Northern Ireland

'Absolutely furious' stars of some of the north's biggest TV hits speak out against proposed arts cuts

Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings in BBC's Line of Duty.
Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings in BBC's Line of Duty.

LINE of Duty star Adrian Dunbar has said it "hardly seems credible" that the arts community in the north is once again faced with funding being reduced, as actors joined others in the sector to demand a reverse to proposed cuts.

Earlier this month it was announced that funding to organisations through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland could be reduced by 10 per cent as a result of cuts by the Department for Communities (DfC).

The Arts Council, which received £8.5 million from the DfC during 2022-23, recently wrote to those it has funded to warn it has been told to expect impending cuts.

Stormont departments, currently run by permanent secretaries in the absence of an Executive, are anticipating increased financial pressure after Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris warned the upcoming Budget would be "tough".

It is speculated that Mr Heaton-Harris will meet with Stormont parties on Thursday, but the NI Secretary has refused to say if the incoming budget will be set this week.

In their letter to organisations the Arts Council NI said "difficult decisions" lay ahead on grant allocations and said the sector faced "significant challenges" as it continued to recover from the impact of Covid.

Performing arts union Equity held a meeting on Tusday at the Black Box venue in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, that saw stars of some of the north's most successful TV projects speak out against the expected cuts.

Co Fermanagh-born Adrain Dunbar, who stars in hit BBC drama Line of Duty and filmed the show's six seasons on location in Belfast, spoke via video to those attending.

"It hardly seems credible that we’re having to fight once again for the civilising influence that the arts have had on Northern Ireland over the last 50 years," he said.

"When you think about it, it’s absolutely incredible. This is very important work you’re doing and a very important statement you’re making and I congratulate all of you. Good luck and Keep er lit."

Belfast actress Rachel Tucker, who stars in BBC police drama Hope Street - also filmed in the north - said she was "absolutely furious" at what the arts sector is facing.

"My blood is boiling. I’ve come home to film season three of Hope Street and I’m furious to find out about the millions of pounds being taken out of Northern Irish arts," she said.

"At the age of nine I joined Equity, during the Troubles, and the money was flowing from one community to the other to bring us together. That’s why the money was there, to try to bring kids out of fighting each other.

"I was fortunate to see the benefits of arts funding at the time, it was in abundance. In 50 years we’ll look back at the cuts that have happened. The generation below me will not get what I took for granted as a child."

Derry Girls and Game of Thrones star Ian McIlhenney added: “Why is it that every time cuts to central funding are considered it appears to be the arts that take the biggest hit?"

Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming said the proposed cuts were "morally inexcusable and economically illiterate, adding: "It is not fair that ordinary working people in Northern Ireland, from whatever community they come from, are suffering from the failure of people to get round the table.”

The union will present signatures gathered in a petition against the proposed cuts to the DfC on Thursday.