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A Review of the Year in Arts 2020

Thursday 31st December 2020 at 10am 0 Comments Arts & Health , Arts and Older People , Circus & Carnival Arts , Community Arts , Craft , Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Youth Arts

A Review of the Year in Arts 2020 Image: A Review of the Year in Arts 2020

What a year! Whatever you think of 2020 it’s always useful to take a last glance behind and remember what passed. Interestingly in a year beset with a health pandemic like no other, the public turned to the arts online for solace, comfort and entertainment.

As 2020 draws to a close we remember some of the bright moments in what has been an extraordinary year…


Leading theatre companies from NI celebrated at IPAY International Showcase US
Back in January, five of Northern Ireland’s leading theatre and dance companies that create work for children and young people, attended the prestigious IPAY (International Association of Performing Arts for Youth) Showcase 2020 in Philadelphia, USA.

Young at Art, Prime Cut Productions, Replay Theatre Company, Maiden Voyage Dance and Cahoots NI, had an opportunity to promote their productions and network with international touring agents, festival organisers, artists and other theatre professionals, with a view to touring their work outside of Northern Ireland in the future.



£580,000 investment announced to support NI musicians
One hundred and seven musical groups, bands and musicians across Northern Ireland celebrated the news in February that they would receive funding to help upgrade worn out instruments and purchase new ones.  Among those to benefit were schools groups, community choirs, marching and brass bands, and individual professional musicians.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland provided the funding worth almost £580,000 under its Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, the scheme, set up to increase the quality of music making in Northern Ireland, was extended for the first time in 2020 to offer grants to a range of professional and non-professional musicians and groups.



iDA Awards 2020 
In early Spring, sixteen artists with disabilities were announced as recipients of the University of Atypical’s Individual Disabled Artist (iDA) Award.

Supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the iDA funding programme is a dedicated annual arts development programme, delivered through the University of Atypical, to enable deaf and disabled artists who are working in a range of art forms to develop their professional artistic careers. The bursaries provide valuable opportunities for each artist to produce a new high-quality creative work, receive training or professional mentoring.



Local projects lead the way in the community
National Lottery funded organisations from Northern Ireland have been at the forefront of efforts to keep people safe, healthy and active during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In April we celebrated arts organisations carrying out amazing acts for their community. Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million of National Lottery funding will be reallocated over the coming months to help projects in the UK offset the impact of coronavirus and support the most vulnerable in our communities.



BBC and the Lyric Theatre produce new theatrical isolation dramas with top Northern Ireland talent 
Theatre lovers across the country finally had something to look forward to with the launch of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine series, which aimed to continue to bring culture into the homes of audiences during lockdown. A collaboration between BBC Arts, the Lyric Theatre, BBC Northern Ireland, with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, six new short dramas were commissioned from some of Northern Ireland’s biggest names in writing and acting - including Lisa McGee (Derry Girls) and Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones). Under the title Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, the dramas explored the positive and negative aspects of social isolation and lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.



Socially distanced theatre brought to patients and hospital staff
Thanks to investment of more than £500,000 from the Department of Communities and National Lottery, over 200 projects were awarded funding through the Arts Council’s Emergency Programme. In June we saw some fantastic artists delivering a truly diverse array of projects, tutorials and even performances in new and different ways.

Among those was actress and writer Maria Connolly, who transformed into Judy Garland for her new show The Broads, as she asked  residents, hospital patients and healthcare workers to Forget Your Troubles for a few moments with a socially distanced theatre performance brought right to their door.



Communities Minister & children from Scoil an Droichid join in Arts Care’s SAY A GREAT BIG HELLO 
As summer arrived, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín joined Arts Care for its Say A Great Big Hello campaign. The initiative called upon children throughout the region to paint a happy picture, take a fun photograph or record a song, poem or dance using the word ‘hello’ and send them to Arts Care to share them with other children who are currently hospital, hospice or residential care, to cheer them up. 

All the photos and video clips formed part of an online art exhibition on Arts Care’s Facebook page and Arts Care 4U YouTube channel for children everywhere to enjoy.



Children’s theatre show tours Northern Ireland
A converted transit van may not be the normal setting for a theatre show but Replay Theatre Company took to the road in August to bring a very special performance to children at home.

Created for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities and complex needs, Coco told the story of a small koala and his adventures through the jungle. Written and performed by Mary McGurk and directed by Andrew Stanford, each performance was tailored to just one child and their family, creating a very different and intimate theatre experience.



Culture Night Belfast 2020 
Culture Night is one of the most hotly anticipated cultural celebrations in Belfast when every September the streets fill with excited people enjoying everything the Arts have to offer.  While this year the event couldn’t happen in quite the same way, the Culture Night team came together to deliver a fantastic, jam-packed programme of music, debates, exhibitions and films, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and Belfast Harbour.

Streaming across a number of virtual platforms, among the performers and organisations taking part were, the Ulster Orchestra, Lyric Theatre, The MAC, Cherrie On Top, Susie Blue, Sinead O’Donnell, tenx9, Charles Hurts, Becha, Stephen Beggs, Paul Currie, George Quinn, Rachael McCabe, Bounce Culture, The Swing Gals and many more.



Individual artists first to benefit from £29m funding package
In October, it was confirmed that individual artists would be the first recipients to benefit from the £29m funding approved by the Executive to support the arts, heritage, culture and language sectors as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín gave the green light for £3m of the funding to be immediately distributed to individual artists through an existing programme administered by the Arts Council.



Ulster Orchestra collaborates with Ryan McMullan in an emotive new song that honours the NHS 
Rising international star Ryan McMullan, joined forces with the Ulster Orchestra in November to record a beautiful new piece of music titled If This Is The End. Commissioned by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the song marked the commitment and contribution of the NHS and its staff during the Covid19 pandemic.

Ryan, who has toured internationally with Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol, took inspiration for the song from the incredible work of the NHS, paying a poignant tribute to those who have lost someone during 2020 and have been unable to mourn their loved ones in the usual way. Combined with the Orchestra’s soaring string arrangements by Paul Campbell, it brings to mind a spirit leaving this realm and entering the next.



Nine schools to take part in landmark educational programme
In December, funding was confirmed for nine post-primary schools to take part in the Creative Schools Partnership Programme. The schools have been awarded grants of up to £8,000 each as part of the three-year £300,000 initiative backed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative and delivered by the Education Authority.

The Creative Schools Programme, which had been put on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning. Groups of students within each participating school will have an opportunity to work with professional artists to develop a range of skills from script writing and theatre production, to musical composition and performance.


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