Action Group formed to 'unify voices' calling for Arts Centre in Tullamore

Clive Nesbitt

Reporter:

Clive Nesbitt

Email:

clive@alphanewspapers.co.uk

A new umbrella body, Tullamore Community Arts Centre Action Group has been established to unify the voices in Tullamore and Offaly calling for the development of an arts centre in the county town.

In a statement released this week they claim that these groups “have been let down by the inertia of our elected councillors and Offaly County Council (OCC) senior management in relation to the commitment and investment in the arts in Tullamore and throughout the county.”

”The Arts Centre is not just for Tullamore and would benefit the whole county and be a demonstrable commitment by elected members and OCC to cultural, social and economic development,’ added the statement.

It estimated the demand for the Arts Centre has been going on for nearly 20 years.

”The people of Tullamore have already put their hands in their pockets and fund-raised almost €200,000. The question now is why are our elected members and senior management team still not prioritising the funding of the creative sector, and in particular, our Arts Centre within annual budgets? Why are they not agreeing on a subsidy for the annual running costs of our Arts Centre, when this commitment is required by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht? We look around at other counties who fund and support the arts to a far greater degree than Offaly and on lesser annual budgets. In 2018, Offaly’s budget was €55.9million whereas Leitrim, Carlow, Roscommon budgets were €35million, €49million, €54.9million respectively. The excuse cannot be that Offaly does not have a sufficiently large enough budget to fund and support the arts. The difference between us and other counties seems to be, that their elected members have made the nationally recognized connection between social and economic prosperity, and the investment in the creative sector.”

The statement continued: “There is no doubt that our elected members and their current myopic economic strategy is having a detrimental impact on the potential inward investment to Tullamore and county, and this is demonstrable with recently published figures about the crisis level in retail vacancy rates in Tullamore, Edenderry & Birr. The €3million secured under the Urban Regeneration & Development

Fund for Tullamore is a positive achievement, but this spend on street lighting and pavements will not drive footfall into the town of Tullamore. People do not decide to open a new business in the town, visit Tullamore for a weekend break or longer, return to and/or relocate to Tullamore because of street lighting and pavements. We deserve a town and county that invests in driving footfall, with enterprise, retail, innovation, creative hubs, cultural tourism: a town and county we can all be proud of.”

”In 2016, our elected members and OCC senior management signed up to a national partnership agreement between the Arts Council and the County and City Management Association. This partnership is underpinned with the belief that the arts encompass a diversity of human experiences in a variety of forms, and contribute directly to building cohesive and sustainable communities, and to enhancing quality of life. All our elected members, including those representing our interests on the board of Tullamore Community Arts Centre Ltd need to be urgently reminded that as part of this partnership and with the launch of County Offaly’s Arts Plan (2018-2022), they have already at a local, regional and national level made a commitment to improving opportunities and supports for artists and those working in the arts. And have agreed that the arts can actively contribute to local economic development, whether in terms of attracting inward investment, improving opportunities for cultural tourism, or supporting indigenous creative industry. The Action Group now want to see some action, and for elected members and OCC senior management to stop stalling and get on with building a brighter future for Tullamore and county,” the statement concluded.

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