One billion thank yous from the National Lottery
National Lottery Players have changed the landscape of the arts & creative sector in Northern Ireland. Since 1994, The National Lottery has invested £155 million in the arts sector, distributed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Jackie O'Sullivan, National Lottery Promotions Unit Director has written this piece about the importance of that support.
It is one of the most memorable scenes from Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian.’
John Cleese asks ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ apart from a list of positive legacies which have improved life for the better.
The pointed analysis behind the quip is that very often changes to society can be overlooked and in some cases taken for granted.
The National Lottery hasn’t been around as long as the Romans but has been operating in the UK since 1994.
And almost a quarter of a century later Northern Ireland is a very different place to what it was back then.
We were still four years away from the Good Friday Agreement, despite two paramilitary ceasefires.
Armagh was restored to city status, Snow Patrol was formed by a group of local students attending university in Scotland, Colin Bateman’s Divorcing Jack was first published and poet Paul Muldoon won the T.S Eliot Prize.
That was then but this is now.
In the intervening years many things have changed and in that time £1 billion has been invested by the National Lottery in the form of 20,000 grants.More than £155 million has gone directly to the arts through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The impact of this funding is there for all to see – in theatres and venues, in productions and events and in communities in the form of arts groups.
Iconic settings like Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, the Grand Opera House and the Ulster Hall have been refurbished and restored to their former glories.
And new favourites such as the Millennium Forum in Derry, the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh and the Market Place Theatre in Armagh have been built with lottery cash.
The newly-built Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which celebrates the life and literature of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio of arts venues across the north which has benefitted from the National Lottery.
Northern Ireland has a well-earned reputation for producing some of the finest actors, writers, poets and musicians. While we cannot claim their talent, we can say we have played our part on their way to the top or to help keep them there.
Barry Douglas’ acclaimed Camerata Ireland orchestra, Dr Sinead Morrissey’s T.S Eliot winning poetry collection Parrallax and Colin Bateman’s 2016 novel Papercuts have all received National Lottery support. But the arts are so much more than headline acts and award-winning productions.
So many stars are the unsung heroes who work tirelessly in their community away from the stage lights and curtain calls.
Countless projects across Northern Ireland bring the arts to older people, the disabled and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Stage Beyond Theatre Company works with adults with learning difficulties based in the north-west. The group is celebrating 15 years of offering theatre training in many arts forms, including dance, set design, stage management, lighting directing and script writing. Their success features in a new film made by the National Lottery highlighting the impact of funding from Northern Ireland and they and their artistic manager Dee Conaghan are a shining example of the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with our help.
They share the screen in the campaign, which thanks National Lottery players in Northern Ireland for their continued support, with the acclaimed classical pianist Ruth McGinley.
Ruth credits her re-emergence and renaissance to the assistance she has received from both the Arts Council Northern Ireland and the National Lottery.
The release of her debut album, ‘Reconnection’ last year has reignited the former BBC Young Musician of the Year’s passion for her art. And with a successful tour under her belt, Ruth is clearly striking all the right notes once again.
The National Lottery prides itself on funding something for everyone and the arts is no exception.
If you play the Lottery then you can be proud to have supported some fantastic arts projects in Northern Ireland.
Many people will already believe that when they buy a ticket to the theatre, concert or a gig they are supporting the creative arts.
But the same is true when you buy a National Lottery ticket.
So if you want to know what the National Lottery has done for you and your area please visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk