Feile an Phobail : unbalanced funding?

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 14.49.01

Picture by Antrim Lens

There were a number of public figures indicating shock at the news that Feile An Phobail had received some £500,000 in funding from DCAL over the past two years and had shared some of that money with other, smaller arts groups. The novelist Glenn Patterson said this would “take a lot of people by surprise”; the DUP’s Nelson McCausland said he was opposed to the money being distributed in this “secret way”.   Caral Ní Chuilín, the Arts Minister, said this was disgraceful talk, given that Feile An Phobail had provided a “business case, they’ve done evaluation, they’ve been through more due diligence and scrutiny than any other funded body”.

Well, you can see Glenn and Nelson’s point: you wouldn’t want to think that public money for the arts is being wasted – although there has been no suggestion that Feile An Phobail acted in any incorrect or unlawful way. But still, you know. Public money like that – half a million over two years – going to West Belfast’s Feile and all these other groups. It’d be really shocking if one side of the community was having funds diverted to it that might have gone to the other.

But be of good cheer, Glenn and Nelson. Public money is being used in support of artistic projects perhaps closer to their hearts.

In 2012-13, the PSNI Chief Constable said that policing the flag protests had cost £15 million (the CBI figured that the protests had cost them near to another £15 million in lost trade). And of course the Twaddell Camp is costing the public £300,000 each week. Yes, that’s each week, Virginia. So inside a fortnight, the Twaddell Camp swallows up more money than the Feile An Phobail got in the past two years. Being an economic illiterate, I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it costs to police Orange parades each year. But I do know that a Freedom of Information inquiry a while back established that 221 parades involving 1428 police officers cost £197,829.29. Given that there are well over 2,000 marches each year, you might be able to do the sums yourself.

I  would hope that’ll provide balm for Nelson’s artistic soul.

26 Responses to Feile an Phobail : unbalanced funding?

  1. Belfastdan November 1, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    Not to mention the grants given to the bonfire builders, literally burning money and of course the grants given to establish the museums of “orange culture” if that’s not an oxymoron.

    I wonder do Glenn and Nelson approve those uses of public funds!

  2. Iolar November 1, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    Spéir dhearg thoir, báisteach go buan; spéir dhearg thiar, gealach is grian.

    According to Chomsky,

    “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” 

    It beggars belief that money is being wasted on such a scale as some of our elected representatives talk twaddle in relation to proposed welfare cuts. It is even starting to seep into the lexicon of those that review the ‘news’papers. Today it was Ms Clinton’s preoccupation with the personal lives of politicians and others labouring under a misapprehension about Mary Lou McDonald T.D. Time will tell.

  3. BYC November 1, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

    Nobody’s said that Phobail is a waste of money Jude. They’ve just asked why such a large proportion of the Department of Cultures budget is spent in North and West Belfast. And did you really just suggest that the writer in residence at university college cork prefers orange bands to the events at Phobail? Because he’s a prod?

    • Jude Collins November 1, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      BYC – check the meds, OK? I don’t remember suggesting anything of the sort about any writer-in-residence…

  4. giordanobruno November 1, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

    It seems a straightforward issue. Has well known arts aficionado Caral been using her position to bestow public money according to her own political agenda?
    Hopefully the DCAL committee will bring into the open the process by which the Feile was awarded this money.
    The issue of money spent on flag protests is not relevant to how she is doing her job.

    • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 9:20 am #

      That’s true, gio. But it is relevant to the use of public money for matters of art and culture…

      • giordanobruno November 2, 2015 at 10:54 am #

        A different budget I would think Jude.
        If you are pointing out Unionist hypocrisy, fair enough, though it is a bit whataboutery-ish but hopefully you agree there should be transparency over how this money was awarded to Feile An Phobail in the first place?

        • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 11:32 am #

          Probably right, gio – different budget. But it’s still my money and yours. ‘Whataboutery’ is an easy out – it might be better described as ‘what about the wider context’. I’m all for transparency; however, as I understand it, Feile an Phobail worked within the rules. I say anyone who does that, good luck to them. The Twaddell camp, I’m told – perhaps wrongly – is illegal…

          • giordanobruno November 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

            Twaddell is an embarrassment as well as a drain on public money. No doubt about that.
            I also have no doubt that Feile did what was asked of them.
            The question seems to be did Caral make her own rules just for them?
            Were other groups given the opportunity to bid for this money?
            If not why not?

          • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

            Well gio, as I understand it, Feile an Phobail was awarded whatever it was awarded; it then shared some of this with smaller arts organisations. Whether this was agree with the Minister in advance or not, there seems to be no suggestion that Feile or anyone else acted illegally. I would favour greater transparency too; but I can’t help but think that Nelson et al are exercised by this case because it’s got to do with themuns in West Belfast. I could be wrong, of course – the thought may not have entered their heads…

  5. Perkin Warbeck November 1, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    Glenn Patterson, a novelist not at all in bad odour with the Fiction Faction in the Free Southern Stateen, has a gripe with Feile an Phobail and its funding, Esteemed Blogmeister.

    Perhaps if said festival rebranded itself as WestSide Festival his gripe might not seem so overripe? In August of this year the same Glenn Patterson read from his latest book at the EastSide Festival in the same city. Perhaps he was in receipt of some dosh from the public purse for this reading?

    Or, perchance, he (or his publisher) might have had to fork out the moolah in the opposite direction for what in essence was an advertising slot.

    In an interview he gave to the Nashville Review in 2010 the above-it-all Mr. Patterson had this to say: ‘ To return to politics, one of the things I most loathe about politics in Northern Ireland is this thing they call ‘the two communities’. The two communities are Catholic and Protestant. I don’t believe in two communities’.

    (Incidentally, he admits in this, the Buckle of the Bible Belt, to having been born a Protestant).

    Elsewhere in the interview the novelist loftily opines that ‘the language of fiction is complicating while the language of politics is reductive’.

    As the heading of the interview emphasizes the fictional writings of the novelist it is passing odd that Mr. Patterson should go all reductive and reach for the off-the-rack hackneyed take on Norneverland from the High Tory perspective. Suits of course the chinless wonders in their Carnaby Street suits to peddle this imperialist tosh.

    One might have expected Mr. Patterson to rise above this prefabricated platitude even as he goes to great lengths to expatiate on his love affair with literary language, its very purity, the precision thereof. Such as makes up the diet of the detached fictionist.

    The interviewer at one stage states: ‘In one of your novels, The International’ some of your characters use untranslatable Irish words. I remember one instance in which a character uses the curse word ‘glibe’. I was dying to know what it means. Do you have a favourite untranslatable Irish curse?’

    To which the reply was: ‘Glipe comes close. I don’t even know if glipe is Irish. I don’t know where it comes from’.

    It would appear that Mr. Patterson might also be at a loss to figure out just where the perceived faux hubris of this ‘Feile an Phobail’ rubric came from. Could it be a long delayed sally against the Tally-ho types of High Toryism (who didn’t believe in two communities either). Not least the peculiar fetish they showed in their devotion to the tally stick as an instrument of giving a piggy back to Essential English while doing down the lesser language known as leprechaun.

    Ca fios? Who knows?

    It is widely known yet even more widely ignored that during the 1830s on the island of Ire Land the tally stick was introduced into the primary schools. Children attending school had to wear a stick attached to a piece of string around their neck. Each time they lapsed into leprechaun a notch was put in the stick. At the end of the schoolday they were punished according to the number of notches on the stick.

    Mr. Patterson places great stress on his decision to say ‘yes’ to internationalism. Which may indicate he is not unfamiliar with the great Harry Belfafonte’s great hit, The Banana Boat Song’.

    ‘Come Mister Tallyman, tally me banana
    Daylight come and me wanna go home’.

    The last line might be comfortably translated into the leprechaun ‘Tiocfaidh Ar La’ which may be abbreviated down to (gulp) ‘T.A.L’.

    Which Mr.Patterson’s fans in the Fiction Faction of the Free Southern Stateen aka The Banana Republic of Banba will no doubt assure him means a short-assed shortening of Compulsory Erse, the lingua franca of this valley of tears where the real tally sticks do grow.

    Taimse im’ chodladh is na duistear me.

  6. BYC November 1, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    “Public money is being used in support of artistic projects perhaps closer to their heart”. Glenn Patterson was the writer in residence at UCC.

    • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 9:18 am #

      Right. And the point of mentioning that, BYC?

      • BYC November 2, 2015 at 10:23 am #

        I was helping with your ” I don’t remember suggesting anything of the sort about any writer-in-residence…” Jude. You seemed to have forgotten what you wrote in the fourth paragraph of your article.

        • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 11:33 am #

          OK, BYC – I’m off to check…

  7. ben madigan November 2, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    wrote about how much NI’s obsessions cost some time ago Here are some more figures and parameters to add into the general picture

  8. Jim.hunter November 2, 2015 at 7:09 am #


  9. neill November 2, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Jude you could equally have brought in the fines that we are being charged by the govt for not getting our welfare system sorted which was caused by SF strange that you didn’t.

    As for the Feile An Phobail when all its directors are member of SF it does beg from some intriguing questions to be asked which hopefully will be.

    • Jude Collins November 2, 2015 at 11:38 am #

      I could have included that the British government is taking money from us? I suppose I could. Can’t do everything, mind you. And all the directors of the Feile are members of SF – are they? How do you know? And assuming they are, your point would be?

      • giordanobruno November 3, 2015 at 9:14 am #

        Directorships are public knowledge-you could look it up! As far as I know neill is right and probably the directors have been SF members since Feile came into being. It is hardly a surprise.
        There is plenty to admire about it but it would be extremely naive to think that SF have no influence in the themes and aims of Feile An Phobail. That is how things work here.
        An organisation with all directors drawn from the DUP based in DUP heartland, would very likely be driven by a DUP agenda, would you not agree?

  10. Séamus Ó Néill November 2, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Neill ,you seem to be inferring that to be a member of Sinn Féin is something less than desirable. This seems to be an ignoble trait within Unionism as recently exemplified by Poots and Foster and will certainly not curry any favour with anyone anywhere. By demeaning other people you ultimately demean yourself

    • neill November 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Far from it however don’t you agree when all of the board members are from sinn fein all of them don’t you think that’s strange?

  11. Séamus Ó Néill November 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    If you researched the origins of An Féile you would understand that Gerry Adams was instrumental is its foundation primarily to negate the adverse television exposure of the BBC implying that West Belfast was a lawless terrorist community devoid of passion and feeling.Irish language and culture were at the forefront before it evolved into one of the largest community festivals in Europe…..taking that into consideration and the very negative attitude of Unionism towards our native language and culture and the fact that Sinn Féin live in and work for their local communities….no it’s not surprising they are prominent on the board……but they have to be elected there!

    • jessica November 2, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

      “If you researched the origins of An Féile you would understand that Gerry Adams was instrumental is its foundation”

      Well said Seamus

      I remember when republican areas had bonfires and attended a few. I also recall the coordinated push away from them and the first year where instead of a bonfire we had bands playing on the back of a lorry on the spot where the bonfire used to be.

      I’m all for more public money being used to help improve communities this way and certainly don’t want to see the return of bloody great fires blighting our communities. All involved should be congratulated not criticised.

    • neill November 3, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      So who gets a vote on who should be a board member?