It goes to show the extent of the crisis we are living in that landmark budget announcements came and went with a whimper. Opposition parties floundered to pick holes in an abundance of spending and funding. For the arts, a sector that has been crying out for support over the last few years, the money that was forthcoming would have been seen in other years as a bonanza, as radical, but this year is now framed as life-support. In last year’s budget, funding for the Arts Council increased by €5 million to €80 million. Already this summer, an emergency €25 million increase was announced, and in the budget another €25 million. There’s also €50 million for the live events sector, a sector which has had to learn fast how to ask for and get money, considering the commercial success of live music in Ireland, for example. It rarely requires State support. That’s a lot of funding, and next will come questions about how it’s distributed, and who will benefit.
The work done by the National Campaign for the Arts, along with the newly formed Epic event production industry working group, deserves praise, not least for managing to carve out a space for arts, culture and events to be framed as important, in what is an incredibly noisy conversation about which parts of the “economy” are falling apart and need urgent assistance.