The dire financial situation faced by our government is not lost on anyone.
Thanks to the on going austerity measured and ever increasing swathe of cuts being inflicted upon us all by the delightfully short sighted Tory government in Westminster, we are a country in crisis.
Our hospitals don’t have enough money. Our schools don’t have enough money. In fact very few people on the street have enough money.
The only people who are doing well in all of this are those at the very top echelons of society who are benefitting from the ever increasing exclusivity of a good quality of life.
So you can perhaps understand, to an extent, why people are shouting a little louder about the cuts announced to arts funding. People tend to care less about the arts than they do about classroom sizes, access to suitable health care and what income they can rely on in week in and week out.
I won’t argue those issues are not important - they are vitally important. But let’s not dismiss the importance of the arts as well. Several key events in Derry’s own cultural calendar are under threat. The Carnival of Colours, the Walled City Tattoo, the Foyle Cup and the City of Derry Choral Festival are among those who will face significant challenges to operate next year thanks to the latest round of cuts.
Between them these festivals bring in tens of thousands of visitors to our city. They infuse our streets with colour, passion and energy. They add well needed infusions of capital into our hospitality industries.
They market our city as a success story. They provide an invaluable feel good factor which transcends generations. They infuse us with a sense of pride - and a sense of ‘we can do this’.
At times when we are battered down by austerity measures - when the news paints an ongoing bleak future of our economy - we need something to help us rise above it all - and give two fingers to a world that has become very grey and very gloomy.
If there are cuts to be made, perhaps we should look first at the wages and expenses of those who serve us. Perhaps we should look at the cost of their grand offices - of their functions and ‘working lunches’. Perhaps we should start to cut from the top - from those who would miss it least - to provide for those of us at the bottom.
Who have a right to decent healthcare, and have a right to a decent education but we have a right to the arts too.