On April 8, 2010, Anna Daly from Cork radio station LifeFM talked with IDK’s Miriam Walsh, an attendee at the Arts Council’s Future Arts conference in Dublin from March 27-29, 2010. A podcast of this interview will be posted here asap. IDK’s Caroline Carswell also wrote an arts inclusion advisory for administrators after the event.
AD: I suppose with The Arts Council and looking for space I know one of the issues at this conference was the fact that budding artists, musicians, sculptors…. need a place to work and practice and hone their skills.
MW: Yes, it’s really expensive for any young person to afford their own space. So what we are looking for is to be given these spaces and have mentors (on-site) like in music, instead of renting space which is too expensive for any young person to do. Or to have a space if you are an artist to show your work or if you are into film to have it as a film set.
AD: I know the whole area of arts and funding we always hear about the top rung of society and about this whole tax incentive and it always seems to be the very rich that get targeted and say well, why are they paying the tax? But there are a whole lot of other people underneath that top ladder of the rung and I suppose as a parent, if one of my children turned around and said they wanted to be an artist or a sculptor or a musician, my big concern would be, well, how are you going to feed and clothe yourself, you know, the whole area of wow, you may not be able to survive financially.
MW: Well, at the moment there is no good job to be in and you can’t really say there is an area you should go into. So… if you go to your guidance counsellor in school, and say you want to be an artist they are going to say “no, be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a teacher”. But they are not going to say be an artist or a musician, they are going to say do that outside work but just don’t go and do anything towards the arts. So we are trying to change the stigma towards being an artist as well. Like, personally as someone who studied journalism it was one of those areas where it is hard to get work but if it’s what you want to do, you should do it.
AD: And talking about the arts and how it may work in other countries, have we been looking at the models in the US, in France … in continental Europe how do people get into the arts and how do they survive the beginning of those hard years?
MW: Well, for us what we are looking at now for the next meeting is to get different models from other countries and see how it works there. Youth arts gets under 5% of the Arts Council funding and it can’t be that way everywhere so we are going to see what we can learn to change the way things are in this country.
AD: And just looking backat the whole area of these empty or derelict buildings. How exactly could that help?
MW: Well, if you have no space and if you want to be a musician, what are you going to do? Not everybody has the money to rent a space, so what we are planning to do is to try and get some of these buildings to showcase your art or to just play music with your friends so that you can still be involved in the arts. And have full access to space – we want to make use of these buildings. They will just be derelict, decreasing in value otherwise and this is a way they could be used.
AD: And exactly what kind of a relationship does The Arts Council have with the government at the moment – have there been any discussions towards this so far?
MW: Hmm… not as far as I know. At the conference it was between the young people and The Arts Council but there were also policy makers from different organisations. The IFI (Irish Film Institute), from RTE, from The Ark (a children’s centre in Temple Bar that supports the arts) and we are trying to work with the policy makers and with The Arts Council to get the space.
AD: I suppose taking a look again at the arts in Ireland there are a lot of talented people here who may not get the chance to progress in the area that they want to work in but we can see just alone from say the Oscar nominations, there is an incredible amount of talent in Ireland that really needs to be showcased.
MW: Exactly. Like I was in the film group for the weekend and two of the people mentoring our group were two young guys who at the ages of 10 and 15 were given a camera. They lived in Fatima Mansions in Dublin that were being demolished so they filmed the whole process to how it was when they built the new houses. These people were really young 10 and 15 at the time and they won an IFTA award for their work. So it proves that if you have the equipment you can do whatever you want, and there is a lot of potential.
AD: The IFTA’s are the Irish Film and Television Awards?
MW: Yes. Exactly.
AD: And I suppose looking back to these derelict buildings what would The Arts Council envision them to be?
MW: They want them to be centres where young people can gather and be creative and use them. Like there is a place in Temple Bar called Exchange where young people can gather and play music. One of the groups at the weekend was a music group. They never met each other before but went into Exchange Dublin and recorded a piece from what they learnt within two days.
AD: And I know here in Cork there is a very vibrant arts community and there is a lot happening particularly if you look around Shandon, the Firkin Crane… that whole area seem to be developing as an arts quarter.
MW: Yes, a lot of talent is out there – we are trying to get that talent together and get the space for people to develop. Even if people want to hang out with their friends and play music that’s fine, but there is a lot of talent out there that could become something more for the country. We could have more Oscar nominees, we could have musicians – we just need the chance.
AD: See, the thing that you mentioned, there could be a concern for many people that young people are just gathering together to hang out and play music that’s not really…that’s…that’s going to be supervised.
MW: Yes, it’s going to be supervised. Like we are not going to have people there saying “you can do this, you can’t do that” but our plan is to getmentors in. People who have been there, people who had situations where they weren’t given a chance…they might be in bands now, they could be artists now… someone to be there for the young people to look up to, and so it can be monitored because we obviously don’t want the buildings to get wrecked and we want to prove we do need the buildings so it will be closely monitored.
AD: Are you optimistic?
MW: After the weekend, yes. The young people, there was 60 of us and while there was a timetable, when people went away at night we spent hours talking about it, so we actually wanted to be there, and another meeting of young people is on 8th May in Exchange Dublin and anyone can attend or give their input.
AD: Now the beginning with these forums is to see exactly what can be done and what The Arts Council would like to see done, but do you think it’s realistic some of these buildings could be handed to The Arts Council?
MW: It won’t be an easy process but we hope it will be possible. One area we looked at is Smithfield (in Dublin), with empty retail outlets sitting there. They are not going to be used and we need areas like that, that can be handed over through NAMA and what else is going to be done? Like there is talk about affordable housing, but realistically what is going to happen? There are over 300,000 abandoned houses at the moment so we are trying to offer an alternative.
AD: And again just talking about the Future Arts forum. There is another one coming up in May and again what is the idea of that one. Is it similar to the last forum in March?
MW: The last forum was on The Arts Council’s grounds. They supervised and were telling us what to do. So when we meet in Exchange on 8th of May it will be on our grounds and they will attend, with some policymakers. We want to have our say and discuss our work since the last gathering.
AD: So what are you looking for people to do? You want people to come along if they are interested?
MW: If you are interested come along or visit the website Futurearts.ie – there is a live forum for people to login and give their own input.
AD: Again that website?
AD: Do you want to give us the dates of the upcoming FutureArts forum?
MW: On May 8th in Exchange Dublin which is in Temple Bar. It’s a Saturday at 12pm and young artists are invited to come along.