Fears over budget cuts impact on Coalisland’s Craic Theatre

Craic Theatre
Craic Theatre

The spectres of job cuts and slashed arts programmes are haunting local stages and arts venues.

Already six arts groups in the North have had their funding applications reduced to zero after £900,000 was slashed from the Arts Council’s budget.

The body announced funding decisions last week for 115 groups as it faces a 11% cut to its budget.

Oliver Corr, from Coalisland’s Craic theatre, said the organisation, which has been running for twenty years, was bracing itself for at least a 20 percent cut to vital funding.

While there are no fears that the funding cut will bring the curtain down on the popular drama group, there are concerns that jobs will be lost and successful outreach programmes curtailed.

“There is a lot of trepidation in the local arts scene at the moment, especially given the fact that some groups had their funding removed entirely”, said Oliver.

“We’re having a meeting on Monday night to discuss how we’re going to deal with the expected cuts, and the hope is that since we are at the low end of arts council funding, we will not be hit so badly.”

Craic theatre has went from success to success and is now one of the district’s best known arts groups.

Its showcase productions, including January’s Foundered, has pulled in packed audiences and helped launch the performing careers of hundreds of local actors and actresses.

“We had 150 young people involved in producing Foundered. and over a hundred children go through our acting academy every week.

There is a lot of trepidation in the local arts scene at the moment, especially given the fact that some groups had their funding removed entirely

“Our next production, for which we are already having rehearsals, will also have a hundred young people involved.

“Over the last 20 years or so we have become very much part of the fabric of life in Coalisland, and out centre is used by local schools, drama groups and charities.

“More credence should be given to the fact that we provide educational and self-development opportunities for so many local young people.”

Mr Corr said he feared the arts were seen as ‘a soft option’ when it came to making budget cuts.

“The Assembly is taking money from writers, artists, musicians and actors without recognising the valuable contribution the arts makes to society and to local businesses.

“Given that there is a reported £14m underspend in the police service, would it not make sense to allocate a small proportion of that money to prevent the current round of cuts to the arts?”

Overall, the Arts Council is distributing almost £900,000 less than in 2014/15, although 10 organisations will receive more money.

It said the cuts were inevitable because its budget from the NI Executive has been reduced by 11%.

Organisations to lose all their funding include Irish language group POBAL, Music Theatre for Youth and Blackstaff Press.

Arts Council chairman Bob Collins said: “The reality of passing on a £1.38m cut to the arts means we are left with a smaller arts sector, with fewer performances, exhibitions, staff and opportunities for people to engage with the arts.

“The arts make a valuable contribution to all areas of society but regrettably this latest round of cuts will be felt not only directly in arts provision but across tourism, health, community regeneration, social cohesion and the very government initiatives that are designed to promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion.”