AARO is a new umbrella group of artists’ organisations. It is the first time in Ireland that practitioners have come together to protect their conditions and rights. AARO brings together Irish Equity, the Irish Playwrights’ and Screenwriters’ Guild, Visual Artists Ireland, the Musicians’ Union of Ireland, the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland and the Association of Irish Composers and represents all of Ireland’s working artists.
Most of the members have been particularly badly hit by the recession. The incomes of artists are generally very low and many artists do other supplementary work to get by. The Arts Council cuts have been passed on to the various organisations that they fund, who have in turn reduced the number of contracts with artists and the amounts they pay them. Audiences have fallen, reducing income further.
In the midst of what seems to us a very difficult situation the Arts Council claims to be prioritising artists. The story on the front page of the Evening Herald of the 16th October 2012 and the calls to Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme that afternoon both of which dealt with the situation of Joseph Purcell an actor who stole €58 worth of food to feed his children give a good idea of how bad things are for many practitioners in the arts.
Some sixty thousand people work in the arts in Ireland. At the core of that industry are the artists who make the art.
The arts community is not a unified entity even if it presents itself to government in that way. There are employers and employed, as in any sector of society, with different views on how the arts can best contribute to our countries development and with different views on how, and indeed whether, those who work in the arts should be compensated.
AARO have run a number of successful campaigns on the cuts in the Arts and have held meetings with the Arts Council and various ministers and has made plans to work collectively on a number of central issues in particular Copyright and the Competition Authority. It also intends to launch a major campaign on copyright, which will include a conference during the Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union which begins on January 1st 2013.