TheatreNI and Dance Resource Base, the leading representative bodies for Performing Arts in Northern Ireland, are dismayed to hear of the decision by Belfast Metropolitan College to close its Performing Arts courses currently offered at the Tower Street campus. We are concerned that this closure will impact on the future of performing arts provision. In addition to increasing the number of students having to leave Northern Ireland to receive quality arts training.
We understand that many organisations like ourselves are dealing with budgetary pressures caused by public sector cuts. However as the only option for this kind of vocational training in Belfast, the closure signals a significant loss to the city and its future arts provision. These courses, which were accessible and popular with students from a variety of backgrounds, were well recognised within the arts sector and recently received praise from their awarding body, EDEXCEL.
The courses were unique in providing a level of specialism in dance and acting that is not replicated in more generic Performing Arts courses on offer at other training institutes in Northern Ireland. Many of the part-time teaching staff are successful industry professionals. This provided students with direct links to the sector and opportunities to gain knowledge and experience from various theatre, dance and film companies, who are predominantly based in Belfast.
Keara Fulton, Development Officer at TheatreNI, stated:
“Courses of this type are essential to developing a skilled workforce to service the needs of the growing cultural and creative industries. Including the production of international renowned series such as BBC’s The Fall and HBO’s Games of Thrones, which employ local actors and technical staff. The closure of these courses threatens future investments of this kind, which are recognised for developing the economic growth of Northern Ireland.”
Kelly-Anne Collins, General Manager of Dance Resource Base, stated:
“Following this decision by Belfast Metropolitan College, we are concerned that Northern Ireland will be left with no new specialist higher education dance training intake. In the future, talented young people who are looking to take their first step into a career in dance now have no opportunity at a Northern Ireland further education college to do so. At a time when dance seems to be everywhere, both in popular entertainment and policy agenda, aimed at improving communal good health and well-being, this is a significant blow to future of dance provision.”
There are a number of high profile graduates from these courses such as Dan Gordon, who himself has strongly advocated against these cuts, Zara Turner (Sliding Doors), Colin Morgan (The Fall / Merlin), Gary Mitchell (Playwright) and Eleesha Drennan (National Dance Company of Wales/Sky Academy Arts Scholarship 2014). As well as numerous students that have transferred their skills to many other disciplines and sectors.
Furthermore, it is likely that many of the full and part-time jobs connected to these courses will be lost. Resulting in further job losses in a sector that has already had to deal with significant budgetary cuts from the Executive and DCAL.
While we welcomed the investment into the state of the art facilities at the South Eastern Regional College Bangor campus, this facility should not act as a replacement for provision in Belfast or elsewhere. Many current and prospective Belfast Metropolitan College students are from outside of Belfast. The cost, time and accessibility of travelling to Bangor will not be feasible for many individuals. In addition, at this time SERC does not provide the specialist training that Belfast Metropolitan College delivers. And there is no indication whether SERC will have sufficient student capacity or the specialist facilities for acting and dance to compensate for the loss of courses at Belfast Metropolitan College.
We would urge the Department of Employment and Learning and the two Colleges to address sector concerns about the future of such specialist training in Northern Ireland, and the number of available and accessible places for young people in the coming academic years.
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TheatreNI is the representative body to support and develop theatre and the performing arts in Northern Ireland. TheatreNI aims to create a vibrant, healthy theatre sector by supporting its members and the wider sector to encourage participation and accessibility in theatre and the performing arts.
For further information please contact us.
Dance Resource Base is the premier, non-profit support organisation for the dance community in Northern Ireland and the only such organisation working across all styles and types of dance. It is committed to nurturing the development of dance artists, increasing audiences at dance performances and build participation in dance activities across Northern Ireland. Link to Dance Resource Base statement here
For further information please contact:
Kelly-Anne Collins – General Manager of Dance Resource Base
028 9023 1515