This month, we publish the report of the independent strategic review group, which was chaired by Terence O'Rourke, and tasked with examining how the Arts Council addresses its remit at a time of significant change so as to inform its strategic planning for the medium to long-term development of the arts in Ireland.
This is a welcome report; it contains compelling and challenging proposals which we will take time to consider over the coming months as we develop our next strategy. From September, the Arts Council will be examining in detail the implications of the report and how it will support and inform future policy and strategy.
As Director of the Arts Council, I served on the steering group of the strategic review, and one of the key features of the strategic review process was the engagement we received from a broad range of stakeholders.
The arts sector made its commitment very clear at meetings in Dublin, Cork and Sligo, with presumptions and assertions being tested and debated in a rigorous, at times vociferous, and refreshing way. Contributions at these gatherings were bolstered by dozens of high-quality submissions to the steering group through the website. Key informants and policy specialists across a wide range ofpublic agencies, government departments, community and voluntary sectors as well as the academic world attended meetings at the Arts Council's offices, and brought valuable new perspectives to the table. We listened to all those perspectives, some voices were familiar , others were new, but all had something valuable to say.
Most encouraging of all were the insights that emerged from the qualitative research with groups of ordinary members of the public from different socio-economic backgrounds in different parts of the country. These are the people in whose name we work to support and develop the arts in Ireland.
Some described 'barriers' to their enjoyment and engagement with the arts – time, money, relevance, and other challenges – but, time after time, many explained how, in these tough times, they needed the arts more than ever. They described how creativity in its many forms made them feel better and had become part of their personal 'recovery' story.
The challenge now for the Arts Council is to demonstrate real leadership and advocate and represent their stories.
Orlaith McBride Director