There has been so much written about An Bord Snip already that in some ways I am loathed to add more google hits but here goes…..
The McCarthy report makes some recommendations specifically in relation to the Department of Arts Sports and Tourism (DAST) that will have a direct impact on the sector. For arts and literature the three key alarm bells are
- The Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism should also be critically examined in light of the extensive savings that are proposed in this area and scope for transferring its functions to other Departments.
Adopting the above proposals would allow for the creation of up to two other Departments, whose creation could reflect emerging priorities for the Government.
- Reduction of allocation for Arts Council €6.1m
- Discontinuation of allocation for Culture Ireland €4.6m
For children’s books there are other key areas of concern specifically within Education and these added to the cuts to the school library budgets already discussed are terrifying, how and ever that is for another post. Back to DAST.
The first thing that seems clear to me at least, is that DAST might not have the guts to fight for their own survival. There is a sense of inevitability about this recommendation and nothing since or before (when the rumours about the future of the department were rife) has shown me that there is a plan or a notion to oppose this from within the department or specifically the Minister’s office. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe behind closed doors there is a helluva barney going on. But if it is, its a very very quiet one. Taking away the department and its specific remit will be counterproductive in the long run.
A reduction in allocation to the Arts Council is probably no great surprise to anyone, least of all the Council themselves. What remains to be seen is how Council will react. Early signs indicate they are prepared to come out fighting. Of Course, as a state body they won’t comment about specifics but this week’s release of the long awaited Touring Experiment report might be an indication that they are intent on moving forwards instead of retrenching. Likewise the strong words from Galway at the weekend might be a sign of stronger words to come. What size of Merrion’s Square pie will be allocated to Literature is anybody’s guess. About 5% of Arts Council budget went specifically to Literature in 2009. There is other support through festivals, bursaries and the cnuas etc no where near enough to challenge theatre’s current 28%.
A €6mn reduction the Council’s budget is about a 10% decrease overall. Add to this the cuts rolled over from 2009 and it is unlikely that literature’s allocation will do anything but fall. One very serious implication is where this leaves Dublin’s application for designation as UNESCO city of literature. In a time where cultural tourism is the happiest story that the arts sector can share, an under resourced literature sector won’t be able to fully support, celebrate and define a new designation.
And what is to happen to Culture Ireland- the body charged with promoting Irish Arts abroad. Its modest budget goes towards Irish arts and artists participating in international projects and events, helping to build our reputation and our cultural profile. For literature, Culture Ireland supported Irish publishers and organisations attending bookfairs and making international contacts. International rights deals are hugely important to irish publishing, offering a vital supplement to retail income. And while CI’s support to literature was lower than other artforms, taking away an organisation charged promoting arts abroad will have a detrimental effect on the sector as a whole. Similar to disbanding DAST, if Culture Ireland goes, it will be very hard to get it back.
So far, so gloomy. I’m sure there are so bright sparks out there its just that the fog has fallen now and its hard to lift it. Hopefully more cheery posts to follow later in the week!