some of their projects.

Ms Floyd:

Do they want to apply for Peace III funding?

Mr McNarry:

Yes. I am not making a pitch on their behalf, but the inquiry needs to consider that matter generally. Some loyalist areas are not deemed to be deprived, and nobody thinks that poor people live in my constituency. I can assure them of the contrary. However, those groups suffer and have difficulty accessing funding.

Mr Shields:

Even professional organisations that have been drawing funding for years and are skilled administrators have a great deal of difficulty in not only accessing Peace moneys, but in administrating the onerous levels of paperwork, evaluation and monitoring that is required.

Through the development of Peace I, into Peace II and now into Peace III, the pendulum has shifted. During Peace I, the view on how to engage with processes and how to monitor projects was relaxed. That approach was adjudged to be too light. Peace II introduced rigorous controls, especially regarding financial monitoring. That applies to trained administrators who have a lot of experience. As a member of CAF, the New Belfast Community Arts Initiative was happy to run one of the largest Peace II programmes in Belfast. However, a lot of work was involved. Therefore, it is a question of capacity.

Mr McNarry mentioned loyalist groups, and I can understand the frustrations of many groups that want to access moneys and have a clear determination that, based on the criteria, they should be able to do so. However, it is a big job and much at-risk work would have to be done in the first place to produce an application that is good enough. There are two stages of application processes, rigorous levels of monitoring, and so on. I understand those groups’ frustration, and I sympathise with them. As an organisation, we have had to pick and choose programmes carefully in order to manage and maximise our resources and to ensure that the outcomes are well balanced for the community groups that we serve.

Mr McNarry:

You could send any spare cash that you have to Newtownards in a few weeks.

The Chairperson:

They could enclose a cheque with that list of groups that they are going to send.

Mr McNarry:

I am not a Westminster MP.

Mr K Robinson:

I thank my colleagues for asking the bulk of my questions.

Your submission states that only 9% of Arts Council funding goes to community arts groups. Given that that represents underfunding in the light of how it has contributed to addressing the targeting of social need on other levels, if that funding were to be increased, what other arts forms should have their budgets cut to provide that additional funding? That is the political question, so I ask you to leave it hanging for a moment.

Conor, you mentioned the communities that do not traditionally engage with the arts. David McNarry reinforced that point, and it is one issue that I would like to take up. It is a thread that has run through my questions to the groups that have appeared before the Committee. You also mentioned a lack of capacity, which has an impact on access to funding. There is tension between the established groups that can access funding and have the expertise to do so and those groups that do not. How should that be addressed?

I have been taking notes throughout your presentation, and I know that you said that artists sometimes say that they are informed by what is happening in communities. How do you allow the communities, once they have established their capacity and accessed the funding, to say who and what they are and how they feel? As a former teacher, I know that whenever children are doing art, you tend to tell them that a hill is not really the shape that they have drawn it, or that a tree is not shaped as they have shown it, for example. In trying to guide their work, you are to some degree stymieing the child’s view of the world. Could we be stymieing a community’s view of itself and of art by allowing the professional artist’s expertise to come through and guide their thoughts on the way that they want to move ahead?

I was very taken by Dan Gordon, who appeared before the Committee previously. Dan had a little play called ‘The Boat Factory’ for schoolchildren in Belfast. To me, the purpose of the play was to not only get them involved and enthused about the arts by giving them skills and so forth, but to help them rediscover who they are and what their community is.

I would be interested to hear your comments on access and ability and about how you develop latent arts talent and how communities see themselves, whether through music or visual arts. How do you coax that from them without superimposing something of your views of the world on them?

Mr Shields:

You asked about how to ensure that an artist’s view did not stymie or constrain that of the community. The New Belfast Community Arts Initiative is a membership organisation of CAF, and it is a delivery organisation, so it provides access work all the time. It has over 160 artists on its books. The key to community arts is to take those artists through a process before they come into contact with the community so that they can have a working ethos that they understand. That will hopefully preclude their ability to superimpose their views.

The role of an artist in community arts is to be a facilitator. They are not necessarily stymieing a community’s view; they are supporting it, because that capacity does not exist in the community already. Those processes have as long an engagement period as possible so that the communities that do not have the language of artistic expression, whose representatives perhaps have not been to university, and who do not understand the various palettes of arts that are available, are given time to learn through skill building. That allows the communities to develop their own ideas about themselves.

Most of the time, that process deals with identity, because people know more about themselves than the arts that they are dealing with. Everybody has a strong sense of their own identity, whether that is a cultural or an individual identity. Community arts mostly wants to draw that out of people and facilitate it.

Mr K Robinson:

How do you get over the inherent feeling in those marginalised communities that in some way, what they are and what they represent is inferior to what is nice or acceptable in society? The fact that what they do well and what they feel from the heart is perhaps not accepted by wider society adds to their feelings of being marginalised. How do you draw that out and give those communities confidence?

Mr Shields:

I do not know of a group that engages with us that considers itself to be in an inferior position. Indeed, the confidence that organisations are immediately given by having access to cutting-edge arts activity often engenders more confidence and a greater ability to communicate the fact that they do not feel marginalised and are not on the fringes of society. They feel that they have as much right as anyone else to say whatever they feel. Therefore, it is a very empowering process.

We also work within a schools framework and attempt to dovetail with curricula. We are in no way trying to undermine or superimpose on other processes. We always play a supportive role, because the individuals and communities that are involved are key to the process. It is a process-driven activity, and the output is secondary, even though it is excellent in many cases. However, the engagement process is the key, and that is the reason that we need the manpower and resources to make that period last for as long as possible.

Mr K Robinson:

The evaluation of certain schemes engages the Committee often. You talked about the benefits that community arts have for the health and confidence of individuals and communities. How do you evaluate those benefits in order to inform funders or people such as us so that they can lobby on your behalf? Can you quantify your tangible output from every pound that is spent?

Ms Floyd:

That is the reason that we need research and the reason that our organisation has decided to go down that road. We need to produce robust evidence so that we can set out to, for example, the Department of Health or the Department of Education the impact that community arts has on participants and communities.

Mr K Robinson:

Do you recognise the purpose of evaluation, and are you actively engaged in it?

Ms Floyd:

Yes.

Mr P Ramsey:

You are very welcome this morning. Both the written and oral presentations were very helpful and focused. One of your key recommendations is that a commitment be made to increase arts funding significantly, and, indeed, that is what the inquiry is all about. The Committee recognises that other regions have thought it purposeful to invest in the arts. However, to date, robust or qualitative evidence has not been produced to convince other Departments or the Executive in Northern Ireland that they must invest, whether that is in economic or social regeneration. We need that evidence, so how would you go about getting it?

You are one of the few groups that mentioned Liverpool, and some of us will be going there for a study visit. You referred to the huge social and economic regeneration that was brought about in Liverpool through its being the European Capital of Culture in 2008. There was huge investment in Liverpool’s built heritage, with millions of pounds being used to modernise old buildings. Are there any issues that we may not be aware of that you feel we should raise on our visit to Liverpool?

The aim of your organisation is to provide opportunities for groups to access community arts, and that is valid. David and Ken alluded to a theme that has emerged throughout the inquiry, which is that Protestant communities in Northern Ireland do not have either the capacity or the confidence to come forward. I recall a mapping exercise of general funding in Peace I being carried out in Derry. It found that programmes of money were developed to increase the capacity of areas to access funding. The Committee needs to examine that.

One of your other recommendations is to ensure that councils across Northern Ireland increase funding. However, there is a clear lack of consistency in council funding. I do not have the relevant evidence, but it is generally accepted that more money is spent per capita in nationalist-controlled council areas than in unionist-controlled council areas.

Reference is made to people feeling culturally poor. One would imagine that where people are not accessing that participation, a level of cultural poverty comes into the equation. How can we, as a Committee and as a wider society, ensure that Protestant or unionist communities do not feel alienated and marginalised from the centre and be part of the whole shared future that we are trying to deliver, particularly among young people?

Ms Floyd:

First, over the next week or so, we could research a good community arts group in Liverpool that you could visit — we could perhaps go through the Chairperson with that. As regards Protestant communities, a piece of research, for example, was carried out by a group that is based on the Shore Road in Belfast. Our experience is that there are excellent community arts projects based in all areas and working with all types of groups: gay and lesbian; those from minority ethnic backgrounds; and those in loyalist and in republican areas. They are all producing really good arts projects.

Ms O’Donnell:

The demand for arts projects, and the number of enquiries that I get, has never been greater. We are getting many requests. People are interested in building their own capacities.

Mr P Ramsey:

Is that proportional to the nationalist community? Is that the bottom line?

Ms Floyd:

We see a lot groups in loyalist areas that are using the arts for community development to build the capacity of their communities for health projects, for example. We do not take a tally of —

Ms O’Donnell:

We do not take a tally of their backgrounds when we get an enquiry. Whoever we get the enquiry from gets the information.

Ms Floyd:

Certainly our experience of groups in Protestant areas is that we get a lot of enquiries from them and we know about a lot of projects that are going on in loyalist areas.

Mr Shields:

There would be a way to ensure that there is balance when bigger programmes from larger organisations are in question. We obviously have a vested interest in that. However, to ensure the balanced delivery of programmes, it would help if funding were to flow through organisations on the premise that the organisation reflected the make-up of the local community or the population in Northern Ireland. As a membership organisation of CAF, New Belfast ensures that there is a balance between the Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist groups that access our programmes. The groups that are outside those two groupings would come from a disabled organisation, or have a gay and lesbian background, or whatever.

Mr P Ramsey:

I want to make it clear that we are not suggesting that people are being treated unfairly or that, as David said, there is any level of discrimination. However, at the same time, I sense genuinely that something is not right. May I ask, Chair —

Mr McNarry:

The only point is that there is a difference between discrimination and unfairness. I would not make the point about discrimination, but I would make it about unfairness.

Mr P Ramsey:

That depends. If people do not have the capacity or confidence, that might make the difference. Perhaps we should discuss that at a later stage. To home in on one particular point, 9% of Arts Council funding goes to community arts development. What happens in England, Scotland and Wales?

Ms Floyd:

I do not know whether we have statistics for that.

Ms O’Donnell:

It would depend on how the Arts Council measures it. We would need to do some research to get statistics.

Mr P Ramsey:

You were able to measure it very definitively.

Ms O’Donnell:

Yes. We would need to see whether it has a clear definition of community arts, then we could get back to you with the figures.

Ms Floyd:

We can follow that up as well. I am conscious that we did not answer your question.

Mr K Robinson:

I was 99% certain that it was going to be revisited.

Mr Brolly:

I was going to ask that question anyway.

I will re-ask Ken’s question. First, given that in present circumstances and for the foreseeable future, there will not be any change in the per capita spend on the arts, I do not think that you should continue to beat your head against a stone wall and that you should zoom in on the various Departments. I think that you should certainly add the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to your list, particularly where rural development is concerned. Some young farmers’ clubs are very active in rural areas, but the tendency is to always think of Belfast. I want to make it clear that rural art is very important. In many ways, it is probably much more important because of the isolation of rural communities.

Given that the pool of money will remain the same, it was implicit that you consider the 9% to be a disproportionate underspend. Who do you think is getting a disproportionate amount of the 91%?

Mr P Ramsey:

Be brave.

Mr Brolly:

At times, I have expressed my views on the matter very forcibly, because I believe that art should work from the bottom up rather than from the top down. We should take what we have and develop it. Perhaps we could move more towards elitist areas, which is what happens. We bring up some of our greatest artists from the very ground. I absolutely agree that 9% is a disproportionately small sum. I would be quite prepared to offer views on who could be chopped.

The Chairperson:

For the purposes of the inquiry, you are asking that question of the Community Arts Forum.

Mr Brolly:

You could say that you do better work than others. If you are being knocked back when you approach other Departments, do you think that the Committee has a role in contacting those Departments that we think should contribute to the Community Arts Forum?

Ms Floyd:

The Committee should have a role to play. Setting up an interdepartmental arts group would deal with that. In relation to the knotty question of the 9% —

Mr Brolly:

I think that it is vital.

Ms Floyd:

It is. There are two different issues, one of which is the per capita spend. I know that you said that that will not increase, but we need more money to go into the pot. The per capita spend in the North is ridiculous compared with that over the border. If a person lives in Dundalk —

Mr Brolly:

I asked the question because I know that that situation will not change.

Ms Floyd:

The pot would increase if more Departments contributed to the pot. We have to be positive and optimistic about it. We should regard it as something that can change, and then —

Mr Brolly:

If those Departments were to put money into the pool, the difficulty would be that you would still only get 9%, which is disproportionately too little.

Ms Floyd:

The issue of distribution would then come into play. We should deal with the per capita spend, and we could then seriously consider distribution when the spend increases. I think that that is a difficult conversation for the arts sector. We have a responsibility to have open and frank discussions with our colleagues in the arts sector about how the money is divvied up. If extra money comes in, there should be a commitment to increasing the amount that goes to community arts because of all of the knock-on benefits that they bring.

Lord Browne:

You stated that you are carrying out longitudinal research into the economic and social benefits of arts schemes. How would you quantify the economic benefits of schemes that you have worked on, particularly in east Belfast? I know that that is difficult, but how would you judge the economic benefits?

Mr McNarry:

The Glens won the championship.

Ms Floyd:

Arts Council research indicates that every £1 that is invested in the arts brings another £3·60 into the local economy. Spend on the arts has proven to generate other spend in the economy. However, I do not have specific figures for east Belfast.

Lord Browne:

Is there a balance between north, south, east and west Belfast in the number of schemes that are being funded?

Mr Shields:

The New Belfast Community Arts Initiative, which is just about Belfast, carried out a demonstration project in 2005 called social return on investment. That is an American model that monetises — excuse the jargon — the social benefits of community arts. It was a very complex piece of research that involved huge spreadsheets and so on, and it took up a lot of resources. Despite us doing as much discounting as possible to account for any assumptions that we were making, we found that there was a return of anything between £6 and £14 on every £1 that is spent. The project found that people were attending hospital less often, going to their doctor less often and taking less prescription medicine, because they were feeling better about themselves, their confidence had been boosted, they had found new ways to engage with others, and they were being more proactive.

In addition to the health benefits, the project identified the social benefits of involvement with community arts. For example, unemployed people were looking for work, and many people had gained their first accredited qualification, so they were able to boost their earnings. Therefore, lots of knock-on benefits resulted.

That project was a very small, short-term piece of research. As Mr Ramsey said, we need a much larger piece of research to allow the Committee, as much as ourselves, to show the benefits of community arts, which are clear and demonstrable across Europe. There are few societies in Europe that do not recognise the immediate knock-on effect that community arts have on health and confidence at the lowest economic level.

Mr Shannon:

I apologise for not being here for your presentation; I was at a photo shoot for a family fun day that is being held here.

I had my hands on the Gibson Cup, and the chairman of Glentoran Football Club informed me that that would be the nearest that Ards Football Club will ever get to it, which I thought was very unfair. I apologise for that digression, but some Glentoran Football Club supporters have not had their hands on the Gibson Cup.

Given the funding that you receive from the Arts Council, I am impressed that through your projects you have reached almost 20,000 people. I am keen to see how we can build on the partnerships. Francie Brolly touched on the issue of opportunities in a rural development programme. Partnerships could be developed with young farmers’ clubs through community networks, and there are many other such examples. I could take you to Strangford — people will be surprised to hear that — and identify different networks that could be utilised to take advantage of opportunities for arts. I am aware of the good work of community arts initiatives and the resulting feel-good factor, and I am keen to see whether we can build on that. Do you agree that the young farmers’ clubs or other groups could be used to increase partnerships through community networks?

Wearing my other hat, my council — Ards Borough Council — is involved in a partnership with community arts initiatives, and I have been to a couple of events recently in which tremendous work was done. The confidence of the young people in particular is encouraging; one cannot fail to be impressed by the 14 weeks of preparation that have gone into an event. Young people who used to cause bother, no longer do so; all their energy goes into such events. I am keen to hear your ideas on how we can progress.

Ms Floyd:

Partnerships always work; two or three organisations provide more bang for your buck. Returning to the interdepartmental policy, if DARD had a policy for the arts and a corresponding resource allocation, the young farmers’ clubs could apply for funding, work with an arts group, and deliver very successful rural arts projects.

Mr Shannon:

Have you had any direct contact with organisations such as the young farmers’ clubs? Have you tried to build relationships with community networks, which usually take in all the community associations from a certain area? If not, perhaps that could be considered.

The Chairperson:

I think that the Community Arts Forum will note your suggestion.

Ms Floyd:

We have a long-standing working relationship with the Rural Community Network, but not, as far as I know, with the young farmers’ clubs.

The Chairperson:

We will bring the meeting to a conclusion. I thank Heather, Caragh, and Conor for coming along and helping us with our inquiry. Thank you very much.

Ms Floyd:

I am leaving copies of the Arts for All research, and I urge members to read it.

The Chairperson:

Thank you very much.

Find Your MLA

tools-map.png

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

tools-media.png

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

tools-social.png

Keep up to date with what’s happening at the Assem

Find out more

Contact information

tools-newsletter.png

Contact us for further information about our work.

Contact us