Without the arts there is only darkness

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With the discussion regarding the Ulster Orchestra’s funding rumbling on, more news emerged last week that the Department of Arts and Learning is expecting further cuts to be made.

This news has not been well received - and rightly so. Especially here in the City of Culture where last year’s momentum appears to be grinding to an almost standstill, when in fact we really should be grabbing the opportunity to grow the arts and culture sector with both hands.

I’m well aware that many see the arts as something that ‘posh people do’ but that could not be further from the truth.

In Tuesday’s ‘Journal’ we ran a story about an up-coming free music workshop for young people called ‘Messin’ With The Music’ - a workshop that has ran before with huge success. Those involved had a real sense of purpose and once immersed in the programme found that it gave them a new way to express themselves. And it was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

So besides the big names getting regular grants and funding, there are hundreds of smaller schemes like this which are constantly thriving through Arts Council backing.

The Arts Council campaign has started in earnest, to show people locally exactly what the money does. Better than that, they have focussed on the fact that the arts in Northern Ireland costs every person just 13p a week, that’s only £6.76 every year.

I realise that quite a few people might prefer for that money to be spent on our health system or on building better roads - something tangible - but I honestly believe that less than £7 per person is incredible value for a sector which, in truth, is more than just about theatres, music and poetry.

The arts are about making everybody’s lives that bit brighter, injecting some colour into a day which would otherwise be very hum-drum. Imagine children not learning nursery rhymes, young adults not getting a chance to explore their thoughts and feelings through words and music, adults not getting to relax after a hard day at work by watching drama or reading a book.

All of these are the arts. The remit is so wide I cannot mention them all, but the fact of the matter is, we need them. From the small child right through to the elderly, without the arts there is no light.