Tuesday, 20 January 2009

WESTERN WRITERS' CENTRE FUNDING CUT

In another bizarre move, which deals a further belly-blow to literature in this country, The Arts Council have removed all funding from the Western Writers' Centre, Ionad Scribhneoiri Chaitlín Maude, in Galway. The Centre has been in operation as the only Writers' Centre West of the Shannon for almost seven years (I worked there for a couple of years) and has provided workshops, readings, a website, a newsletter - 'The Word Tree' - and were the first to organise a writers' residence in a Galway hospital (I worked on poetry and memoir with elderly patients in Merlin Park).

Among a lot more, they also run an annual festival, 'The Forge at Gort' which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed last year.

Their Arts Council grant of €10,000 enabled them to plan forward and continue to develop the Centre. Now it's gone. Please take the time to add your name to their petition calling for reinstatement of Arts Council Funding here.

10 comments:

Totalfeckineejit said...

Again, to completely cut someone's entire funding seems very harsh , 10k is a relatively modest budget too, they were hardly looking for the moon were they ?!-writers seem to be down the pecking order for sure. Arts councils grants and busaries /awards are all far foreign lands to me. At individual level there seems to be a system and a knack for being heard and if you're not au fait with it yer fecked.I only ever applied once to the arts council and as I didn't have a clue i took care to contact them to make sure i was at least applying in the right caegory. I filled out all the forms only to have my application rejected weeks later for being the wrong category. I haven't bothered since.

Women Rule Writer said...

Harsh is the right word.

Applying to the Arts Co is one of my least fave activites, but I do it once a year anyway. I got a bursary in 2004 (6k) and it was a godsend. I could really do with another one now. I'm waiting (in little hope) to hear. It seems to me you have to be famous or with a big publisher these days to get one, and I'm neither.

PJ Nolan said...

10k!!!WTF!!! That seems so bloody harsh, for a saving of just over 800 euro a month? How can they justify that?

Totalfeckineejit said...

That's an interesting point Nuala and the ultimate irony is that the famous people with the big publishers are the ones who need it least.Let's be fair here, nobody writes poetry (or to a lesser extent publishes it) to make money,it would be easier to plait fog for clothes, but a few bob to enable someone to write, to get a collection together to be published, makes more sense to me than rewarding those already on the higher ground for they will be published again anyway. I suppose the question to be asked is whether arts council grants are encouragements or rewards?

Women Rule Writer said...

PJ - I know. 10 lousy grand. What is going on in Merrion Square? Are they trying to get rid of Writers' Centres in favour of more general Arts Centres, maybe?

Total - exactly. It seems to be a case of laud the already lauded. Like with many organisations, there's a lack of imagination involved, methinks.

Claire said...

Dreadful, dreadful decision-making going on here. Sheesh.

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi again Claire. It's worrying, isn't it? Why is literature so low on the scale with them? Our writers have brought such fame and acclaim, most recently Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry. Are there no absolute lovers of literature making decisions on the Council? (I know Colm Tóibín is there but does he make decisions, I wonder?)

Fred said...

Dear Folks - I am personally very grateful for your comments and especially grateful to everyone who has signed our petition; the genrosity of spirit - and even in some cases of pocket! - of writers towatds the Western Writers' Centre at this time is quite moving. Having met with the Arts Council over their funding withdrawal, I am hard put to find any solid explanation. Our winning a major Irish language award, our festivals, our achievements (Nuala Ni Chonchúir was, when working with us, the very first writer-in-residence to a Galway hospital) all seemed to irritate them. Our news-letter, 'The Word Tree,' was savaged: okay for other organisations to have them, but not for us, apparently.(Clippings of letters I had written to local papers in Galway on the subject of the arts in that city had been sent to the Arts Council.)I gained the impression that for the Council there is 'official' (approved, funded) art and 'unofficial' (independent, unfunded) art and that they were committed to maintaining, rather than enhancing, the status quo. Clearly, though, there are people who will gloat if both the Irish Writers' Centre and the Western Writers' Centre disappear. And to think that Dublin, with the aid of the Arts Council, have the nerve to apply for the UNESCO designation of 'City of Literature.'We at the Western Writers' Centre WILL have a festival in Gort on March 27th and WILL produce another news-letter. - Sincerely, Fred Johnston

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi Fred
Thanks for your comment. It is indeed baffling and I don't envy you having to try to defend something that doesn't need defending.
I just don't understand the Arts Council as I'm sure many others don't. They are supposed to be a friend to, and supporter of, the Arts, and yet they seem to be hostile and unsupportive to literature and literary organisations. It is so hard to understand. I sort of feel afraid of them, as well as angry with them, and it just shouldn't be that way.
I hope your funding is re-instated.

Fred said...

Hi, there. I can understand that, but it is vital if one is to survive as any kind of artist that one is never afraid of the Arts Council! One visit to Merrion Square and a look around . . .it's a bit like walking into the office of a very slow bank on a bad day. The first thing to grab your attention will be a somewhat execrable painting on the far wall of the waiting-area. What people are afraid of is that their criticism of the Council in any form may mean that a grant will be turned down. I would have given such a belief the benefit of the doubt, but now I am convinced there is merit to it. So, it's a choice one has to make. There's only a short hop from being afraid of criticising the Council to having the Council tell you what to do as an artist and there are indications aplenty that they would not be shy about it, either. The one thing the Council as a mechanism of culture is good at is destroying the naive and creative spirit by creating an illusion of dependency. There was great art before the Council, there will be great art after it . . . but there is no evidence that there has ever been great art BECAUSE of it! Seamus Heaney, for instance, is a great poet and this has nothing to do with the pundits at Merrion Square. John McGahern was a great novelist - nothing to do with the Arts Council. When did you last hear of the Council actually CREATING art? No. Only artists do that. - Fred.