Rural Development and the Arts, Changing Creatives Lives in Rural Communities | Centre for Creative Practices
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Rural Development and the Arts

Changing Creatives Lives in Rural Communities

It seems that since the formation of the new government all the talk within the Arts sector has been around the fact that Ireland doesn’t have a separate Minister or department for the Arts. Now whilst I totally agree with this stance we seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on talking about it and wishing for change without actually doing or showing how life can be different by using what we already have. As in getting on with things and making a better case by talking “their” language.

Now I for one, even though I said I agree with the idea that there should be a designated Minister for the Arts, I am at the same time delighted that arts has been bundled together with Rural Development and before you shoot me I will tell you why.

I spend a proportion of my time working with different communities around Ireland looking at ways in which we can produce sustainable economic and social growth by using arts and creativity.  Now by the very nature of the geography of the country most of these regions are rural communities are based around one central urban location. If we take Shannon as an example the area we are talking about is Southern Clare,

  • Shannon Town
  • Newmarket-on-Fergus
  • Sixmilebridge
  • Bunratty
  • Kilmurry
  • Cratloe

These are not exactly major urban centres but centres of rural growth and regeneration.  Here in CFCP we have considerable experience in the arts / creative sectors and have prepared the following solution for councils or regional authorities who wish to promote and develop the economic potential for their local arts/creative community.

General Aims:

  • Provide tools to allow local arts to quickly and cheaply sell online
  • Provide a platform to centrally promote all local artists
  • Provide a platform to help people come together, understand the local barriers and opportunities and develop community led projects for change
  • Provide a means to promote wider business sector and their interactions and collaborations with arts/creative sectors

where we hope to:

  • Understand:Help understand how the community can work together to support local residents, community groups and businesses
  • Initiate:Bring like-minded people from across the community together to initiate community projects
  • Coordinate:Help coordinate community projects, making best use of local volunteers precious time

But critically we use arts and creativity as the main drivers in the project to consider actions that help develop new businesses in the community, sustain existing businesses and promote the local jobs market. Think about that, jobs coming from the implementation of ideas founded in arts and creativity.  If that doesn’t sound strange, then I should as it is not a normal model.  Normally we talk about the social impact of arts and creativity not the economic impact.

Now think about that for a second, the notion of using arts and creativity as anything other than a means of expression seems alien in a lot of ways but if we stop to think about this, if we can show a social and economic benefit of arts and creativity to a community and build a sustainable economic foundation on this then the world will be a much better place.

So with the Department of the Arts being part of Rural Development maybe, just maybe the government has stumbled onto something great.  If we through the idea of the Rural Development Networks, the REDZ projects and the pobal / partnership board money into the mix then the world is out oyster.

The project in Shannon is not the only one.  Take a look at the bits that Leitrim are doing with their Creative Frame project or the recent announcement that the Wicklow, Tipperary, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny Local Enterprise Offices have been awarded funding for a project to create a creative hub in the South Eastern region. So there is a growing momentum, not only from the local arts offices but more surprisingly from local commercial support organisations which only goes to highlight the importance of keeping creative, and by association the arts, as a major part of Irish regeneration plans.

Imagine if arts and creativity became so indispensable to local areas then how much influence can we exert on not just local government but National government. The endgame to my mind is that we could achieve what we want by showing real results rather than just getting lip service from those whose opinions we are trying to change. So maybe rather than trying to change what we can’t let’s change what we can.

So I would certainly argue that the arts, at this moment in time, are perfectly placed being in the mix with Rural development, to make a huge impact on Ireland both socially and economically.  Which means we will be in a position to have a huge say in the way the Arts are treated in future, but to do it we need to grab hold of the reins.

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