Irish Writers’ Centre Left Reeling From Loss of Funding

The Irish Writers’ Centre has been dealt a severe blow in their efforts to augment funding for the coming literary year with news that the Irish Arts Council has rejected their application. The Irish Writers’ Centre is a non-profit organisation providing a home-base, study environment, workshops and courses, as well as a dedication to promote Irish literature worldwide. One of the factors which I believe goes against the IWC since its inception in 1991 is a very low membership – a hundred at the moment – completely at odds with the volume of work carried out each year by the centre’s voluntary staff.
While I profess no inner knowledge of the workings of the IWC, I would suggest in these difficult economic times, without funding for 2010, they need to seriously curtail the facilities at the centre to only those who are contributing members. That may seem harsh in light of the IWC’s hard and dedicated work, but clearly in 2010, this now needs to become a reality if they are to survive. I would also appeal to those Irish writers who have benefited from visits and promotional activities at the centre to ensure they subscribe or renew their membership of the organisation this year.

Statement from the board of the IWC in full.

“The Irish Writers’ Centre is extremely disappointed that the Arts Council has rejected its application for a grant for 2010. Until 2009 the IWC received an annual grant to enable it to function as an organisation providing a venue and a service to writers and the public, but the grant was withheld last year on the basis of a value-for-money assessment. Over the past year the Centre has addressed all the criticism and misgivings that led to the withholding of the grant. It has renewed itself and reformed entirely. Through the efforts of the Board and a team of voluntary staff we have now established a vibrant and exciting centre, open from morning to night, open Saturdays, with readings, events, workshops, meetings, all progressing non-stop. We have opened up a home-from-home where writers and readers can converge for literary business and literary pleasure. We have ensured that there is one place in Dublin where writers from abroad can come to interact with their Irish colleagues. This supreme effort has been made to demonstrate how effectively the Centre can cater for the needs of writers and readers, but it cannot be maintained indefinitely without funding.

Writing is the national art form of Ireland; more than with anything else, our national identity is associated with writing. But the allocation of resources does not reflect the primacy of literature, quite the contrary, despite the enormous economic contribution that literature makes to the country through cultural tourism. The Writers’ Centre has been given the most enthusiastic support by the whole literary community over the past months. Everyone has shown anxiety for its survival as a venue for showcasing contemporary Irish writing, encouraging new writing, providing writers with one physical location which belongs to them: a writers’ house. Within the literature community there has been a consensus endorsing its case for funding. It is therefore all the more baffling and disappointing that the Arts Council has not responded to that clear wish of the literature community.

Dublin has lodged an application to UNESCO for a special designation as a ‘City of Literature’. If this is granted, Dublin, and Ireland, will be able to exploit this status to enhance its cultural profile and its attraction to cultural tourists. But the designation will be granted and maintained, not in recognition of our glorious tradition, but on the vibrancy of the contemporary writing environment and on the infrastructure that exists to sustain and develop that vibrancy. In view of this, the decision of the Arts Council to jeopardise the Irish Writers’ Centre is myopic in the extreme.

Last autumn when the Arts Council faced the spectre of a catastrophic cut in funding for the arts, they issued a call-to-arms and asked the writers to join the vanguard on the basis that literature was demonstrably our extraordinary performer in the arts arena. Reasonable damage limitation was achieved, but the recent grant allocations to literature do not reflect the enormous esteem for writers and writing the Council espoused just a few months ago.

And Our Response

We will not fold up our tents and go meekly away. We firmly believe that there is an absolute need for the Irish Writers’ Centre at the heart of the literary landscape, and that it should be funded. We will continue to seek funding and support from every quarter and we appreciate that Dublin City Council and Foras na Gaeilge have responded positively to our applications and guaranteed us some funding. We need a lot more to cover our overheads and maintain our programme of activity, before even thinking of paying our administrative staff.

We therefore call on our supporters and sympathisers, on all who delight in using the facilities of the Centre, and on all who want to see Literature accorded the esteem it has earned, to double and treble their efforts to ensure the survival of the Irish Writers’ Centre, especially by:

Becoming a Member We have already a hundred, we need a thousand. At €50 per year it is not an inconsiderable amount especially for struggling writers, but it would provide a financial base towards meeting our overheads. It would also ensure that ownership of the project is in the hands of writers and readers. Yes, don’t forget that membership is open to readers as well as writers. For more information click here.

Supporting Events Every week we have literary events, all exciting and enjoyable. Come along and show your support for and interest in writers, whether they are internationally acclaimed authors or writers taking their first tentative steps into the literary world. For information on our forthcoming events click here.”

About The Irish Writers’ Centre

The Irish Writers’ Centre has long been a hub of literary activity in Dublin, supporting established and aspiring writers throughout Ireland from its base at the heart of Dublin’s cultural quarter. It is a non-profit organisation, aimed at promoting the literature and writers in Ireland.

Since it was founded in 1991, the Irish Writers’ Centre has welcomed many award winning writers through its doors, including Nobel, Costa, Man Booker, IMPAC, and Pulitzer Prize winners. It has also served as an important platform for breakthrough talent, with many young writers giving their first public readings here.

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