THE Artistic Director of Northern Ireland’s only rural, community based dance organisation, says he is facing the prospect of losing a member of staff as a result of cuts to Arts Council NI funding this year.
What’s more, Dylan Quinn of Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre says the disparity in rural and urban arts funding means the services he provides to local community organisations including Positive Futures and Fresh Focus are now under threat.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) announced annual funding of over £13 million at the beginning of this new financial year for 100 key arts organisations from its exchequer and National Lottery resources. 
But the announcement also represented a 4.7 per cent cut to the Annual Funding Programme (AFP), calling for “difficult strategic funding decisions” to be made.
Speaking to the Impartial Reporter this week, Mr. Quinn says the disparity between rural and urban arts funding “demonstrates a lack of care for people in rural areas”.
As a result, his dance theatre is seeking a review of the decision under the principles of the Rural Needs Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.
“It is very difficult to understand the justification for the decision in the first place,” he said, “This decision has been taken without any clear understanding or appreciation of the impact that it is going to have.
“It’s not just about money - it’s about experiences, it’s about opportunities, it’s about jobs, it’s about creativity,” he said, “Rural communities deserve better, we all do.”
The Artistic Director said there were five dance organisations listed as receiving Arts Council funding for the new year.
“But we are the only organisation to have been cut and we are the only rural organisation.”
According to Dylan, 93.7 per cent of all the art organisations funded by the Arts Council have a postcode in Belfast, Londonderry, Lisburn, Bangor or Craigavon.
Only 0.5 per cent of the funding has been directed towards Fermanagh and Omagh.
“We are not 0.5 per cent of the population and we don’t pay 0.5 per cent in tax - we deserve a lot more.
“This isn’t just about how this affects us - it is the cutting of services to people in rural areas.
“I’m out in Lisnaskea today delivering a lovely programme of workshops with Positive Futures for young people with autism - workshops like this are now under threat.
“We do regular programmes with Fresh Focus and we are training up an apprentice at the moment - that again is under threat because of the cuts to the Arts Funding.”
Dylan said the the issues with funding have been ongoing for some time.
“But I think what surprised us about this was how inappropriate and damaging that particular selection of cut was.
“We could lose a member of staff essentially and that reduces the services we can provide in this area.”
He said the Dance Theatre has been in regular contact with the local organisations currently benefitting from its services.
“People may say that arts activity is ‘trivial’ - it is not trivial for the people who are using our services. It is not trivial for the people employed in this sector. I am hoping people can get behind us on this and recognise the wider picture.
“I did tweet our MLAs - I haven’t heard back from them.
“This is something that local MLAs and politicians should be talking about,” he added.
Making its funding announcement earlier this month the Arts Council NI said “difficult strategic funding decisions” had to be made this year to “protect the balance of art forms across Northern Ireland”. 
As a result, the number of arts organisations supported by AFP in 2018/19 was reduced from 107 to 100 organisations.
The Arts Council Chair, John Edmund, commented, “Within the context of reducing public funding across government, the Board had to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of annually funded organisations while protecting the balance of arts forms for the year ahead. It is with regret that we had to refuse AFP funding to seven applicants; these organisations are eligible to apply to other National Lottery programmes in the future.
“All applications received for Annual Funding this year were eligible, but there simply weren’t the resources to fund all that was asked for. The majority of organisations were offered standstill funding or strategic uplifts, while the remainder received cuts.”