Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys T.D. writes for RTÉ Culture on the ambitious new initiative for arts and culture.

2016 was a phenomenal year for Ireland and for Irish citizens, families and friends across the world. The challenge of creating an appropriate, respectful and meaningful programme to mark the events of 1916 was a huge task but one which turned out to be the largest citizenship project ever undertaken by the State. The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme created imaginative cultural experiences that spoke to our values and identity in the Ireland of today, and not just to the specific events of 100 years ago. Through the work of our artists and the creative community, we were able to understand, explore and challenge the multiple narratives that make up our history and what it means to be Irish in the Ireland of today.

As the year progressed, it became really clear that we needed to seize on this huge level of public participation and engagement in arts and culture. We couldn’t let this opportunity pass. We wanted to create a legacy programme from the centenary that would be rooted in culture and creativity and that would give us the opportunity to do something truly remarkable.

Creative Ireland is the most significant moment for arts and culture in Ireland in a generation.

The result of that ambition is the Creative Ireland Programme, which was launched at the end of 2016 and aims to mainstream culture and creativity in the life of the nation.  What does this means in practice? It means that we believe that investing in and encouraging culture and creativity is good for our society. And it means we will work to activate all the agencies of Government, our national cultural institutions, organisations, individuals and communities to embed creativity across all aspects of their initiatives – and then use that creative potential to foster collective wellbeing and social cohesion.

There are five pillars to the programme; enabling the creative potential of every child; investing in our artists, our creative industries and our national cultural institutions; unlocking the enormous potential of our film, media and digital sector; activating and empowering the creative potential of our local communities; and amplifying and enhancing Ireland’s reputation abroad as a nation rooted in our creativity and culture.

Creative Ireland is the most significant moment for arts and culture in Ireland in a generation. At the heart of Creative Ireland is participation; an approach that says it isn’t enough to provide additional supports for the arts and artists, we must devise and implement strategies to radically increase public participation in creative cultural activity.

We’ve set out a very ambitious programme for the first year of Creative Ireland. Over the next twelve months, we will develop a creative schools programme which will embed arts across our education system in an unprecedented way. Our ambition is that by 2022 every child in Ireland will have access to tuition and participation in art, music, dance, drama and coding.

Culture teams will be appointed by each local authority, with each county appointing a Creative Ireland co-ordinator who will lead on the development and delivery of a culture and creativity plan for every county in the country. Building on the phenomenal success of the Reflecting the Rising event, every county will host a special Cruinniú, a new annual culture day which will take place on Easter Monday.

All of our national cultural institutions and arts agencies have been invited to think ahead to 2022, to create their own cultural footprint and we will work with them to help implement the most ambitious collaborative cultural investment programme ever undertaken in the history of the state.

Our ambition is that by 2022 every child in Ireland will have access to tuition and participation in art, music, dance, drama and coding.

We’re also planning to gather some of the most advanced thinking in the field of creativity, society and culture, both at home and abroad, who will come to Ireland in the Autumn to contribute to the first Creative Ireland Forum.

The ambition of Creative Ireland is 100% dependent on collaboration to a degree that we have never seen before; collaboration between ministers and government departments, between central and local government, within local government, between state agencies, between creative artists and industry, between Universities and arts organisations.  

The response so far has been a mixture of excitement and trepidation; particularly the sheer ambition and expectation of the initiative and a realisation that we have set the bar very high. But if we can genuinely work together and do this right, I really believe we can achieve something  truly significant –  for the arts and for our citizens.