Popular Newry business Sticky Fingers Imaginarium, which helped build the Giant’s Lair at Slieve Gullion, could be under threat by continued budget cuts.
Just before Christmas the Head of the Civil Service proposed an eight percent cut to the arts sector; a cut which could have devastating consequences for similar projects.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty says local jobs will be cut if proposals are carried through.
“Newry and the surrounding counties are much healthier and happier place for children and families to live because of the work Grainne (Powell) and her team at Sticky Fingers do,” explained Mr McNulty.
“During my visit to the Sticky Fingers Imaginarium and Coffee Shop I was blown away by the work they do and the atmosphere of fun and engagement in the place was breath-taking.
“Their outreach and work with kids with a disability, with autism or those living with dementia is incredibly positive.
“Sticky Fingers also run programmes for older people, and have identified demand for teenagers who are not interested in sport. I was just so very impressed indeed.”
Mr McNulty added: “Through the arts, Sticky Fingers gives children the space to engage freely with each other and gives them the freedom to explore and investigate new things.
“It’s a very impressive venue offering children developmental opportunities intellectually, emotionally and also in terms of their self-confidence.
“As Chief Executive, Grainne put it, ‘people feel welcome, relaxed and just love being here, and they appreciate that the arts and creative development are essential for children’.”
The MLA added: “Sticky Fingers has been a catalyst for imaginative and community organised events across Newry and Mourne.
“One only has to look at the success of the Giant’s Lair at Slieve Gullion, The Haunted Market, The Dragons, or The Fairy Tale of Christmas at Narrow Water to see how wonderful a positive impact that they are making on children and entire families.
“Grainne and her team are clearly passionate about the arts and about Newry. I was amazed to learn that their facility in Newry has a higher footfall than the MAC in Belfast City Centre which gets tens of thousands of pounds every year from the Department of Communities and Belfast City Council.”
“Proposals put forward by the Head of the Civil Service could see jobs lost and opening hours reduced. This must be avoided strenuously for the sake of children.
“Arts are always seen as the soft target when it comes to cuts and with no ministerial leadership I fear this could be the same again.
“A cut of eight percent goes against every piece of evidence and best practice both nationally and internationally. Arts are not for the select few.
“The Arts is about more than the Ballet or Orchestra, it’s about the type of work Sticky Fingers do and we must rally round and support their important work.”