Committee Room 2 533x400

Joint Committee submission on Local and Community Arts

Theatre Forum along with the Drama League of Ireland, Association of Festivals and Events, Amateur Drama Council of Ireland and Association of Irish Musical Societies was invited to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and a Committee meeting to discuss Local and Community Arts. That meeting took place last week in Leinster House on 15 November 2023. Thank you to Pádraic McIntyre for presenting a compelling summary of the many roles of arts centres and theatres in communities to this session.

Here’s our opening statement to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media

Theatre Forum would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to make this submission on the development of local and community arts and the role of local government in this process.

As the national resource organisation for the performing arts with member arts centres, production companies as well as freelance artists, arts centres are where our members overlap with and support the work of local and community arts organisations. By 2040, future generations will require enhanced cultural and social amenities, regional connectivity as well as improved environmental sustainability. Achieving the NDP’s vibrant community aim will depend in no small way on maintaining the built arts infrastructure that supports the good work of the amateur and community arts organisations represented here today.Here are some aspects of local and community arts policymaking and funding that Theatre Forum would ask this Committee to consider.Historical capital investment in a nationwide network of arts centres has been key to developing the arts in Irish localities. Every Local Authority Arts Office operating to their Department, CCMA and Council agendas, prepares its Arts Plan and works to support artists and co-create, co-produce, and co-present art and arts events in its locality. This programme investment responds to the rights of people in every community to enjoy and participate in the arts which reaps artistic, civic, and social benefits.

The result is a mixed funding ecology with each authority having its own governance, financial and management relationship with the arts centres in its area. Theatre Forum asks the Committee whether the capital and programme funding structures, which require frequent and multiple applications, could be made more efficient and co-ordinated.

While Ireland’s built arts infrastructure is an asset, some parts of it are deteriorating. To achieve the NDP aims, Theatre Forum asks that a coordinated capital investment plan to maintain and operate Arts Centres to the highest sustainability and access standards, reconfigure them as excellent live performance and production hubs and ensure that they meet the current and future needs of communities is put in place. Arts organisations are also ideally placed to lead by influence and example making the transition to an energy efficient low carbon economy.

Theatre Forum asks this Committee to seize the opportunity to align NDP and the Department’s forthcoming Culture, Creativity and Climate Policy Framework, to draw together capital and programme investment plans that support all arts centres and venues working to enrich life in communities. Take the opportunity to rebuild the arts infrastructure sustainably, accessible to and inclusive of all communities. Arts centres, venues, theatres, and galleries are at the heart of their communities. They are spaces close to home where community projects expect professional production and presentation of their work from drama to musicals, dance to pantomime, visual arts to circus and are a touchstone for connecting communities. Developments in the Ramor Theatre in Virginia and Townhall Cavan to mention just two recent ones showcase the vibrancy of local and community arts, beyond the limitations of one-off projects in annual funding cycles. The role of the Local Authority in funding, control and management of arts venues and theatres is particular to each organisation. With 31 Local Authorities, Arts Officers and Offices and at least one venue or arts centre in every area, each operates on a bespoke model of Arts Council, Local Authority, box office and other earned income.

Regardless of these individualised arrangements, Theatre Forum asks the Committee to think about Arts Centres as our cultural asset, the key arts ‘channel’ to communities, a vital focal point in cities, counties, and towns. Finding and promoting an interpretation of the 2003 Arts Act that makes multi-annual funding or service level agreements between every arts centre and their Local Authority the norm rather than an exception would underpin this work.

Finally, Theatre Forum would urge the Committee to consider the initial results of the Basic Income for the Arts pilot scheme. The one-third less pay gap for musicians and artists compared to all other workers identified in First Music Contact and Theatre Forum’s most recent Pay & Conditions survey suggests that the roll-out of Basic Income for the Arts is a necessity if future generations of artists and musicians are to emerge from their first, local encounters with the arts and go on to have sustainable careers living in and working with all our communities.

Watch the meeting video

Read Theatre Forum’s full submission to the Joint Committee.

Share your views on local and community arts with other members.