Sunday, March 05, 2006

Statement Released by Arts Council Northern Ireland re withdrawal of funding to OBG

Statement from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Issued February 28 2006

Regarding the closure of the Ormeau Baths Gallery

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) is saddened by the decision of the Chair of the Ormeau Baths Gallery (OBG) to announce the closure of the gallery. However, given the company's inability to reduce its longstanding financial deficit or to sustain the gallery space as a viable arts venue, we agreed to help OBG to wind-down its affairs in an orderly, business-like manner.

We regret the emotive and inaccurate statement issued today by a member of staff at OBG who is, understandably, upset on hearing of the Board's decision to enter insolvency. It was unfortunate that the staff member concerned had not consulted his Board members first, who had informed the Council fully of their decision.

The Arts Council declines to give these unfounded allegations and inaccuracies within the statement any further credence. We emphasise again that at all times, the Council has worked with OBG staff and Board members to find solutions to their self-confessed financial irregularities and management problems that they have incurred over the last few years.

However, the ongoing financial deficit position, along with a lack of confidence in the company to make the gallery space viable, has forced the ACNI not to award any future public funding to this organisation. Our role is to safeguard public money and the Arts Council remains committed to maintaining independent public gallery provision in the city.

The amount of funding going to the OBG will not be lost in the next financial year. Whilst this is a temporary difficulty, it should in no way distract us from our principal objective of securing ongoing gallery provision. Indeed this also represents an opportunity to broaden the appeal of this particular gallery space to the wider public and to provide greater opportunities to artists.

We are actively exploring options with potential partners in the visual arts sector and are confident that the gallery space will reopen under new management as soon as possible.

-ENDS-

For further information contact- Grainne McCann or Matthew Hendry,
Communications Department, Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
Tel : 028 9038 5206 or 9038 5210 or email mhendry@artscouncil - ni.org


NOTES TO EDITORS:

· The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland and the main support for artists and arts organisations throughout the region in a wide variety of artistic disciplines.

· Over the 11-year period that the Ormeau Baths Gallery has been open to the public. In this time:
(a) The Arts Council provided significant public support of £3,347,401;
(b) Average yearly audience figures have been 21,000.

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