Derry’s arts spend deficit - we receive £6 per person less than Belfast annually - came under the spotlight when Arts Council Chief Executive Roisin McDonough addressed Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee this week.
Ms. McDonough, who was accompanied by ACNI’s Director of Arts Development, Nóirín McKinney, was quizzed about the deficit by Sinn Féin Councillor, Mickey Cooper.
The arts chief acknowledged that there has been some critical comment about major funding contribtions to both the Ulster Orchestra and the Metropolitcan Arts Centre (the MAC) in Belfast while organisations in Derry were suffering funding reductions.
However, she said extra resources had had to be allocated to those two organisations out of urgent necessity: they has been facing “going concern” issues.
Colr. Cooper accepted there had been concerns that the Ulster Orchestra and the MAC had been at the “point of collapse” and that special consideration had had to be made. Indeed, while thankful no organisation in Derry had experienced such potentially existential financial problems, he said he hoped that if ever that did happen similar consideration would be given.
However, he said it was unacceptable £15 per capita was being spent on the arts in Belfast but just £9 in Derry. Though such complaints are often glibly described as “Derry whinger syndrome” disparities are clearly evident in both arts and tourism funding, he said.
Ms. McKinney suggested the deficit might be down to the amount of core organisations in Belfast (over 70), compared with Derry (14) that are applying for funding. The volume of groups, she suggested, would statistically skew the per capita figures.