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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 08:52 GMT
Protest over funding at arts event
Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey says bid for city of culture title is within grasp
Leading figures in Northern Ireland arts circles have boycotted a Belfast awards ceremony in protest over arts funding cuts by Belfast City Council.

Hollywood actors Stephen Rea and Adrian Dunbar were among about 200 groups and individuals who did not attend the gala event at the City Hall on Thursday.

The groups held a protest outside as the awards ceremony took place.

They said they were angry that the council's awards cost 47,000, while many arts groups have had their funding cut.


We are not on a parity with the amount of money that needs to be spent. We are the poor relation

Dan Gordon
Actor
However, the city council has said it had reallocated the money and denied cutting funding.

Other leading figures who backed the boycott of the Belfast Arts Awards 2002 were playwrights Brian Friel and Martin Lynch and poets Tom Paulin and Michael Longley.

They added their names to a statement condemning the council for a 20% cut in funding for major arts organisations.

Leading Northern Ireland actor Dan Gordon, who was on the picket line, said present funding was not enough to support arts groups in Belfast.

"The problem is it hasn't been increasing enough and it started at a very low level.

"There is 50% per head spent on us here compared to England," he said.

"We are not on a parity with the amount of money that needs to be spent. We are the poor relation."

Four of the prize winners did not turn up to collect their awards and two of the judges walked out in protest when a prize was collected on behalf of one of the absent winners.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's arts correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"The evening began with a controversial protest"
Councillor Nelson McCausland:
"This year we actually increased our spending"
See also:

30 Oct 02 | N Ireland
30 Oct 02 | N Ireland
05 Aug 02 | N Ireland
18 Sep 02 | N Ireland
09 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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