Northern Ireland’s ‘World-Class Creativity and Innovation’ Under Threat From Devastating Budget Cuts Say Leading Educationalists

Northern Ireland’s ‘World-Class Creativity and Innovation’ Under Threat From Devastating Budget Cuts Say Leading Educationalists

Leading educationalist Sir Ken Robinson and award-winning children’s author Frank Cottrell-Boyce have spelled out the devastating consequences for the future of thousands of young people if proposed 50% cuts to the Nerve Centre’s Creative Learning Centres and film programmes go ahead.

In a written statement to the Nerve Centre in Derry~Londonderry, Sir Ken Robinson said: 'Over the last 15 years, Northern Ireland has gained a new reputation around the world as an international centre of creativity and innovation: as such, it is attracting new forms of investment and generating new jobs and opportunities for people of all ages.

'This reputation is especially strong in film, television and digital media. The Creative Learning Centres have been at the heart of these developments. And yet it is now proposed that their relatively modest budgets be cut in half. Compared to the savings they would make, these cuts would cause untold damage for the many people, schools and businesses that these centres benefit across Northern Ireland. It would be a tragic reversal if this were to happen: if the long-term gains that these programmes provide were sacrificed to the interests of short-term cost cutting.'

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity and innovation in education. His TED talks have been viewed more than 25 million times by an estimated audience of 250 million.

He led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education and was a central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland. He was knighted in 2003 for his services to the arts. Addressing Northern Ireland’s political leaders, he said:

'We all understand the need for economic prudence. But it’s vital for Northern Ireland that its economic challenges are met with political wisdom and vision. For the past 15 years, I have been telling the story around the world of Northern Ireland’s creative renaissance and its emergence from a conflicted past into a more collaborative and creative future.

'It’s a story about investing in people and their diverse talents; it’s about the ability of communities to create their futures with hope and confidence. It’s a story in Northern Ireland that must be allowed to unfold with the full financial and political investment it actually needs. The work of the Creative Learning Centres is vitally important in itself and for how it represents a new vision for Northern Ireland as a whole.' 

Frank Cottrell-Boyce has also added his voice to the thousands of people who have already responded to the Nerve Centre’s campaign opposing these cuts, including Oscar® winner Danny Boyle, Hollywood director Paul Greengrass and actor Ray Winstone.

Cottrell-Boyce was the writer of the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and the creative mind behind last year’s City of Culture outdoor spectacular in Derry, The Return of Colmcille. During this time he worked with the Nerve Centre on the ‘Digital Book of Kells’, a major digital education programme involving 900 pupils in 22 primary schools across the city.

'Unique education programmes such as the Digital Book of Kells are developing digital literacy and creative skills in children and young people from some of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland,' he said.

'I fear that the proposed 50% funding cut will have a damaging effect on these communities and leave hundreds of teachers without the hands-on support and expertise that they require.

'Often where political leaders have struggled to make a difference, culture has stepped in to build bridges (sometimes literally) and create a space for understanding to grow.'

Reinforcing the stark message that Northern Ireland’s young people will not have the skills required for a 21st century workforce, Pearse Moore, Nerve Centre chief executive, said:

'The digital economy is the future for Northern Ireland. There is already a well-documented digital skills shortage across the UK, with 750,000 new digital jobs needing to be filled by the end of 2017, and it is exactly this area that the Creative Learning Centres target. Our programmes in digital creativity, coding, and STEM-based learning are all focused on building the skills required in a modern workforce.

'Many schools are just not equipped to deliver this type of skills development alone. The Nerve Centre’s work supports schools with teacher training and resourcing to ensure that our young learners get the earliest possible exposure to new technologies and use them constructively to support learning.'

The Nerve Centre’s work in the area of creative learning and film education impacted on over 30,000 last year, including teachers, youth leaders and young people, 80% of whom are from disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) has asked Northern Ireland Screen to prepare for cuts to its budget next year from £1.9m to £1m.

The cuts will also affect other film programmes including Foyle Film Festival, Cinemagic, Belfast Film Festival, the Queen's Film Theatre, and CultureTECH.

The Nerve Centre have started a campaign against the cuts and are asking the public and users of their services to send objections here or direct to DCAL on budgetconsultation@dcalni.gov.uk.

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