Singing Loud from the Balcony, National Campaign for the Arts
This week has been a significant one for National Campaign for the Arts. Last night, I was sitting with more than 70 colleagues from the arts world as the Dail debated a private members motion about the arts and particularly about the changes under discussion by the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht as it prepares its plans under the public service reform plan.
The reason for the particular focus this week has been the real concern that the proposed merger of the galleries (IMMA, National Gallery and Crawford) and the proposed merger of the National Libraries, National Archives and Manuscripts Commission have not been properly considered. Opponents argue that there has been little or no meaningful consultation with the organisations themselves as well as consultation with the users and visitors to these organisations.
What is at play here though is a bigger issue. The mergers, many feel, are symptomatic of a fundamental shift in government policy. The principle of ‘arms length’ management of the arts has been deeply embedded in Irish cultural policy particularly since the National Cultural Institutions Act of 1997. The arms length principle ensures that cultural institutions while fulfilling their role and remit as national organisations can do so free of direct political involvement. Although established long in advance of the 1997 act, the Arts Council is another iteration of this arms length approach. As an independent body, Council is free to disperse public funds in line with its published mission, aims and priorities away from direct political influence.
These debates may seem a long way away from practical and local arts services where for many, CBI included, the major focus is on retaining existing levels of financial support. However it is vital that all members of the arts community – individuals, organisations, creators and consumers stay fully informed and engaged with the debates, the campaigns and the developments in arts policy and practice.
The arts are a significant sector in our society. In economic terms the total of direct, indirect and induced employment in arts council funded organizations and the wider arts sector is 21, 328. They are also a vibrant and essential part of our wellbeing and 57% of the adult population, or approximately 2 million people, are arts attenders.
CBI are asking all our colleagues and friends to get involved. There are two simple things you can do this week
1. Get involved in the National Campaign for the Arts - All the details are here.
2. Attend the open meeting at the Irish Writers Centre on Monday evening – All the details are here
It is very important that all of us in the children’s books community raise our voices to protect the arts.