Across the Miles
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am most definitely a townie. One friend tells the story of how she witnessed the panic on my face when I realised I had travelled out of Belfast as far as Saintfield.
But in the last 12 months, I have been in parts of the country I would have struggled to find on a map. And I feel like the M1 and I are in a committed relationship, with the Tannaghmore roundabout holding a special place in my heart. As a team, we have clocked up over 2500 miles going to talk to people about audiences and other related things.
Very interesting, you say. But is there a point coming soon?
Not so much a point, but a few observations.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. - Mark Twain
Same Story, Different Place
The issues which challenge the funded arts organisations in Belfast also appear in Derry, Banbridge and Bangor. No one has enough money, time, or people. Everyone is doing more and with less and worries about how to keep the doors open and the lights on.
The grass is not greener
I could also add in here something about walking in other people’s shoes, but you get the idea. It can be so tempting to slip into thinking that everyone else has it easy – they have more people, more money, more audiences.
But take it from me, not one person is taking a stroll down Easy Street. Yes, some organisations have a larger team, but they also have more things to do. Some might not be reliant on central government funding, but have to battle for money against leisure centres and bin collections.
We all struggle to get the word out about that we do and be able to express and evidence its value. That is the reality for everyone involved.
Our projects across the country this year.
But Northern Ireland is jam packed with astonishing cultural stuff, and people who are passionate: about their community, connecting with people, creating and consuming art.
I have met some inspirational people who truly transform lives, and often do it while doing about ten other things at the same time. I have visited real gems that I never knew existed – Armagh County Museum was a particular delight, with its treasure trove of costumes and clothes. Oxford Island is another great find – especially for those dog walkers out there.
It is easy for us all to focus on what doesn’t work, or what could be better. But remember if you are in the ramp up to AFP applications or the wind down to Christmas, what we do is important and uplifting. A certain P Picasso put it quite nicely, “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
So I hope I get to meet even more people, and do even more travelling next year. That’s what thrive is here for, after all.