#SaveCultureNI

CULTURE NI_I first discovered the treasure trove that is Culture NI a few years ago, when I was working as a newspaper reporter at The Coleraine Chronicle. The weekly newsletter that was delivered to our office inbox was a fount of information about what was going on in the arts across Northern Ireland, and it not only kept me and everyone else up to date on events, it also allowed us to follow up on north coast artists, and give them even more exposure in the paper.

Eoin McNamee (photo by Sarah Lee), who I recently interviewed for Culture NI

Eoin McNamee (photo by Sarah Lee), who I recently interviewed for Culture NI

Without Culture NI, we wouldn’t have heard of many of these artists and events, as there’s no other online resource which so brilliantly archives the cultural scene in Northern Ireland.

Culture Northern Ireland is, as it says on the website: “Northern Ireland’s leading arts and cultural website, covering music, literature, heritage, sport, dance, theatre, the visual arts and much more besides.

“With thousands of articles, reviews, profiles, event listings, and multimedia content, Culture NI is a unique and exciting resource.”

The cover of Oils, a poetry pamphlet by Belfast poet, Stephen Sexton, which I recently reviewed for Culture NI.

The cover of Oils, a poetry pamphlet by Belfast poet, Stephen Sexton, which I recently reviewed for Culture NI.

Produced by the Nerve Centre in Derry – Northern Ireland’s leading creative media arts centre – Culture NI was dealt a seemingly fatal blow this week with the announcement from the Arts Council NI – its principal funder – that its core funding was being cut.

It wasn’t the only organisation to hear such news of course. Blackstaff Press and Guildhall Press –  our leading publishers based in Belfast and Derry – also suffered the same, along with various other arts organisations. (More details on the story here.)

You can read more on the devastating effects of the cuts to Culture NI here, but suffice it to say, after 10 successful years in supplying Northern Irish readers and indeed, readers worldwide with news of our thriving arts scene, five jobs are now at risk, as well as many more part-time jobs in the myriad freelancers who contribute to the site.

The faces behind Culture NI

The faces behind Culture NI.

News of the cuts in Northern Ireland is nothing new of course. Belts have to be tightened, as the NI government, while telling us they’re committed to developing and supporting the arts on the one hand, continue to take away vital funding on the other. Budgets must be managed, but the question on many people’s lips is this – when the cuts not only threaten to reduce the output of a key service like Culture NI but will actually kill it altogether, surely there needs to be a rethink?

Culture NI has been campaigning about the funding cut since the news broke and so far, its 400,000-plus readers seem to be getting behind this, tweeting and signing the petition to have the funding restored. If you have a couple of minutes to add your name to that, it would be much appreciated. Just click here.

So, why keep Culture NI?CULTURENI

  • It’s NI’s leading arts and culture site
  • It updates daily with FREE content on ALL the arts in Northern Ireland
  • There are interviews, reviews, features, competitions and more
  • It’s FREE promotion for artists/musicians/writers/performers/festivals and more
  • You get a FREE guide to What’s On in NI
  • You can discover new events/artists that you’d never hear of otherwise

EwagoralsThese are but a few reasons why we should keep Culture NI.

You’ll notice the word FREE is mentioned a few times. This fantastic resource is free for anyone to browse, read and digest at their leisure at any time of the day or night.

It’s crammed full of more than 10 years of archived material on Northern Ireland’s arts and culture scene and if it goes, that’s an online museum lost.

The website also recently underwent a revamp just a couple of months ago, launching a fully mobile responsive site as it prepared to march on into the future.

Newspapers and magazines have little space to give to the arts. They offer massively reduced coverage of the vibrant cultural scene that we still have in Northern Ireland and the thing is – if Culture NI is to disappear, who will be left to champion this? There are other organisations and publications of course that promote the arts, but Culture NI is your one-stop shop and more. It’s unique in the level and quality of content that it provides. Read freelancer Terry Blain’s views on the matter here.

With (L-R) NI crime writers Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh

With (L-R) NI crime writers Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh

I’ve been freelancing for Culture NI for the past year and have enjoyed every minute of it. I love the arts and am a big fan of the local literary scene (as readers of my blog will know!). I’d hate to see this wonderful website disappear over money.

If you’ve read this far, then thank you. As a writer, this is how I can show my support.

The Arts Council NI has today posted this message on Facebook:

“We are receiving emails regarding the annual funding award made to Culture NI. Thank you for your views. You will know that the Arts Council has had to take difficult decisions in a very challenging funding climate and we appreciate your interest. We will be meeting with the Nerve Centre soon to hear their concerns.”

We know belts have to be tightened, and the Arts Council NI is, of course, a vital organisation in Northern Ireland that is very much appreciated for all that it does for arts and culture here. Let’s not forget that for a minute. They’re simply having to make tough decisions in an ongoing economic climate that’s battering the arts.

If you’re interested, you can read my archived work for Culture NI here, or on the Articles section of this blog.

I’ll keep you updated! #SaveCultureNI

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