Culture Club: Time to Open New Chapter in Approach to Arts Brochures; Ian Hill

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), November 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Culture Club: Time to Open New Chapter in Approach to Arts Brochures; Ian Hill


Byline: An insider's guide to the local arts scene...

I SOMETIMES wonder if it's only me getting het up with the ways of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. But then I'm comforted when, during many of the Festival (at Queen's) events, artists from various disciplines tell me they agree whole-heartedly about the council's political correctness having gone mad either though a lack of intellectual rigour, a surfeit of laziness or by design, it's sometimes hard to gather which.

Then I get depressed again for those who do agree but who add the codicil that they must not be quoted lest they prejudice their chances when it comes to the next round of grant applications. Obviously it's absurd to suggest anyone on ACNI would be so petty, but that many artists are wary that they might be, speaks of an uneasy climate of distrust and of a lack of openness which can not be healthy.

Which brings us round, this week, to the council's publication, named 'art.ie' in an enthusiasm for all matters all-Ireland, a characteristic which is not always as evident in publications released by the possibly doomed southern council.

"art.ie' is packed with useful information, but ill-designed and its priorities are distinctly curious. Under drama and dance in the current November edition we have a perfect illustration. The cross-cultural Dark River, a minor production, gets four times as much space as the Lithuanian A Midsummernight's Dream, an award-winning world-beater, a highlight of this and many international festivals. Yet the panto Red Riding Hood gets seven times as much.

There's a section called gigs which is usually of purely commercial enterprises well advertised in the media.

Then, under music and opera, Barry Douglas' Camerata Ireland has one line, the Ib Hausman Piano Quartet, seven lines.

Under visual arts, an exhibition in Armagh by Paddy McCann, one of Ireland's greatest younger painters, gets one line, a show of amateur community photography in nearby Portadown has seven.

Which brings us on to the editorial comment and the coverage given to the work of surrealist painter George H Smyth. The text dubs George as "one of Ireland's most sought after young painters" but gives little or no particular provenance to back up this much desired (and possibly earned) accolade up.

Ardglass-born George's thus well-publicised show opened in a fashionable Laganside bar, The Edge, on November 8. But does not appear in the visual arts listings section of the publication.

So what else are folks at MacNeice House up to? Well, they are calling for "contractors" to tender for an agreement to "undertake research into the arts of Irish and Ulster Scots which will entail an audit and needs analysis to provide the Arts Council with a comprehensive review of the existing situation, activities, audiences, boundaries, developmental needs and financial implications for the sector in order to inform future policy making at a strategic level". …

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