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The Arts Council recognises the important contribution that the arts can make to community development. That is demonstrated by the support and funding that the Arts Council provides for a number of community-focused arts programmes including Re-imaging Communities, the small grants programme and Start Up. The Arts Council actively seeks to target and engage with new audiences and to increase participation in the arts; that is a central theme of its five-year strategy.
The Arts Council has provided £2·71 million of funding between 2004-05 and 2008-09 through the Awards For All programme. Through that programme, the Arts Council has directly sought to increase community-based arts activities and improve access to the arts among the most disadvantaged communities. The programme has recently been re-launched as the small grants programme, and £500,000 will be made available in 2009-10.
The Re-imaging Communities programme was launched in 2006, and £3·8 million has been made available through it to date. That programme aims to help people to feel part of the community in which they live by using art as a vehicle to enhance the physical and natural environment and remove displays of sectarian aggression and intimidation. Last December, an evaluation of the programme found that only 18% of organisations that had received funding had previous experience of arts-related work.
The Arts Council administered the £100,000 Start Up programme in 2007-08. That programme sought to provide support to organisations that had not previously availed themselves of Arts Council funding. The Arts Council has allocated a further £50,000 in the current year for a similar seed-funding programme to encourage community groups to initiate arts programmes.
I refer the Member to the Arts Council, which has responsibility for that matter. In my response to the Member, I made the relevant point that we found that the current Re-imaging Communities programme ascertained only three months ago that fewer than a fifth of the organisations that had received funding stated that they had previous experience in arts-related work. By and large, a lot of that programme work is done in areas of socio-economic deprivation. However, only 18% of the communities that had availed themselves of the funding indicated that they had previous experience in that type of work. That is an indication of the type of success that has been attained.
Through the Arts Council, we must try to ensure that there is improved access to and delivery of the programmes in the local communities so that they can move away from the manifestations of violence that exist in some working-class areas. Thankfully, those communities want to work themselves away from those. We need to support them, and the Arts Council is not averse to ensuring that that is the case.
It is important that we ensure that people understand the extent of the efforts that are being made to ensure that community development through the arts is a success. The Re-imaging Communities programme has a budget of £600,000 for 2009-10, and £500,000 will be made available through the Arts Council’s small grants programme. The Arts Council will make a further £50,000 available through a seed-funding programme that encourages community groups to initiate arts programmes.
Those amounts may seem reasonably small, but we can judge their success in the communities that have availed themselves of them by looking at how they have helped to transform those areas. Previously, even up to two or three years ago, there would have been manifestations of violence, murder and intimidation on gable walls, but much of that has been replaced by murals and arts programmes that manifest the background, history and culture of the communities but without the violence. That is a mark of the success of those programmes. I have given details of the amounts of money that go into them, and I hope to replicate them year on year to ensure greater success in the future.
Go raibh míle maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom a fhiafraí den Aire an n-aontaíonn sé liom go n-imríonn na healaíona tionchar an-láidir — agus dea-thionchar — ar dhaoine de gach aois a bhíonn páirteach iontu; agus go n-imríonn na daoine sin féin dea-thionchar ar na pobail ina bhfuil siad ina gcónaí iontu? An n-aontaíonn an tAire liom, mar sin, gur fiú agus gur ceart tuilleadh infheistíochta a chur isteach in ealaíona pobail?
Does the Minister agree that, from the point of view of personal development, the arts provide a powerful and positive influence on those in the community who participate in them? Those people in turn exercise a positive influence in their own communities, and in some cases that leads to a flowering of those communities. Does the Minister agree that community arts warrant being an even higher investment priority?