Greater Shantallow Community Arts staff have said they are “gutted” after being informed of a 64 per cent cut in funding to the group from this year’s Executive Office’s ‘Central Good Relations Fund.’
The funding is being axed, they said, despite widespread endorsement from cross-community groups and individuals as well as cross-party support, including the late deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who praised the group for its “valuable contribution to life in the city through its innovative, multi-cultural, cross community arts initiative.”
The group said the announcement has hit particularly hard after the success of various ‘Communities United’ events over the last two years, including major participation in the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Hallowe’en and Earhart Festivals, where all target participation had been exceeded.
Louise Hughes, former Communities United Co-Ordinator said: “We are gutted. This cut comes despite putting in a lot of hard work over the past two years and building on the incredible success of the various ‘Communities United’ events. This included numerous workshops and the participation of minority ethnic groups and multi cultural involvement, with large numbers of cross community organisations partaking in grassroots peace building through arts and cultural engagement. Last year we ran 48 individual Communities United programmes involving 400 people from various backgrounds and engaged in 300 plus workshops with an estimated audience of 80,000.”
Ms. Hughes warned that the funding cut will see loss of services, vital jobs and will be seen as a backward step in good relations building and will also impact on arts programming, youth intervention programming and the efficiency of Studio 2 to sustain a credible arts programme throughout the year. She appealed to all political parties to address the shortfall and to support the overturning of the decision.
Artistic Director, Ollie Green, said: “This £45,000 cut in money terms will have a huge impact on the services that GSCA hoped to deliver this year and I call on our local politicians to set up a meeting with Executive Office officials to find out why they have cut our funding so much and how this can be rectified.”