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150 more artists offered funds from Artists Emergency Programme

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 at 3pm 0 Comments

Ian McCracken, Stage Combat Image: Ian McCracken, Stage Combat

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced details today of a further 150 artists who will benefit from its Artists Emergency Programme. This is in addition to the 88 award offers announced in May.

The Arts Council and Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey MLA unveiled details for the £500,000 Artists Emergency Programme at the end of April. The scheme was set up to support artists and performers whose income has been badly hit by the pandemic, with venues closed, festivals cancelled and projects placed on hold. 

Within two weeks of opening the programme, the Arts Council received over 300 applications, totalling almost £1.4m. Although the money was not available to fund all viable projects, an additional £50,000 Arts Council National Lottery funding has been made available and £25,000 from the Department of Communities, in order to allow the maximum number of awards to be made. This brings the total amount now awarded through the scheme up to £575,000.

Those offered funding include writers, composers, theatre practitioners, community artists and visual artists, who will each receive grants on acceptance of their offers in this second round of awards of up to £3,000 to develop their projects and professional practice.

Roisín McDonough, Arts Council Chief Executive, commented:

“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for 150 more artists who will now be able start developing new work thanks to the Artists Emergency Programme. 58 of these awards are going to artists who have never received Arts Council support before and we are very excited about some of the fantastic projects which they have planned for the coming months.

“The scale of the crisis within our fragile arts sector is unlike anything we’ve known before, with key organisations already looking at a deficit of £4million this year. The arts are something which we all enjoy, be it through film, concerts, exhibitions or books but the behind the scenes, the work and skills which go into making those things happen are too often unseen and undervalued.

“Like many other sectors of society, our creative community has been badly hit by the pandemic but it is our hope that as a result of the Artists Emergency Programme communities across Northern Ireland will once again be able to able to come together to savour new performances, new writing, new experiences and once again celebrate the uplifting power of the arts.”

Artists offered funding include:  

Maria Connolly, Actress and Playwright
Actress Maria Connolly, together with Christina Nelson and Roisin Gallaher, will perform three short plays about the lives of Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Marilyn Monroe. Targeted at those living in care homes or in isolation, The Broads is an uplifting comedy, written by Maria Connolly with music by Richard Clements. 

Speaking about the play, Maria said:

“I was delighted to receive funding from the Artist Emergency Programme for my play ‘The Broads.’ Many of us who work in the arts have lost 12 months’ work due to COVID-19.  As we are self-employed we do not qualify for the furlough scheme and getting other financial support is incredibly difficult so this funding from the Arts Council has been a lifeline for many. I had an idea a few years ago to write a play specifically for people living in isolation.  I watched a news programme about elderly people who are suffering desperately from isolation.  These people can go for months without any human interaction and I wanted to do something to break that loneliness. It is incredible that I have received funding now to do the show during this horrific pandemic. This is a time when the world desperately needs artists to bring hope, colour and change into the world, I am so grateful we are getting to do this play now and my hope is that other organisations get involved and support artists and see the benefit that art can bring.

“The funding allows me and three other actors to rehearse, in isolation via zoom, for one week and perform for one week.  My slots for the play filled up in a matter of hours. The reaction from the people the play is going to has been both heart-breaking and heart-warming.”

Ian McCracken, Stage Combat
First award from the Arts Council

Stage combat is a growing art form and Ian is one of only two instructors living in Northern Ireland that are qualified to teach with an exam body recognised by the Equity register of Fight Directors. His previous work has seen him work in theatre, as well as TV and film productions, training and directing a long list of local and international actors including Claire Foy, Rob Kazinski, Maggie Cronin and Karen Hassan.

The Artists Emergency Funding will allow him to deliver stage combat classes to students and artists no longer able to attend due to isolation, and going forward for those who are “at risk” and will not be able to attend classes after isolation is lifted.  It will develop ways to provide classes remotely for individual drill training.  The project has the potential to culminate with a presentation of work both live and film based demonstrating how stage combat has helped individuals mentally, physically and artistically.

Speaking about his project Ian said:

“Having been a fight director and stage combat instructor for 18 years, this period of isolation, as for many artists, has proven difficult.  I was determined not to allow this separation from my students to be a problem.  Being aware that keeping active is important both physically and mentally, I started to pursue ways to bring classes to students via FaceBook and Zoom. This grant will prove invaluable, allowing me to expand these online classes without the limitations of length and content I currently face. I hope to use this grant to research alternative methods of training and create resource material for students, with the hope that I can culminate all this into a performance using both live and recorded material.”

Adam Dougal, Arts and Health
First award from the Arts Council

Adam is a career actor who has worked with many theatre companies in Northern Ireland. He recently produced a podcast series, in partnership with Change Your Mind and Inspire, called ‘Like Minded’, interviewing artists from different parts of the arts industry. The series explores how their mental health and wellbeing impacts and informs their work. Over the coming months he will continue on with this project, assessing the impact of his podcast series, collecting feedback and gaining further insight into this important subject.

Speaking about his project, Adam said,

“After research developed by Inspire and Ulster University illustrated the high rates of mental health issues among those working in the creative sector, I felt compelled to create this series of podcasts that allowed artists to have open and honest conversations about their mental health.  I’m grateful to ACNI for recognising the importance of this issue and for allowing me the time to explore further how we as a community can keep supporting and inspiring one another.”

Mayte Segura, Dance, Music and Text
In this project Mayte Segura, professional dancer and choreographer, will collaborate with Victor Henriquez, a professional musician, to engage in a creative dialogue between dance and music. They will use their actual state of confinement to explore individual and collective feelings as Latin American artists in Northern Ireland, living and working in lock-down. Together, they will generate a response in terms of movement, music, and spoken word.  Using selected poems/texts from Latin American and Irish authors as a primary stimulus for the creation, both artists will engage in a creative conversation, leading to an original, unique performance piece that will be recorded, livecast, and potentially performed in small theatres or open spaces.

Speaking about her project Mayte says,

“I am a dancer living in Belfast and I create and perform Mexican traditional and contemporary pieces of dance. During the period of the grant, I will collaborate with Victor Henriquez (an artist with solid expertise as a communicator in the verbal, therapeutic and musical fields). Together we will explore our creative possibilities inside our confinement, use Irish and Latin American writings and turn them into a dialogue of dance, music and text. Our project Is called Dialogos, which, in Spanish, means to talk, to dialogue, to exchange. We know that this collaboration will be exactly a dialogue between our art forms and our cultural traditions (Mexico and Chile), but also a look at Ireland and a dialogue with aspects of its literary tradition.”

Please Note that any offers not accepted will be recorded and the final list of accepted offers amended and shared online at

The Artists Emergency Programme is now closed, with all available funds now allocated. It remains the Arts Council’s key priority to offer as much support as possible with the resources it has to individual artists and creative practitioners at this stressful time. We continue to look for new ways of funding and supporting their work.



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