Home Is Where the Art Is

By McKillion, Paul | The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), August 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

Home Is Where the Art Is


McKillion, Paul, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


The arts are big business these days. No longer stuck in the public perception as the sole preserve of the chattering classes, a wide range of 'creative industries', from traditional craft and design to the new media of web-site design, are now being marketed all over the world.

PAUL McKILLION reports on the work of the Northern Ireland Tourism Cultural Partnership, Ledu and the forthcoming British Council Northern Ireland trade missions to sell these different industries and cash in on the lucrative cultural tourism market

IN ITS CULTURAL tourism and heritage strategy paper last year the Northern Ireland Tourist Board said the value of the cultural sector to international tourism could not be over estimated.

"More journeys are made on the basis of the unique culture and heritage of a destination than for any other reason,'' said the paper.

"In today's more sophisticated international marketplace, it is essential that the Northern Ireland tourism industry recognises the key contribution of the cultural industries to defining Northern Ireland as a destination,'' it added.

In a study it had commissioned earlier that year, the board found a wide range of areas that needed to be developed and which were crucial in defining Northern Ireland's cultural identity; the performing arts, music, visual arts, literary arts, traditional arts and the heritage sector.

It was also proposed that the cultural tourism partnership extensively widens its membership, becomes fully representative of the sector, establishes policy and strategy and formulates sectoral strategies.

Since then there has been a series of reports and studies by the NITB and the British Council Northern Ireland further detailing what was needed to capitalise on the wealth of talent, especially in the visual arts, in Northern Ireland.

With the growing awareness of the market value of film, theatre, craft and design, the question is how the arts, business and economic development bodies can formulate a successful export promotion strategy for Northern Ireland's creative industries.

Fergal Kearney of the Arts Council said that since the publication of the cultural tourism and strategy paper, seven sectors have started working together within the Northern Ireland Cultural Tourism Partnership on common marketing goals, with groups in the archaeology, Christian heritage and traditional arts sectors starting soon.

"Groups within literature, industrial heritage, visual arts, museums, genealogy, performing arts and film are now dealing with cultural tourism with the two main aims of forming partnership groups to service their own sectors and raising their profile by international marketing,'' said Mr Kearney.

He added: "They are now doing this together instead of fighting each other for money and bums on seats like they used to.''

Members within each sector then meet in the overarching body of the NICP which liaises between the sectors, financial agencies and government.

"The next step is to meet and bring together each sector's strategic papers before putting together a five year strategic review.

"Tourism is a sort of sophisticated export in that it is about marketing activities which bring people into the country. But we can also export our expertise in the visual arts and architecture, for example, by sending teachers to countries where there is a lack of skills in that area.''

The development agency Ledu has also been actively involved with some of the creative industries for many years, focusing particularly on developing export markets for local services and products.

So far they have provided over pounds 1 million in direct grant assistance to the multimedia and communications, TV, film and video and music sectors over the last 10 years They have also provided assistance to product and fashion designers, as well as being an active supporter of the craft industries. …

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