Of course there were other issues raised during the Irish PEN debate that interested me. Here are a few of them:
Declan Kiberd: How many artists in Ireland manage to support themselves without doing other kinds of paid work? Impossible to know, but probably 200 or less. How many people are employed in areas that rely on artistic production, such as publishing, galleries, libraries, arts administration, the universities? Again, it’s impossible to know, but probably 10, 000 or more.
Arthur Lappin: We need to persuade a small number of people (who have enormous power) of the importance of the arts themselves. During the boom we got a lot of buildings, possibly too many (now that we don’t have the money to run them) because we understand buildings: they offer photo opportunities, the laying of foundation stones, ribbon-cutting ceremonies etc. It’s harder to explain the importance of the processes of art. We need an ‘enlightenment campaign’.
And: what is the reasoning behind continuing massive subventions to e.g. the Abbey, while phasing out funding to established theatre companies like Barrabas? We lose so much through the closure of such companies: vision, experience, people who are willing to take risks with new work, years of growth.
Gerry Godley: We’ve been given an opportunity to move the arts up the food chain of public discussion, engaging with the broader topic: “Renewing the Republic”. (Go to http://www.ncfa.ie for more)
As for the question of whether or not writers should get involved in the larger national conversation: William Wall, in his Ice Moon Blog : “Irish writers – outsiders no more” points out that writers are citizens, like everyone else. (http://homepage.eircom.net/~williamwall/williamwall/Ice_Moon_Blog)