Clare Bailey, the Green Party’s MLA candidate for South Belfast has spoken out about revelations that the culture Minister Nelson McCausland requested in an email to festival directors that the programme for Belfast Festival at Queen’s includes pro-Israeli views and Christian Gospel music.
Ms Bailey stated: “The interference of a minister in this sense is unprecedented; given the requests reflect his personal views and beliefs. Not only does it undermine the independence and creative license afforded to festival organisers, but it shows a betrayal of those in South Belfast who do not share Mr McCausland’s views”
It has also emerged that Mr McCausland has also held a meeting about the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in January 2011 and has criticised what he saw as the excessive swearing in plays on his personal blog after he attended the play ‘Black Watch’, which is about the experience of soldiers in Iraq. In regard to the role of ministers in the content and style of festivals.
Ms Bailey added: “The Belfast Festival at Queens and other festivals in Northern Ireland have long provided a high standard of culturally and politically diverse performances and acts, with funding from a number of sources. The Green Party in Northern Ireland seeks to develop more autonomous and less dependent forms of financial support for the arts, ensuring that government interference is less of an issue. We understand that while art can help shape out values and beliefs, we cannot force these values and beliefs upon art”