Brexit Discussions Day

Brexit Discussions Day

The Belfast Visual Arts Forum (BVAF), in partnership with Theatre NIThriveCreative Europe Desk UK – Northern IrelandAICA (L’Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art) with the support of the Cultural Policy Observatory Ireland hosted a Brexit discussions day on Thursday 1 November 2018.

A BREXIT Statement was prepared as a result of our discussion.

The day featured two distinct sessions – the morning session and the afternoon session.


The Morning Session – 10.30am – 12.30 pm

The morning session co-ordinated by Belfast Visual Arts Forum, Theatre NI, Thrive and the Creative Europe – NI Desk, focused on a series of roundtable discussions open to all those working and interested in the arts, creative and cultural sector looking at Brexit and its implications for us.

We heard insights from speakers with a range of viewpoints and experience, and had the opportunity to exchange information with colleagues on the questions and concerns around the impact of Brexit on organisations and practice.

As a result of the session we are producing a statement that expresses the key issues for the cultural sector in Northern Ireland. We have also been gathering views on next steps.


The Afternoon Session – 1.30pm – 4.00pm

L’Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (AICA)

AICA-Ireland Discussion: ‘ART POST-BREXIT’

The discussion, chaired by Róisín Kennedy, School of Art History and Cultural Policy UCD, featured contributions by speakers:

–       Pat Cooke, School of Art History and Cultural Policy UCD

–       Riann Coulter, FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge

–       Colin Darke, artist and writer, based in Belfast

–       Gavin Murphy, Centre for Creative Arts and Media, GMI

–       Aisling O’Beirn, artist who also works at the Belfast School of Art, UU

AICA Ireland hosted a discussion on Brexit and its implications for visual artists, curators, critics and publics. While media coverage has focused on the economic and political uncertainty that the referendum has caused, the wider cultural and philosophical contexts have scarcely been addressed. Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of what is now the EU, is supposed to have said, “If I had to do it again, I would begin with culture”.

The practical implications for the post-Brexit cultural sector in Ireland, Britain and the rest of Europe is potentially enormous. Artists and academics will be severely affected. While taking account of this, this discussion sought to look beyond the pecuniary. What does being part of the EU mean to its citizens in cultural terms and in terms of their identity in the contemporary world? What does leaving the EU and becoming a citizen of a ‘great global trading nation’ mean? What role can pan Ireland organisations like AICA Ireland play in this new scenario? For some the EU is a deeply flawed organisation but it remains the most significant and imaginative template for a common European identity, for freedom of movement and peaceful co-existence of its citizens into the future. Brexit throws up significant questions about the resurgence of nationalism, about cultural integration, about missed opportunities for Ireland, North and South, but also potential for change and for new directions including alternative models of exchange. This discussion sought to probe these questions from a range of historical and philosophical perspectives from writers and artists living in Ireland, the UK and the rest of the EU.


The Brexit Discussions Day was organised and hosted by the Belfast Visual Arts Forum (BVAF).

BVAF was established by the city’s visual arts sector and Belfast City Council in 2014 to provide synergy and leadership to facilitate the development of the visual arts sector. It has over 70 members from the visual arts and other relevant stakeholders, such as ACNI, Thrive (formerly Audiences NI) and Voluntary Arts Ireland.