KESS SEMINAR 25 January 2017‘Quality of Life: Inclusion and resilience in community cultural development in Northern Ireland’ Dr Matt Jennings (Ulster University), with Prof Martin Beirne (University of Glasgow) and Stephanie Knight (University of Glasgow)

Matt Jennings, Martin Beirne, Stephanie Knight

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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In March 2015, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) cut grants to some arts organisations by 40-100%, in order to manage an 11% reduction from the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) in its 2015/16 Budget (ACNI 2015). This was despite a high-profile ACNI campaign, calling on the NIE to preserve existing levels of arts funding (estimated at 13p per capita per week), already significantly lower than in other parts of the UK (“far less than the 32 pence per week spent in Wales”, Litvack 2014, online). Following previous cuts in public and NGO spending in Northern Ireland, these reduced the financial support available to the community arts in Northern Ireland. In these increasingly precarious conditions, how can community-based artists survive?UK government policies for arts and culture proclaim the economic and social benefits of the creative industries. The capacity of arts workers to work flexibly, collaboratively and independently is increasingly being promoted as a model for new workplace relations. Yet there is limited understanding of the financial and social implications of such a model. This briefing surveys working conditions within the arts sector, drawing on interviews with freelance artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. All of these artists contributed to the Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 programme. They work with community and voluntary groups, schools and health agencies, enhancing the lives of young people, older people and people with disabilities. They support wellbeing, peacebuilding and social development in the region. They are driven by their commitment to working in the arts with communities. Yet much of their work is underpaid and insecure. They are dependent on public funding and alternative sources of income for survival. Many work voluntarily, depending on contributions from participants to sustain projects. These findings match wider research on cultural workers internationally, but have specific ramifications within the context of Northern Ireland, raising concerns for cultural inclusion and policymaking within the new Department of Communities.This research is part of a broader project examining the capacity of artists in Scotland and Northern Ireland to cope with recent and current models of funding and evaluation. It investigates the individual strategies adopted by artistic workers to survive financially, psychologically and creatively. The aim is to develop a clearer understanding of the measures by which artists can sustain their practice (or ‘stand their own creative ground’), while continuing to support themselves and their communities.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNI Assembly
Number of pages8
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017



  • Cultural Policy
  • Community Arts
  • Community Cultural Development
  • Northern Ireland
  • City of Culture
  • Freelance Workers
  • Precarity
  • Resilience

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