A major increase in funding to help support and retain local artists and organisations as part of a new Arts & Culture Strategy, has been endorsed by city councillors.
Members of Derry & Strabane Council’s Business & Culture Committee have agreed to an additional £150,000 for the sector as they adopted the new the strategy, which includes a five-years action plan.
The committee has also approved the establishment of a council Delivery Group to oversee its implementation, involving the council, artists, arts groups and audiences, following on from extensive groundwork with over 150 groups, organisations and individuals.
The Arts & Culture Strategy 2019-2024 is designed to complement the council’s Tourism and Integrated Economic Development Strategies. The additional money will be used to fund the new strategy, with the most critical elements including support for independent artists, theatre makers and arts organisations in the creation of new work.
Council is to establish a new artist and practitioner fund of £50,000 per annum, subject to rates discussions, with small awards of up to £2,000 per project. Councillors were told that one of the main recurring issues identified during consultation was the lack of direct support available for artists and practitioners, with many having had to move out of the city and district on a permanent basis to make a living.
A new resilience fund of £50,000 per annum for collaboration and innovation will also be established, while the Cultural Venues Fund will be broadened out to become a Cultural Organisation Fund, with an additional £50,000 to bring it up to £192,000 in total.
Proposing that the committee adopt the strategy, SDLP Colr. Shauna Cusack praised the extensive groundwork that has gone into it. She said that the plans were ambitious and that the council was well aware of the impact of developing the arts, not just aesthetically, but in developing pride of place, as well as positive impacts on mental health and well being.
“The arts have a huge, huge part to play economically and with regards to our tourism as well,” she said, while pointing to the attention the ‘Derry Girls’ mural and the People’s Gallery have received.
Sinn Fein Colr. Mickey Cooper also endorsed the final report and said there were a number of changes secured in terms of supporting community and rural infrastructure.
“Financially the fact that we have added year-on-year shows our commitment and the Co-Design element has to be welcomed,” he said, adding that the Arts Council should now be brought back in to show how it can reprofile their financial commitments in support of what is being done locally.