Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Ceisteanna (30)

Aindrias Moynihan


30. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the examination of options for a new round of arts and cultural capital funding has been completed; if so, when the round will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24333/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Culture)

There is a need for a new capital programme to support arts centres across the country. We have not had one since 2017. There needs to be an ambitious capital programme so that projects such as Briary Gap in Macroom and many others can be supported. I understand the Department has been reviewing the various options. Can the Minister advise us of the up-to-date plan for a new capital programme? How ambitious is it going to be? It is going to meet the needs of places such as Macroom?

I have a soft spot for Macroom since my grandfather was born just outside it at Carrigaphooca, as I have told the Deputy before. Nevertheless we have to look at all of this from an impartial perspective. Project Ireland 2040 has given explicit recognition to the importance of our culture, language and heritage. It sets out the Government's objectives for capital investment in Ireland's culture, language and heritage. The plan includes a total of €40 million, or €4 million in each of the ten years from 2018 to 2027, to secure existing investment in arts and culture infrastructure nationwide and to ensure regional balance. A total of €3.9 million was spent on arts and culture infrastructure in 2018. This level of investment will ensure the upkeep of regional infrastructure right across the country.

The recent arts and cultural capital scheme to which the Deputy refers allocated €10.214 million to 134 projects under three complementary grant schemes for the refurbishment and enhancement of the existing arts and cultural facilities throughout the country. Over €1.5 million of this was drawn down in 2018 and over €3.9 million remains to be paid out over the coming years. This is the most significant investment in cultural infrastructure in a decade, with funding provided to arts centres, theatres, galleries and museums, artists' studios and creative spaces. The list of these projects with the amounts of their allocations is available on my Department's website.

The capital scheme is making a significant difference to many individual organisations. My Department is already seeing good outcomes and receiving positive feedback. My Department is currently giving consideration to a new round of grant funding for this capital scheme which is to be announced later this year.

In the meantime, the Arts Council in conjunction with local government, via the County and City Management Association, CCMA, commissioned an independent, strategic review of the network of venues and arts centres throughout the country. The review focuses on the infrastructure of professionally managed arts buildings that are open to the public throughout the year, and that will be used to help develop a co-ordinated, spatially informed strategy to support and develop the built infrastructure for the arts.

The previous scheme was announced in 2017. The seven flagship projects in that scheme all got grants between €300,000 and €1 million. The rest of the funding was then scattered across 55 schemes. Is the Minister considering the same scale of funding for a new scheme? How ambitious will any new scheme be? What is the total funding available for the scheme? It is three years since a fire caused the closure of the Briery Gap cultural centre in Macroom. An ambitious plan is being put in place for a €4 million redevelopment.

The county council, with fewer resources than the Minister's Department, has allocated €1 million to the project already. There is also insurance funding available. The Minister's Department has provided some moneys, about 6% of the overall cost. When we consider the size of the project and the type of schemes previously in place, the scale does not match up. Will there be an ambitious scheme that will meet the needs of projects such as Macroom and many other facilities throughout the country? The project in Macroom seeks to establish not just a cultural centre for the local area but one that will serve a wider regional and national audience.

I understand the importance of the Briery Gap theatre to the Deputy, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, and the county in general. Deputy Moynihan is correct when he states that €3.9 million was spent in 2018 from a total of €10.214 million. Another €7.6 million is to be paid out. The Deputy may have noticed that I mentioned that we are waiting for the Arts Council to publish a report it has done on a review of local arts centres throughout the country. We cannot go ahead with the capital scheme until we have that report. It is important to note that the Arts Council incorporated a consultation phase into that study. All stakeholders had an opportunity to participate in that consultation. The Deputy mentioned the types of funding available. This review will inform my Department's framing of the new round of arts and cultural capital funding.

I return to an earlier question regarding the timeframe. The previous scheme was announced in 2017. Groups have been getting down to work since then. It took about a year at that stage for applications to be processed. If this scheme were to be opened tomorrow morning, it would still be almost 2020 before it would be possible to make an application. The Minister will understand the urgency given the absence of a scheme since 2017. There has been a gap in funding for three years. How quickly will a new scheme be put in place? Will the Minister ensure that this scheme is given more urgency? In addition, will the scheme have the scale of funding needed for projects such as the Briery Gap in Macroom and many others as well? As an example, an investment of €1.5 million in the redevelopment in Macroom would facilitate the provision of a €4 million regional and national cultural centre.

I call Deputy Calleary for a supplementary question.

I would like to intervene on this topic as well. Is the Minister giving any consideration to an ongoing programme of minor works for arts venues? Many such venues find that they do not have the money to do basic daily and annual maintenance. That builds up into a greater need for capital expenditure over time. In the context of the Arts Council review, will the Minister consider a minor works scheme that will allow such basic work to be done on an ongoing basis? To make a broader point, does she have plans, given the extra running costs and current expenditures, such as utility costs and insurance costs, to increase the level of expenditure of capitation on our various arts venues? Many of those venues have not had an increase in funding in many years.

Taking Deputy Moynihan's question first, the Arts Council, in conjunction with local government, via the CCMA, commissioned an independent strategic review of the network of venues and arts centres throughout the country. I am waiting on that report. This point also addresses Deputy Calleary's question. That report will inform the type of cultural capital scheme that we will put in place. I take Deputy Calleary's points on board. At the moment, however, it is possible for any arts centre to apply for funding for maintenance works. We have funded different arts centres that were having difficulties such as a leak, an issue with rewiring or similar problems. Small amounts of funding are available to help address such issues.

I appreciate that urgency is required from the perspective of both Deputies, and indeed from my own. I am anxious to help artists and arts centres. From our experience to date, the Department has noted that it is better value for money to provide smaller grants to organisations. The maximum grant that would be likely in that context would be about €200,000 to €300,000. It is most likely, however, that a smaller capital scheme for amounts up to €50,000 will be announced. I take on board the points made by the Deputies, and I understand the emphasis that Deputy Moynihan places on the need for urgency regarding the Briery Gap theatre redevelopment.

We will take the question from Deputy Wallace next. I ask the Minister to respond immediately. Deputy Wallace will then have one supplementary question because time is running out. I am being very kind to the Deputy as these are his last days in the House.

Questions Nos. 31 and 32 replied to with Written Answers.