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The future of cross-border cooperation in the arts – article published in ISIA

11 April 2023

Steven Hadley and Sophie Woodley's article, entitled 'The Future of Cross-Border Cooperation in the Arts: Research and Policy Findings from Ireland and Northern Ireland' has been published in Irish Studies in International Affairs, Vol 34, Number 2, 2023. 


This article discusses the current context and activity—and potential future(s)—of cross-border cooperation in the subsidised arts sectors in Ireland and Northern Ireland. By investigating the interconnections between the arts sectors and their social, economic and political context, the article highlights issues that directly and indirectly influence the capacity and willingness of artists, funders and policymakers to engage in cooperation. These issues include the absence of a policy framework; North–South ambivalence; variances around cultural value and evaluation; the need for structures, mechanisms and platforms for exchange; a lack of robust and relevant data; and questions around both the mobility and visibility of artists and audiences. While a lack of focus on civic development remains questionable, in a context of significant resource constraints and disparities, closer cooperation could deliver much-needed economies of scale, value for money, and opportunities for knowledge transfer and skills sharing.


Cooperation, much like 'the arts', is a broad-church term, varying across research practices, discourses and contexts. This study focused on, and adopted, pre-existing definitions and taxonomies of the professional arts from both Northern Ireland and Ireland. Definitions were primarily shaped by institutional parameters (e.g. artforms funded by the two Arts Councils—Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) and Arts Council (AC)) and wider policy definitions (e.g. the policy scope of the respective North and South government departments). Research proceeded on the basis that no prescriptive definition was achievable. In referencing the two jurisdictions, we follow the ARINS Project nomenclature provided by the Royal Irish Academy. In general, the official names are used: Ireland and Northern Ireland. Where interview transcripts are quoted, we report the language as it was used verbatim. We use the expression 'cross-border cooperation' to maintain consistency with ARINS, yet, as we discuss, this expression is not in wide use in the sector itself.

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