Anna Lo MLA said: “I am delighted to be involved in the launch of the Intercultural Arts Strategy during Community Relations Week. It heralds a significant step in addressing the barriers facing minority ethnic groups here in Northern Ireland. I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that arts initiatives can have at a grassroots level and look forward to seeing the results of this strategy in years to come.
“I am also aware of the difficulties of ethnic minority artists getting opportunities to perform in Northern Ireland resulting in a deficiency of Ethnic Minority Arts Groups. At times like Chinese New Year, it is often the case that artists and performers have to be flown in from China, Hong Kong or mainland Britain for these festivals. I am glad to say that there are now a small number of local organisations such as ArtsEkta who are a good example of the promotion of BME artists.
“The new funding programme is extremely welcome and it is essential in order to progress the actions contained within the strategy. At a time when funding is being cut or, in the case of the Minority Ethnic Development Fund, inexcusably and unacceptably delayed, this strategy along with its funding stream provides a lifeline for some ethnic communities.
“Strategies such as the Intercultural Arts Strategy, and efforts by many individual organisations like the Arts Council are to be commended. They are evidence that the Arts Council are committed to action on a Shared Future and not just symbolism and flowery rhetoric. These efforts would be much more powerful if underpinned by an effective and robust, Executive-led Shared Future Strategy.
“Too often we see cases where grass-roots organisations and others have to take the lead where our leaders fall down. In the interim, where the Office of First Minister and deputy Minister fail to take a lead, I am inspired by the leadership and tenacity shown in this Intercultural Arts Strategy and by the desire of those gather today to weave our community together through the Arts.
“Arts have an important role in nurturing and developing a shared society where our cultural differences can be celebrated and cherished rather than utilised as a tool to divide and disenfranchise. It can provide us with a safe place to explore our differences and facilitate difficult dialogue that would otherwise be impossible in everyday situations.
“This Intercultural Arts Strategy is a step forward in Community Relations and enriches our fantastic arts heritage. I welcome its introduction during Community Relations Week and look forward to see a thrilling and thriving intercultural arts sector to develop from this strategy.”