‘Quality of Life’: inclusion and resilience in community cultural development

Dr Matt Jennings (Ulster)

Work within the arts sector is often precarious, inequitable and underpaid. Yet policy bodies increasingly recognise the social and economic benefits of the creative industries and cultural development. Management research has identified the flexible approach of arts organisations as a model for workplace relations everywhere. Yet the resilience of cultural workers can be tested when their livelihood is threatened. This can have serious implications for the communities with whom they work. This presentation will examine working conditions within the community arts sector of Northern Ireland, drawing on interviews with 20 experienced artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. All helped to deliver the Derry/Londonderry City of Culture 2013 and continue to provide vital support for: the wellbeing of older people, people with mental health issues and disabilities; the education of young people and children; and peacebuilding and social development. The findings demonstrate the complexity, commitment and resourcefulness of their working lives. However, increasingly they are working outside of the region or leaving the community sector. This presentation raises concerns for cultural inclusion within the new Department of Communities, but will also suggest innovative measures that could allow the sector to thrive, drawing on international examples of policy and practice.

Date of seminar: 25 January 2017.

Policy Briefing