Posts Tagged 'Culture'

The Arts, Who Benefits? A New Pact Conversation on the Arts, Inclusion, Equality and Human Rights.

The following piece was written by Ed Carroll, a Director of Blue Drum and Project Leader who works with others in an imaginary space where culture, politics and community collide. He was part of the Civil Arts Inquiry team established by City Arts, Dublin (2003-2007) and Chair of Kaunas Biennial (2009). In 2010 he received a Lithuanian National Research Award and is currently studying culture and politics of the Baltic Region at the Department of Social and Political Theory. He lives between Kaunas and Dublin.

There are now conversations going on about how to reset Ireland during this time of troubles.  Many take place out there among ordinary people who don’t make history but who have to suffer it.  What good is culture and art here?  What role and responsibility can culture and art play there?

Our intention is to exchange experiences and tactics to help us work through these questions and other indissoluble problems facing us.  A New Pact Conversation #1 begins in Limerick on Tuesday, April 19th at Thomond Park and is inserted into the creative showcase of Family Resource Centres from Limerick and Clare.

Our idea is to create open conversations with others who have parallel pursuits and for this to take place in-between ordinary public life.  Our starting point is to invite ‘proximity exchanges’ among colleagues across the spectrum of rights, equality, youth work community development and the arts.  We are looking to push ourselves away from a reclusion in the political and policy corridors towards a counter-cultural discourse with individuals and groups working in different ways to re-set Ireland.

An analysis, supported by Declan McGonagle and John Holden speaking recently about Ireland and the UK respectively, is that the consensus that drives public support for culture has broken down and has to be remade.  In Europe and the United States, as observed by Martha Rosler and Maria Lind, the position of culture is arrested and being redefined and reset.  At a physical level, the pressure arises from the global financial crisis.   At a deeper level, the breakdown is linked to a more serious disconnect between ordinary people and govern-mentality. What we face today is a broken circuitry between people, culture and the political process.  Therefore we have to find ways to re-set the public value of the arts as a contributor to greater solidarity and equality in families and communities in Ireland.  The scale of the problem when it comes to the arts is not insignificant and is an open secret.

(1) Who pays for the Arts?
In 2010, the Arts Council received €68 million of which just over €65 million came from the National Lottery. The Lotto revenue is gathered disproportionately from lower socio economic groups like unskilled workers, unemployed and low education qualifications. From the available data it is almost certain that the substantial public money spent on the arts is regressive meaning it is a transfer of resources from the less well off to the better well off.

References: NESF 2007, pp. 63-64  // Arts Council, 1987, Section 1.3.1

(2) People with lower educational attainment, social class and income are many times less likely to attend a range of arts events. And if you are over 45 you are much more likely to attend no arts events at all.

References: ESRI, 2008, pp. 8, 13, 58n.

(3) At a local level, the awareness of Local Authority arts officers and local arts centres is heavily skewed towards those in more advantaged groups. Furthermore, none of the mainstream arts organisations are required by any national policy to prioritise cultural inclusion.

References: ESRI, 2008, p. 58 // NESF, 2007,  p.108

In advance of Thomond Park, we programmed a 20-minute audio piece to frame the initiative and which you can listen to now at A New Pact Conversation.  Our agenda for the discussion is how communities can best be supported to participate in their own expressive life and access their own practices of making sense of Ireland today.  We also think that we have to advocate for the introduction of a positive duty for the State’s spending in culture to have due regard to equality and human rights while carrying out its functions and to implement positive action measures to make real equality in the arts and cultural service provision.


Arts Council of Ireland (2010) Arts Council Strategic Overview 2011-2013 is available to download online at

Arts Council of England (2010) Achieving Great Art for Everyone is available to download online at

D. McGonagle’s Passive to Active Citizenship – A role for the Arts was a paper delivered to the Bologna in Context Conference, 14 October, 2010 is available to download at

J. Holden’s “Class and  Culture is available to download online at

J. Vogl’s “De-totalized Forms of Encounter was published in An Architektur 10: Community Spaces and is available to download online at

P. Lunn (2007) Fair Play? Sports and Social Disadvantage in Ireland. Dublin: ESRI Series 190.

P. Lunn and E.Kelly (2008) In the Frame or Out of the Picture? A Statistical Analysis of Public Involvement in the Arts, ERSI report on arts participation in Ireland is available to view online at

M. Lind & R. Minichbauer (2005) European Cultural Policies 2015 – A Report with Scenarios on the Future of Public Funding for Contemporary Art in Europe. London: Frieze Projects.

M. Rosler, Culture Class: Art, Creativity and Urbanism is available to download online at and also

NESF (2006) The Arts, Cultural Inclusion and Social Cohesion. NESF:  Dublin.

Z. Baumann, Selves as Objects of Consumption,  a public talk in Vilnius, Lithuania in September 2010 and is available to view online at

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