The Chair of the Arts Council, Ms Olive Braiden, has said this year’s bad summer weather highlights the need for Ireland to invest in major arts and cultural renewal projects. This autumn the Arts Council will be asking the Government to provide it with an extra €20 million funding for the arts next year to enable a focus on the development of a number of key areas, including more performance opportunities in the new regional arts centres dotted around the country and to extend a Touring Programme to allow arts organisations to bring shows to venues in Dublin and around the country.
"The weather has emphasised the necessity for much more investment in arts and cultural projects. The Arts Council strongly supports the Chairman of Failte Ireland, Gillian Bowler’s comments in a recent report on the tourism product development strategy that it is necessary for Ireland to invest for success in tourism, and that our competitors in Northern Europe have redoubled their investments in tourism and recreation," Ms Braiden said.
"We strongly support significant further investment in cultural tourism for this country. This is the fastest growth area in tourism and cities such as New York and many Spanish and Italian towns and cities thrive on it. It is under-developed here and needs more focal points to attract greater numbers."
"Ireland is known the world over for its artists and it is reasonable that tourists expect to see a manifestation of that reputation when on holiday here," Ms Braiden said. "The additional €20 million would be an excellent investment in tourism, in the arts sector which needs the funding and in Ireland inc as the arts are the stimulant for the Republic to find new ways to succeed. Exposure to the arts through the many festivals across the country and through the regular arts events encourages continuous creativity and innovation in everyone that experiences them."
"The investment we are urging the Government to give the Arts Council for 2008 is an additional €20 million funding. When added to the €80 million received this year this will make it possible next year for many, many more children, families and members of the general public to experience the arts."
The Arts Council chair said that for many places, arts festivals have been the saviours of the tourist season this summer. People in Galway say that the arts festival has been the making of the City after a difficult year. Festivals have also been the highlight for towns like Boyle, Kinsale, Clonmel, Letterkenny and many others across the country. Undoubtedly this will be the story too at the end of the festivals still to come in Kilkenny, West Cork, Ballyshannon, Sligo, Birr and Clifden, to name just a random half-dozen.
The Arts Council has recognised the important role festivals have played for some time and it offers significant support to festivals large and small across all the arts. In some instances, the festivals could not take place without the funding they receive from the Council. In all cases funding from the Arts Council ensures the range and quality of programming that are the hallmarks of arts festivals nationwide. This month alone, the Council is supporting 42 festivals happening across the country, from the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire, to Summer Music on the Shannon, to the Ballyshannon Folk Festival, to the West Cork Music Festival. Next month the Arts Council will support 36 festivals happening throughout the month of September.
"The Arts Council acknowledges the vital role festivals play in local tourism, the local economy and in the lives of tourists and local people. In many ways, the festivals show the distinctiveness of each part of Ireland and help to shape what people think about a town or area after their summer holidays have ended. Elements of a festival - a concert perhaps, or a street parade, or a dance performance - can be the memory that lives on with people long after the holiday is over," Ms Braiden said.