KESS SEMINAR 25 January 2017‘Quality of Life: Inclusion and resilience in community cultural development in Northern Ireland’ Dr Matt Jennings (Ulster University), with Prof Martin Beirne (University of Glasgow) and Stephanie Knight (University of Glasgow)

Matt Jennings, Martin Beirne, Stephanie Knight

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

8 Downloads (Pure)


In March 2015, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) cut grants to some arts organisations by 40-100%, in order to manage an 11% reduction from the Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) in its 2015/16 Budget (ACNI 2015). This was despite a high-profile ACNI campaign, calling on the NIE to preserve existing levels of arts funding (estimated at 13p per capita per week), already significantly lower than in other parts of the UK (“far less than the 32 pence per week spent in Wales”, Litvack 2014, online). Following previous cuts in public and NGO spending in Northern Ireland, these reduced the financial support available to the community arts in Northern Ireland. In these increasingly precarious conditions, how can community-based artists survive?UK government policies for arts and culture proclaim the economic and social benefits of the creative industries. The capacity of arts workers to work flexibly, collaboratively and independently is increasingly being promoted as a model for new workplace relations. Yet there is limited understanding of the financial and social implications of such a model. This briefing surveys working conditions within the arts sector, drawing on interviews with freelance artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. All of these artists contributed to the Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 programme. They work with community and voluntary groups, schools and health agencies, enhancing the lives of young people, older people and people with disabilities. They support wellbeing, peacebuilding and social development in the region. They are driven by their commitment to working in the arts with communities. Yet much of their work is underpaid and insecure. They are dependent on public funding and alternative sources of income for survival. Many work voluntarily, depending on contributions from participants to sustain projects. These findings match wider research on cultural workers internationally, but have specific ramifications within the context of Northern Ireland, raising concerns for cultural inclusion and policymaking within the new Department of Communities.This research is part of a broader project examining the capacity of artists in Scotland and Northern Ireland to cope with recent and current models of funding and evaluation. It investigates the individual strategies adopted by artistic workers to survive financially, psychologically and creatively. The aim is to develop a clearer understanding of the measures by which artists can sustain their practice (or ‘stand their own creative ground’), while continuing to support themselves and their communities.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNI Assembly
Number of pages8
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Arts Council of Northern Ireland (2015) ‘Arts sector feels the impact of £1.38 million funding cuts’. (accessed 15 October 2015)
Butler, J. (2010) Frames of war: when is life grievable? London: Verso.
Chrisafis, A. (2012) ‘European arts cuts: France threatens to pull plug on creatives' special benefits’ The Guardian, 20 July 2012,
Commission of the European Communities (2008) Communication from the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament: on the Report of the Northern Ireland Task Force. (accessed 10 October 2016)
Derry City and Strabane District Council (2016) Post Project Evaluation of City of Culture 2013. Derry: Derry City and Strabane Council.
DETI NI (2015) Northern Ireland labour market statistics. (accessed 3 Sept 2015)
DETNI (2016) Labour Force Survey Tables for Local Government Districts (accessed 15 October 2016)
Grant, David. (1993) Playing the Wild Card: a Survey of Community Drama and Smaller-Scale Theatre from a Community Relations Perspective. Belfast: Community Relations Council.
Green, W. and Newsinger, J. (2015) Disabled Children and Young People: Engagement In Arts and Culture in the East Midlands in an Environment of Restrained Resources: A Report for The Mighty Creatives. East Midlands: The Mighty Creatives. (accessed 15 July 2016)
Jennings, M. (2009) ‘Playing Your Role: Identity and Community-Based Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland’, About Performance 9: Playing Politics: Performance, Community and Social Change, 103-125. Sydney: University of Sydney
Jennings, M. (2012) ‘Building the Dream in a Theatre of Peace: Community Arts Management and the Position of the Practitioner in Northern Ireland’, Journal of Arts and Communities, 4:3, 161-180
Jennings, M. and Baldwin, A. (2010) ‘“Filling out the Forms was a Nightmare”: Project Evaluation and the Reflective Practitioner in Community Theatre in Contemporary Northern Ireland’, Music and Arts in Action, 2:2, 72-89.
Litvack, L. (2014) ‘The Arts are for Everyone’. Arts Council of Northern Ireland (accessed 15 October 2015)
Lordon, F. (2014) Willing slaves of capital: Spinoza and Marx on desire. (trans. Gabriel Ash). London: Verso
Lorey, I. (2015) (trans. A. Dereig). State of insecurity: Government of the precarious. London: Verso
Macpherson, H., Hart, A., & Heaver, B. (2015) ‘Building resilience through group visual arts activities’: findings from a scoping study with young people who experience mental health complexities and/or learning difficulties’. Journal of Social Work, 0 (0) 1-20
Maguire, T. (2006) Making Theatre in Northern Ireland: Through and Beyond the Troubles. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.
Schjoedt, R. (2016) ‘Why India is right to consider a universal basic income’, Development Pathways, (accessed 8 Jan 2017)


  • Cultural Policy
  • Community Arts
  • Community Cultural Development
  • Northern Ireland
  • City of Culture
  • Freelance Workers
  • Precarity
  • Resilience


Dive into the research topics of 'KESS SEMINAR 25 January 2017‘Quality of Life: Inclusion and resilience in community cultural development in Northern Ireland’ Dr Matt Jennings (Ulster University), with Prof Martin Beirne (University of Glasgow) and Stephanie Knight (University of Glasgow)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this