‘I mbliana ní raibh aon urraíocht ar fáil faraor, leis an tseachtain ealaíne is oidhreachta a reachtáil mar a bhíonns againn go hiondúil.’ Or, in English: ‘Unfortunately, no sponsorship was available this year to organise the arts and heritage week as usual.’ The note came home from school, here in Conamara. Not an insurmountable problem. It’s a resourceful school and the staff are going to mix up the classes and deploy their own talents to keep the week going. In the past, the funding, mainly public, has been used to bring in artists, musicians and writers from outside.
Few parents, given the economic mess, would be surprised that money was short this year. Everyone is feeling it, and cutting back. But as a populace we need to acutely question a system in which a modest educational event for children in a small rural area on the west coast of Ireland can be so clearly affected by global economic decisions in which they have not the slightest say. There are surely thousands of examples of such disconnect throughout the world, and it begs us to ask how we could begin to localise our economies again.
The arts week – named ‘Ealaín Bheo’, literally, ‘art that is alive’ – is only in its fourth year. The funding came from the local arts office just down the road, which receives its funding from the regional authority and the national arts council, the funding of which, respectively, comes from government departments of the Irish language and the arts. They in turn receive their allocations from the Department of Finance, whose cash flow is deeply entwined with the fortunes of the globalised economy.
And who influences that? Corporations move capital freely and invest profitably around the world. The combination of their capital and a country’s resources allows them to develop economies, generating growth, wealth, opportunity and progress – and ultimately there is a dripping-down of wealth to all of society. Everyone wins. Why don’t we tell that to the kids at arts week? They love a good fiction.