Arts Council of Northern Ireland

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Arts Council publishes Disability Action Plan and Equality Action Plan 2019-24

Wednesday 19th February 2020 at 1pm 0 Comments

Musicians Rae Solely and Matty Bell from Molto Vivo, project consultant Richie Turner and Graeme Stevenson, Research and Policy Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland Image: Musicians Rae Solely and Matty Bell from Molto Vivo, project consultant Richie Turner and Graeme Stevenson, Research and Policy Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has affirmed its commitment to ensuring fair access to the arts for all with the publication of two new documents – the Disability Action Plan and the Equality Action Plan.

The plans have been produced following wide spread consultation with arts and cultural organisations, individual artists and members of the public.

The documents set out a range of measures the Arts Council will take to encourage increased access and participation in the arts, as well as enhance the role the arts can play in creating a move towards a fairer and more inclusive society. These include the continuation of the Arts and OIder People’s Programme, to address issues of isolation and loneliness amongst people over the age of 55, and the Articulate Programme, which supports artists to work with young people to improve emotional, physical and social wellbeing.

The papers also outline a range of new measures including: a new lending programme to place artworks in schools; a Premium Payments Programme, to help arts organisations remove barriers to engagement by disabled people; and a commitment to enable greater participation by disabled people in policy-making groups, to better reflect the needs of underrepresented audiences and participants.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“The Arts Council welcomes and recognises the increasing diversity within our society and the important role arts and culture can play in expressing and celebrating this.

“The two plans published today outline some of the steps we need to take to foster a culture of inclusion across all areas of the arts and our ongoing commitment, using the arts as a vehicle for social development change, to promote positive attitudes towards marginalised groups, as we move towards a fairer, more inclusive and caring society.”

Damien Coyle, Chair, University of Atypical, added:

“University of Atypical recognises the importance of these two plans and commends the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in developing them; they should be seen as key drivers in the work undertaken by all arts organisations. Through the Disability Action Plan and the Equality Action Plans, we identify a synergy with the work we undertake through our Arts & Disability Equality Charter – a combined approach in creating frameworks for equality and inclusivity that can be embraced by all.”

If you require these documents in an alternative format, such as large print, Braille, easy read or digital, and/or another language, please contact us on 02890 385 243 to discuss your requirements.
 

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Leading light in carnival arts, David Boyd, awarded an MBE for services to the arts and community

Tuesday 18th February 2020 at 11am 0 Comments Circus & Carnival Arts

David Boyd, founder-Director, of Beat Carnival Image: David Boyd, founder-Director, of Beat Carnival

David Boyd, founder-Director, of Beat Carnival, one of Northern Ireland's leading arts organisations, has received an MBE for services to the arts and community. David Boyd, from Holywood Co.Down, set up the Carnival Centre in Belfast, establishing a permanent centre for excellence in Carnival Arts, where visiting international artists come to share their expertise and is considered one of the best Carnival centres in the UK.  David Boyd will receive his MBE at Buckingham Palace on 2nd April 2020.

Since its foundation in 1993, the small, dedicated team at Beat Carnival has brought positive change and transformation to the lives of thousands of individuals and to the wider communities across the region by creating opportunities to participate in Carnival Arts.  The organisation produces impressive, large-scale carnival events, reaching out to local communities to get involved in helping to create carnival performances from scratch. 

Many of the participants from local communities are young people from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds who learn new skills and acquire new confidence through their involvement with Beat Carnival.  From creating music, choreographing dance routines and designing spectacular costumes, through to creating floats and props, local communities become fully immersed in the creative process whilst working alongside David’s professional artistic team. 

Beat Carnival also develops and supports professional carnival artists, establishing a sustainable legacy of creative skills and knowledge, as well as focusing on outreach, collaboration, shared celebration and achievement across the various communities of Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the principal funder of Beat Carnival, Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council warmly congratulates David on receiving this recognition for his work and services to the arts.  Through their artistic work, David and Beat Carnival bring people and communities closer together and offer an invaluable platform for carnival artists to develop their skills and talents  David's passionate advocacy for Carnival Arts as a pathway to education, job creation, self-esteem, skills training and cross-community and intercultural inclusivity, has proven to be a significant force for positive change.”

With David's dedication to enhancing people's lives through engagement in the arts, the output of this small organisation is truly remarkable and has built close working relationships with community organisations across Belfast.  He has implemented more than 20 specific arts engagement and education programmes in Greater Shankill, one of Northern Ireland's highest-ranking areas of deprivation and disadvantage, designed to address community challenges and give children and young people their best chance in life.

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£580,000 investment announced to support NI musicians

Friday 14th February 2020 at 12pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

(L-R) Pauline Klein, Manager, Ulster Youth Orchestra, Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Oonagh Snoddy, Department for Communities, and Katrina Cuddy, Flautist, UYO. Image: (L-R) Pauline Klein, Manager, Ulster Youth Orchestra, Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Oonagh Snoddy, Department for Communities, and Katrina Cuddy, Flautist, UYO.

One hundred and seven musical groups, bands and musicians across Northern Ireland are celebrating this week, with news they are set to receive funding to help upgrade worn out instruments and purchase new ones.  Among those set to benefit are schools groups, community choirs, marching and brass bands, and individual professional musicians.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is providing 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 this year to offer grants to a range of professional and non-professional musicians and groups.

There are three strands to the funding. Among the 30 bands set to benefit under Programme One: Musical Instruments for Bands are: Down Academy Pipes and Drums, Kellswater Flute Band, Ravara Pipe Band, Dunganon Silver Band, Orangefield Flute Band and Bessbrook Crimson Arrow Pipe Band.

Under Programme Two: Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups, 41 awards have been offered, including grants for: Armagh Pipers Club, Ulster Youth Orchestra, North West Cultural Partnership and Newry Chamber Music, as well as a number of schools groups, including Sacred Heart College Omagh, St Patricks College Maghera and Lisneal College in Derry/Londonderry.

While 36 Individual Professional Performing Musicians, who will receive support under Category Three of the programme, include: Darragh Morgan, Kim Vaughan, Conor Lamb, James Joys, Jordan McCuaig, Scott Flanigan, Martha Guiney, Greg Caffrey and Laura McFadden.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“We have a fine history of musicianship in Northern Ireland, one which is celebrated all over the world and it is a pleasure to announce today this funding which will benefit so many musicians, playing in professional and non-professional groups, bands and schools across the country.

“With support to buy new instruments and equipment we  are  helping to increase the quality of music making here, across a broad range of genres; classical, jazz, traditional, contemporary and electronic, to name just a few. The awards announced today will help benefit hundreds of musicians, from young musicians just starting out, right through to highly trained performers working at a professional level.”

Debbie McKibben, Head of Arts and Creativity Branch, Department for Communities, said:

“As Head of the Arts and Creativity Branch I am delighted that the Department has been able to invest these funds in the Music Sector. This programme will provide valuable support to a wide range of musicians across the region, which will enable the development of quality music making within our communities, connecting people and enriching lives.”

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Paragon Studios opens new work and exhibition space on Rosemary Street

Friday 7th February 2020 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured is Belfast-based artist, Jacqueline Holt Image: Pictured is Belfast-based artist, Jacqueline Holt

Experimental arts group, Paragon Studios is celebrating its move to brand new premises on Rosemary Street, Belfast, with the opening of an exhibition by photographer and filmmaker Jacqueline Holt.

The new location, in Property House, contains ten artists’ studios and the PS² gallery space.

Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Jacqueline Holt’s Exhibition marks the beginning of a new phase for the studio group, which has been supporting artists’ development since 1994. With a year round programme of work, the project space is an extension of the studios, acting as a temporary workspace and showroom for invited or selected project artists, enabling encounters for the general public to see, enjoy and participate in art.

Director Peter Mutschler explained,

“Unfortunately rising rents have meant we have had to move premises several times in the last few years but we are happy still to be close to the Cathedral Quarter, with studios and project space. We feel our precarious situation is reflected in our arts programme, which we hope speaks and resonates with the wider public. The next project by Jasmin Märker, for example, will focus on non-human territories and ecological communities through open workshops as part of the NI Science Festival.”

Jacqueline Holt is a Belfast-based artist, who through the Arts Council’s Artist Career Enhancement Scheme, has been working with the prestigious international arts agency LUX to develop new work. Her exhibition at PS², entitled This Moment Being, will showcase some of her film, photography, print and sculptural work and document aspects of her day-to-day life as a cultural worker.

Patricia Lavery, Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council commented:

“It is fantastic to see Jacqueline’s work on display as the very first exhibition within this wonderful new space. Having worked closely with Lux for the past three years, this exhibition is the culmination of an exciting creative partnership. With support from the ACES scheme, Jaqueline has been able to spend time developing her practice, with expert guidance and support from some of the brightest names working in moving image today.

“We very much hope that this city centre location will bring even more people into this dynamic artistic hub to experience first-hand some of the exciting visual art being produced right here in Belfast at Paragon Studios.”

Jacqueline is based at Flax Art Studios at Havelock House on the Ormeau Road. To find out more about her work visit: www.flaxartsstudios.org

Her exhibition This Moment of Being, is on at PS² until 15th February. For more details about PS² gallery, opening hours and future exhibitions, visit www.pssquared.org

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Singer-songwriters from NI to perform in Nashville venue that launched the career of Taylor Swift

Tuesday 4th February 2020 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) is Reuben Agnew, Emma Horan and Donal Scullion. Image: Pictured (L-R) is Reuben Agnew, Emma Horan and Donal Scullion.

Following their performances at this year’s Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, 11-13 March, three of Northern Ireland’s finest emerging singer-songwriters, Emma Horan, Donal Scullion and Reuben Agnew, will perform in Nashville, Tennessee, supported by Panarts and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The three musicians will perform on St Patrick’s Day in the Bluebird Café, widely known to singer-songwriters as thee place to play and famous for launching the recording careers of Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks, among many others. During their time in Nashville, the musicians will also have the opportunity to network with music industry professionals, and spend time fine-tuning their song writing skills with Grammy Award winning tutors at Belmont University. 

Panarts Belfast Nashville Festival Director, Colin Magee, commented,

“As well as offering performances of long established artists, the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival aims to offer opportunities to break new talent from Northern Ireland and showcase them on an international stage in the USA to develop their careers.  I’m hugely excited and proud to showcase the three artists going to Nashville this year where I know they will be well received by the famously discerning Nashville audiences”.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented,

“The Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival not only celebrates the art of song writing and brings international talent to Belfast, but it also offers an important platform to showcase and develop the skills of our younger, emerging artists.  To perform at the Bluebird Café in Nashville is an experience that few forget and I wish all the songwriters every success in Music City.”

Catch the three artists closer to home at the Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, which takes place at the Ramada Hotel, Talbot Street Belfast and Empire Music Hall, 11-13 March.  This remarkable three-day festival celebrates the art of song writing and features a series of concerts, song writing workshops with Grammy Award winning writers Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, as-well as the Song Writer of the Year 2020 competition.  For details on all events visit, www.belfastnashville.com

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On the ‘Brink’ of Brexit: dancers scale new heights with show performed on high table

Tuesday 28th January 2020 at 9am 0 Comments Dance

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With less than a week to go until the Brexit deadline of 31st January, Northern Ireland’s leading commissioning dance company, Maiden Voyage Dance, will reflect the ongoing climate of insecurity around the issue by performing a new show called ‘Brink’ - on a 1.5 metre high table!

Presented as part of the Maiden Voyage Dance Double Bill at The MAC on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th February, ‘Brink’ is choreographer Eileen McClory’s response to three years of living with the uncertainty of Brexit.  Describing her thinking behind the topical, innovative show, Eileen says:

“Since the Brexit referendum result, we’ve been in a state of constant, stressful negotiation - this feeling like we're on the brink of something, but we don’t know exactly what it is and have no control over it.  As the negotiations got smaller and smaller and boundaries got smaller and smaller, we ended up - instead of having a seat at the table - being on the table.

Choreographically, the restriction on space presented by our high table has created a lot of obstacles, but also a lot of possibilities.  We have really stripped back the choreography and ended up with two human beings laid bare as they try to negotiate and build a future together.

There's a lot of risk in the piece - reflecting how one wrong word can throw a negotiation the wrong way.  For us, it's one wrong move and you could be off the edge of the table!”

In a co-production with Dublin’s Liz Roche Company, a leading light in the development of contemporary dance in Ireland whose work has toured worldwide, the second part of the double bill is The Here Trio.  Bringing together dancers from Northern Ireland, France and Spain, The Here Trio challenges preconceptions about site, history and the right to belong in a place.

Looking forward to the Maiden Voyage Double Bill, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, ACNI Arts Development Officer, Drama and Dance said:

“New work from Maiden Voyage Dance is always an occasion for much excitement, and we at the Arts Council are delighted to be supporting this Double Bill of new commissions. The first, Brink, is by one of Northern Ireland’s most innovative choreographers Eileen McClory, a former ACES awardee. It draws on the amazing talent we have in Belfast, with the superb dancers Ryan and Vasiliki, and music by Katie Richardson. The second, The Here Trio, is by the incomparable Liz Roche a longstanding friend of the company. As ever, Maiden Voyage will be penetrating the important questions of our time, and doing so in a thrilling, dynamic way which is sure to stay with those lucky enough to see this double bill for a long time to come.”

Maiden Voyage is principally funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Supported by Belfast City Council.
Liz Roche Company is strategically funded by Arts Council Ireland and supported by Dublin City Council.

The Maiden Voyage Double Bill will be performed at The MAC at 8pm on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 February.  Tickets are priced £18-£12.50 and are on sale now from The MAC box office at https://themaclive.com/ or tel. 028 90235053.

The Maiden Voyage Double Bill will also be performed at The Market Place Theatre in Armagh on Wednesday 12 February at 8pm.  Tickets are priced £7 and are on sale now from www.marketplacearmagh.com

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Work Begins on £12.2 million Restoration Project at Belfast’s Grand Opera House

Monday 27th January 2020 at 3pm 0 Comments Architecture , Drama

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After five years in the planning, the 10-month project to restore the Grand Opera House has begun. The principal contractor for the £12.2 million project, funded in part through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is Tracey Brothers Ltd, who will complete the work ahead of the Theatre’s 125th birthday in December of this year.

With more than 60 years’ experience of construction, restoration and fit out works, Tracey Brothers Ltd are one of the major building contractors in Northern Ireland. In recent years the company has successfully undertaken major restoration and re-development of many of Belfast’s historic land mark buildings including Riddell Hall at Queens University Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Cleaver House, HMS Caroline Historic Buildings and the Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate.

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House said: “The Grand Opera House was last restored 40 years ago, and we are delighted that Tracey Brothers have been appointed to oversee this vital project.

“Between January and November of this year, thanks to the support of lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we will restore the iconic and unique 1895 auditorium and transform the public areas of the building, including installing the first ever permanent exhibition to tell the fascinating story of the Theatre’s 125-year history. We look forward to working with the Tracey Brothers team throughout the months ahead on this exciting project.”

The Grand Opera House was designed by the leading Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham and completed in 1895. Many of the world’s leading actors, singers, dancers and entertainers have appeared on its stage, including Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Vera Lynn, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell and Laurel and Hardy.

As part of the restoration and development project, the auditorium’s decorative paint and plasterwork will be repaired and restored, and seating, carpets, curtains and drapes will be replaced. The Theatre’s technical infrastructure will be upgraded, and customer facilities including those for customers with access needs will be improved. The design of the foyer and public spaces will be reimagined, a new bar will be installed in the glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street, and the permanent exhibition is expected to attract thousands of visitors each year.

John Tracey, Director at Tracey Brothers Ltd added: “It’s a privilege to work on such a prestigious heritage project as this. It’s rare to have the opportunity to restore a venue with a history and an auditorium as rich and spectacular as the Grand Opera House. We recognise the importance of these works being carried out in a sensitive manner to ensure this historic value is respected and retained for future generations and we’re very pleased to play a role in securing the Theatre’s future for many years to come”.

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Philadelphia Here We Come! Leading theatre companies from NI celebrated at International Showcase US

Thursday 23rd January 2020 at 9am 0 Comments Drama

Pictured (L-R) are Northern Ireland IPAY delegates, Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, Cahoots NI, Una Nic Eoin, Prime Cut Productions, Brian Mullan, Replay Theatre Company, Eibhlin de Barra, Young At Art, Nicola Curry, Maiden Voyage Dance and Gilly Campbell, ACNI Image: Pictured (L-R) are Northern Ireland IPAY delegates, Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, Cahoots NI, Una Nic Eoin, Prime Cut Productions, Brian Mullan, Replay Theatre Company, Eibhlin de Barra, Young At Art, Nicola Curry, Maiden Voyage Dance and Gilly Campbell, ACNI

Five of Northern Ireland’s leading theatre and dance companies, that create work for children and young people, are set to attend the prestigious IPAY (International Association of Performing Arts for Youth) Showcase 2020 in Philadelphia, USA this January.

Young at Art, Prime Cut Productions, Replay Theatre Company, Maiden Voyage Dance and Cahoots NI will attend IPAY Showcase 2020, an immensely valuable opportunity for these professional theatre and dance makers to highlight 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.

For the first time at IPAY Showcase there will be an all-island focus on Ireland with a ‘Cultural Spotlight’ presentation on theatre and dance for young audiences across the island of Ireland, supported by Culture Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council.

Prime Cut Productions have been selected by IPAY to feature as a ‘Showcase Artist’ performing the full production of ‘Removed, written by Belfast playwright, Fionnuala Kennedy and Cahoots NI will take part in the Show and Tell Spotlight, a mixture of 20-minute live SHOW performances and 5 to 8-minute TELL presentations, where they will perform part of their hugely successful production, Under the Hawthorn Tree. 

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The value of being showcased at IPAY Showcase 2020 cannot be overestimated.  Northern Ireland punches well above its weight when it comes to producing high-quality, world-class, award-winning theatre for children and young people and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is hugely proud to support five of our leading theatre makers attend this year’s IPAY Showcase 2020 with our colleagues in Culture Ireland and British Council.”

Visit www.ipayweb.org for further details.

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Northern Ireland theatre talent to be celebrated on stage in Brussels

Wednesday 22nd January 2020 at 3pm 0 Comments Drama

C21 has been invited to Brussels to perform its acclaimed black comedy May the Road Rise Up Image: C21 has been invited to Brussels to perform its acclaimed black comedy May the Road Rise Up

One of Northern Ireland’s leading theatre companies, C21 has been invited to Brussels to perform its acclaimed black comedy May the Road Rise Up.

Written by Rosemary Jenkinson and directed by Stephen Kelly, the fast-paced one-woman show tells the story of Mia (Christine Clare) as she makes her way along life’s bumpy road, and her eventual spiral into homelessness.

The show is the latest Northern Ireland work to travel to Belgium as part of the Brussels Platform, a collaboration between the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive Office. Launched in 2011, over the last nine years, the platform has provided a regular showcase for local musicians, writers, dancers, theatre practitioners and visual artists, with the aim of promoting the culture and creativity of Northern Ireland in Europe.

Speaking about the production Stephen Kelly, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of C21, said:

"We, at c21, are delighted to be performing May the Road Rise Up at the wonderful Bozar Theatre in Brussels.  The production has come a long way since its debut at the Lyric Theatre in 2018, with our Australian tour in 2019 being a real highlight.  It’s a privilege to be able to showcase our work throughout Europe so thanks to Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive Office for helping us to do that."

Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

"To perform at the Northern Ireland Executive Office in the heart of the EU is a unique opportunity for the artists taking part in the Brussels Platform and we are proud to be showcasing the very best of talent from our shores. This superb production has already toured theatres across Northern Ireland to much acclaim, and has also toured Australia last year. We are delighted to be working with the Northern Ireland Executive Office to help bring it to new audiences in Europe."

Lynsey Moore, Director of the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels, added:

"The Brussels Platform continues to provide the ideal opportunity to showcase our talent on a European stage and to highlight the region's ever growing reputation as a centre of excellence in the arts. We very much look forward to welcoming C21 to Brussels in a few weeks time."

Looking forward to the performance, Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson said:

"I am beyond thrilled to see my play performed in such a renowned theatre as the Bozar and we can’t wait to deliver a great show. It’s hugely important to me to continue my close cultural connections with Brussels, especially in light of Brexit. I’d like to thank the Northern Ireland Executive Office and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for this special experience."

The performance will take place in the Bozar Theatre in Brussels on Thursday 6th February. Tickets are priced at €10. For more information and to book your seat go to www.bozar.be.

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Arts Council publishes review of ‘A Year in the Arts’, 2018-19

Thursday 16th January 2020 at 11am 0 Comments

Davy Watson, recipient of an Arts Council Artists Career Enhancement Scheme award, performing with the Ulster Orchestra as part of the their On Your Doorstep series, which aims to grow new audiences by collaborating with artists of various genres Image: Davy Watson, recipient of an Arts Council Artists Career Enhancement Scheme award, performing with the Ulster Orchestra as part of the their On Your Doorstep series, which aims to grow new audiences by collaborating with artists of various genres

The Arts Council today published its Annual Review of 2018-19, recounting many of the highlights of the Year in the Arts in Northern Ireland, supported by Arts Council exchequer funding from the Department of Communities as well as National Lottery funds.

2018-19 represented another outstanding year of accomplishment by artists and arts organisations working throughout Northern Ireland, providing the full range of creative activities, from large-scale festivals to local-level community projects.

Artists, writers and performers promoted Northern Ireland’s creative and cultural reputation at a growing number of high-profile international showcase events, from Brussels and Paris to India and North America. Young people’s health and wellbeing received new levels of support from the arts thanks to the development of a new Creative Schools Partnership, which is increasing creativity in the classroom and boosting educational outcomes for students. Major arts projects took place across eight local authorities as a result of the Local Government Challenge Fund, which offered Arts Council match funding as an incentive to District Council’s to increase their investment in the arts and embed the arts in the planning and delivery of key areas of civic responsibility. Northern Ireland’s first Man Booker Prize-winning author, Anna Burns, returned to Belfast for a special reading and ‘in conversation’ event with fellow Booker-Prize winner, Anne Enright; and the inaugural Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow, the distinguished American poet Mark Doty, presented public readings, workshops and masterclasses at Queen’s University, the Seamus Heaney Homeplace and at a number of arts festivals.

Seventeen up-and-coming artists embarked on the ACES programme, which provides bursaries and career development/mentoring opportunities with professional arts organisations, and the Arts Council acknowledged the contribution to Northern Ireland’s creative life of four mid-career Major Individual Artists – two writers, a composer and a playwright - each of whom were awarded substantial grants to develop a new body of work of lasting value.

The Annual Review provides a vivid account of the (financial) year in the arts, its many highlights reminding us all of the breadth of contribution that a rich creative environment makes to the quality of everyone’s lives in Northern Ireland.

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2020 set to be a year of international opportunities for NI artists

Thursday 16th January 2020 at 9am 0 Comments International Arts , Literature , Craft , Visual Arts

Pictured L-R Kathryn Graham, Sonya Whitefield, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Eleanor Wheeler. Image: Pictured L-R Kathryn Graham, Sonya Whitefield, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Eleanor Wheeler.

Northern Ireland artists will be showcasing their talents in India this year as part of a number of international opportunities developed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to raise the profile of local artists abroad.

Renowned sculptor and ceramist Eleanor Wheeler and up-and-coming visual artist Kathryn Graham will undertake six week residencies at key cultural institutions. While later this month, award winning poet Stephen Sexton and acclaimed director and Executive Producer of the Lyric Theatre Jimmy Fay, will represent Northern Ireland at the Jaipur Literature Festival, the world’s biggest book festival.

The links developed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in partnership with the British Council with key cultural institutions in India provide a valuable platform to promote the culture and creativity of Northern Ireland to international audiences.

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Strengthening international opportunities for artists is one of the Arts Council’s key priorities in 2020 and these exciting ventures in India are just the first in a series of initiatives we will be supporting this year. Both the Jaipur Literature Festival and the artists’ residencies will enable our artists to immerse themselves in a very different artistic community and draw inspiration from another culture, as well as promoting their work and showcasing Northern Ireland. 

“Our strong connections with India will continue later this year when we will host the second local edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival. At JLF Belfast we’ll once again be encouraging creative exchange between our two nations helping to showcase local artists and the work they do to a global audience.”

Colette Norwood, Arts Manager, British Council Northern Ireland commenting on the opportunity said:

“British Council is delighted to continue to offer a series of artist residencies in India, in partnership with the Arts Council.  The festivals and Indian cultural organisations we are working with provide vital opportunities to celebrate our artists internationally and build connections to work with and welcome artists and arts organisations form India to Northern Ireland in future years too.”

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The Northern Ireland playwrights taking a bite of the Big Apple at Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival

Monday 13th January 2020 at 11am 0 Comments Drama

Pictured (L-R) is Rhiann Jeffrey, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Council, Gina Donnelly, Sarah Gordon, Finn Kennedy, Clare McMahon. Emily DeDakis, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Benjamin Gould. Image: Pictured (L-R) is Rhiann Jeffrey, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Council, Gina Donnelly, Sarah Gordon, Finn Kennedy, Clare McMahon. Emily DeDakis, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Benjamin Gould.

The 12th annual Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival in New York will welcome six playwrights and two directors from Northern Ireland to showcase newly commissioned work on an international stage.

The festival, which runs from January 7th to February 3rd 2020, is New York’s only all-Irish performing arts festival and is the world’s only festival dedicated to showcasing the work of contemporary Irish writers.

Five women playwrights based in Northern Ireland - Alice Malseed, Fionnuala Kennedy, Gina Donnelly, Emily DeDakis and Sarah Gordon, have each been commissioned to write short plays about Belfast to be performed at the festival, directed by former Arts Council ACES awardee, Rhiann Jeffrey.

Separately, Clare McMahon’s play, The Gap Year, which was developed in the Lyric Theatre’s New Playwrights Programme, has been programmed for a special rehearsed reading which will be directed by Northern Ireland director, Benjamin Gould.

Alice Malseed, Clare McMahon and Sarah Gordon have each honed their writing talent through the Lyric Theatre’s prestigious New Playwrights Programme, a six-month writing and mentoring development programme aimed at emerging playwrights to create and showcase new work.  This valuable programme has enabled these playwrights to take their ideas from page to stage through the expert guidance of the Lyric Theatre’s Literary Manager, Rebecca Mairs.

Rebecca Mairs, Literary Manager, Lyric Theatre, commented:

“We’re thrilled that this exceptional group of theatre makers have the opportunity to present their work on an international platform – they’re wonderful ambassadors for the wealth of talent, creativity and vitality in Northern Irish theatre today.  This is the third year in a row that the Origin’s 1st Irish Festival are presenting a reading of a play developed though our New Playwrights Programme, and it’s very exciting that a further two previous participants of the programme have been commissioned by the festival this year.  We wish all the writers and directors every success!”

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Literature and Drama Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, speaking about the valuable opportunity added:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to be supporting some of our best, freshest theatrical talent in presenting their work at Origin’s 1st Irish festival in New York.  In particular, I am thrilled that many of these artists are women. They will superbly represent the formidable pool of female talent, voices and imaginations at work in Northern Irish theatre at present. New York audiences are in for a treat as they experience the specificity and the universality of Belfast writing and directing. We are so proud to be supporting these artists and wish each of them all the best for the festival.”

For more information on the festival visit www.origintheatre.org

For more information on Arts Council travel awards visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding

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Lyndon Stephens - Northern Ireland artist manager and music promoter

Friday 10th January 2020 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of local artist manager, record label boss, booker and music promoter, Lyndon Stephens, who died this morning following an illness, at the age of fifty-two.

Lyndon Stephens was a high-profile artist manager, representing internationally-renowned singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland, including Ciaran Lavery, PORTS, Ryan Vail, Joshua Burnside and Malojian. In 2010 he launched the record label, Champion Sound Recordings, and the following year founded Champion Sound Music, an award-winning artist development and career management service based at the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast. He sat on the board of the Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission, was a member of Belfast City Council’s Festivals Forum and, in 2019, became Regional Ambassador for the Association of Independent Music, helping to establish a rights holder-based association of music industry professionals in Northern Ireland.

In 2014, Lyndon established his second independent label, Quiet Arch, through which he championed local emerging musical talent, releasing recordings by a wide range of artists and genre, from folk to electo pop. The label produced many successful debut records and critically-acclaimed albums, such as ‘Ephrata’ by Joshua Burnside’s and ‘Let Bad In’ by Ciaran Lavery, both of which won the Northern Ireland Music Prize.

With the support of the Arts Council, he represented artists at the world’s largest music industry events, including Womex, the Folk Alliance in Kansas and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Attending such events, he was, in addition to promoting the careers of individual musicians, a key player in wider strategical moves to raise Northern Ireland’s reputation internationally as a source of outstanding musical talent.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Lyndon was always a great ambassador for musical talent and creativity from Northern Ireland. He was one of the people at the centre of the music scene, helping to shape the musical landscape here and building up its reputation internationally. He was passionate about encouraging emerging talent and ensuring that local artists have the professional support they need to develop their careers to the next level. It was my pleasure to work with him at a number of international music industry events and I know how much his support meant to so many of our up-and-coming, and, with his help now established, singer-songwriters. Lyndon was simply part of the music fabric of Northern Ireland. He will be truly missed.”

Those wishing to celebrate Lyndon’s life are welcome to attend Roselawn crematorium on Wednesday 15th January at 5pm. Family flowers or donations to the Marie Curie hospice are welcomed.

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Children’s Writing Fellow rings in New Year with Schools Programme

Wednesday 1st January 2020 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Kelly McCaughrain pictured with students from Carrickfergus Grammar. Image: Kelly McCaughrain pictured with students from Carrickfergus Grammar.

Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland Kelly McCaughrain is celebrating the New Year by encouraging schools to librarians and teachers to set up and run Creative Writing Clubs in secondary schools

The writer of the multi-award winning Flying Tips for Flightless Birds was recently awarded funding through our Support for Individual Artists Programme. Kelly will use the funding to develop the online resource for the schools.

Follow Kelly’s blog and get involved at https://theblankpage.kellymccaughrain.com

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Arts Council announces three new funding programmes for arts organisations

Friday 20th December 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments

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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is offering a number of funding opportunities under three new programmes. Thanks to investment from the Department for Communities, three new funding programmes will offer support for arts organisations across Northern Ireland. 

Arts organisations will be invited to make an expression of interest to the following funding programmes.

Programme one: Rural Needs Small Grants Programme
Grants of up to £10,000 will be available.  This funding is designed to enable arts organisations to deliver arts programmes to rurally-based communities.  Expressions of interest can be submitted at any time up until Friday 17th January 2020, when the programme will close.

Visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/rural-needs-small-grants-programme for more information.

Programme two: New Commissioning Programme for Creative Innovation
Grants of up to £20,000 will be available to arts organisations to support the commissioning of new, creative work. Expressions of interest can be submitted at any time up until Friday 17th January 2020, when the programme will close.

Visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/commissioning-programme-for-creative-innovation for more information.

Programme three: Pilot Premium Payments Programme
Grants of up to £5,000 will be available. This pilot programme is designed to enable arts organisations to access support to assist Section 75 accessibility to their arts programming.  This is a rolling programme and expressions of interest can be submitted at any time up until Friday 13th March 2020, when the programme will close.

Visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/pilot-premium-payments-programme for more information.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

"With much appreciated investment from the Department of Communities, the Arts Council is delighted to announce the opening of these three new funding programmes. These valuable programmes offer arts organisations the opportunity to deliver arts to communities in rural locations, commission new works and create arts experiences that are both accessible and inclusive.  All the information about how to apply is available on the Arts Council website and we would encourage any arts organisations interested in the new funding programmes to visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for more details."

 

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Creative Industries Seed Fund now welcoming grant applications for awards up to £10k and £25k

Friday 20th December 2019 at 11am 0 Comments

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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced a new, Creative Industries Seed Fund, worth £290,000 in total, funded by the Department for Communities and Future Screens NI, and supported by Digital Catapult.

The new fund aims to assist entrepreneurs, creative businesses and arts organisations, to undertake projects that contribute to the growth of the creative industries and unlock future income generation.  The Creative Industries Seed Fund will offer two sets of awards up to £10k and up to £25k and applications are now open.  

The fund, administered by the Arts Council, particularly welcomes collaborative partnerships between arts organisations, creative businesses and academia, to use established and emerging technology to innovate and enhance delivery of the arts in Northern Ireland.  To help facilitate this collaborative approach, a free networking and advice workshop will take place on 10 January 2020, 10am-1pm, at Digital Catapult, Ormeau Baths.  Booking is essential. Please register for your place here https://acni-cisf.eventbrite.co.uk

Further information about each of the awards is available from www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding/for-organisations

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Community artist, Darren Ferguson, recognised with Arts Council of Northern Ireland legacy award

Thursday 19th December 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments

Picture (L-R) is Gail McGarvey, Play Resource, Darren Ferguson, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Olivier Urbain, Director, Min-On Music Research Institute. Image: Picture (L-R) is Gail McGarvey, Play Resource, Darren Ferguson, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Olivier Urbain, Director, Min-On Music Research Institute.

Darren Ferguson, Chief Executive, Beyond Skin, an organisation which uses the arts as a tool for peacebuilding, has been awarded £5000 National Lottery funding by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The career development award is presented in memory of Anne O’Donoghue, Director of Play Resource Warehouse, one of the arts sector’s largest figures, who sadly passed away in 2014.

The award was established under the existing Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) as part of the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to support artists and create a sustainable arts sector.  Darren will now use the funding towards a project that will significantly impact his professional career.   

Awardee, Darren Ferguson, will use the Anne O’Donoghue Award to take part in research and cultural exchange with the Min-On Music Research Institute (MOMRI) in Tokyo.  Whilst in Tokyo, Darren will be mentored by Olivier Urbain, Director, to learn new skills and develop new ways of working in community peacebuilding.  Darren will also use the award to develop a collaborative creative project between young people in Northern Ireland and Japan.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented;

“Anne contributed a huge amount to the life and legacy of the arts in Northern Ireland and we are delighted to make this award available in her memory to an artist in support of their career.  Congratulations to Darren Ferguson whom I know will benefit greatly from this award.”  

Darren Ferguson, Beyond Skin, added, “

This is a very special award which has connected me to the Min-On Music Research Institute in Tokyo, an organisation that will coach, mentor me and show me a totally different way of doing things.  I am delighted to have won this award and will aim to make Anne O’Donoghue proud of how I use this award.”

Anne O’Donoghue’s legacy is significant, joining the Play Resource Warehouse in 1984 where she remained as a committed director for thirty years, championing community arts practice.  With this commitment in mind, the Anne O’Donoghue Award was created to support an individual working in community arts by building their professional capacity through continuing professional development. 

For information on all funding opportunities visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding

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Arty McGlynn (1944-2019) Pioneering Traditional Irish Musician

Thursday 19th December 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Traditional Arts , Northern Ireland Music

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the renowned Omagh-born guitarist and traditional musician, Arty McGlynn, who died yesterday (18th December) following a short illness, at the age of 75.

Arty McGlynn was born into a musical family in Omagh in 1944, his father playing accordion and his mother the fiddle. Arty showed a prodigious musical talent from an early age. At the age of five he was playing reels on the accordion; at eleven he got his first guitar and by the age of fifteen he was playing professionally with bands. During the 1960s and ’70s he worked as a session musician, touring and recording with some of the country’s most popular showbands, before recording his seminal solo album, ‘McGlynn’s Fancy’ in 1979. This ground-breaking album is widely credited with bringing the guitar into the mainstream of traditional Irish music. It also revealed his talents as an arranger and composer.

Arty would go on to collaborate with the major figures in the traditional and folk music scene, including Christy Moore, Frances Black, Paul Brady, Planxty, The Dubliners and Four Men and a Dog. He played guitar on Van Morrison’s 1983 album ‘Inarticulate Speech of the Heart’, 1989s ‘Avalon Sunset’ and 1995s ‘Days Like This’. He would eventually play on more than 400 albums. His long and successful musical partnership with his wife, the fiddle player Nollaig Casey, led to the highly-acclaimed original albums ‘Lead the Knave’ (1989) and ‘Causeway’ (1995), and their compositions feature on the film soundtracks for ‘Moondance’, ‘Waking Ned’ and ‘Hear My Song’. The two became known for their live performances together.

He was honoured with a Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement award from the Baltimore Fiddle Festival, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Music Association of America for excellence in the field of Irish Folk Music and, in 2016, the TG4 Gradam Saoil / Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:
“Arty McGlynn was a great guitarist and an exemplary musician who pushed the boundaries of traditional and modern Irish music. His music was pioneering and has influenced a generation of fellow musicians. The Arts Council recognised his achievement and his remarkable contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland with our highest honour in 2012, a Major Individual Artist Award. He was one of the giants of Irish music and he will be sadly missed.”

Arty McGlynn is survived by his wife Nollaig Casey, their two daughters and three sons.

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Arts Council announces £199,714 funding for arts projects for older people across Northern Ireland

Monday 16th December 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Arts and Older People

Pictured (L-R) is project participant, Victor Gormley with Gail McGarvey, Director, Play Resource. Image: Pictured (L-R) is project participant, Victor Gormley with Gail McGarvey, Director, Play Resource.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced National Lottery funding and public funding from the Public Health Agency and Baring Foundation of over £199,714, for 28 organisations across the region, to deliver community-based arts projects benefitting older people.  The funding is part of the Arts Council's Arts and Older People’s Programme, a pioneering initiative which aims to tackle loneliness as-well as promote positive mental health and well-being among older people through engagement with the arts.

The Arts and Older People’s Programme was  established by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2010 and is now a cross-governmental partnership with funding from the Public Health Agency and The Baring Foundation. The programme has been designed to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person. To date the programme has provided £1.8m funding to community organisations and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland in the delivery of 184 arts projects to older people.  

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how the Arts and Older People’s Programme is making a difference to the lives of older people across the region: 

"Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress, worries and also pain. The Arts and Older People’s Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better.  The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, thus promoting positive physical and mental health.  The Arts Council is proud to have supported 184 projects since the programme began and we’re delighted today to announce that a further 28 projects will be supported with funding of over £199,714.”

Play Resource Warehouse, based in North Belfast, has been awarded £7,092 to deliver a project working in partnership with Libraries NI.  Together they will work with eight groups of older people, four from Belfast and four that are rurally based, to develop a programme creative activities to include personal story-telling, calligraphy, weaving, embroidery, photography, ceramic work, mosaic, felt, clay and sound.    

The 28 projects to be supported by the Arts & Older People Programme include:

Organisation Name Project Title Grant Amount Location
ABC Community Network ENGAGE 3 £8,196 Portadown
Accolade (All Communities Art Communications) Let's get 2gether £7,500 Banbridge
Armstrong Storytelling Trust Do You Mind The Day - Storytelling and Reminiscence £2,052 Cushendall
Arts Ekta Craft-Tea: A Craft Project centered on the theme of Tea £9,599 Belfast
BEAM Creative Network Young at HeART £7,974 Donaghmore, Tyrone
Belfast Exposed Photography Ballybeen Unseen £7,210 Belfast
Beth Johnson Foundation Art 'ur' Age £7,416 Newtownards
Crescent Arts Centre Eng-AGE: Making Memories £9,400 Belfast
Derry Theatre Trust Ltd., t/a The Millennium Forum Tea Dance & Sing Down Memory Lane £5,610 Derry/Londonderry
Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company Body Wisdom in the Community £7,524 Derry/Londonderry
Foyle Deaf Association Sign Language Choir £5,775 Derry/Londonderry
An Gaelaras Ltd Step Into My Parlour £7,170 Derry/Londonderry
Gilford Art Group Art in the local Community £3,130 Gilford
Golden Thread Gallery True Confessions £6,730 Belfast
Greater Shantallow Community Arts Arts in Mind £7,260 Derry/Londonderry
Harmony Community Trust Getting Down Together through Art £4,897 Strangford, Down
Kabosh Theatre Ltd Art Attack £7,474 Belfast
Lisnafin/Ardnalee/Trust CCDA Ageing well through Arts and Creativity £7,200 Strabane
Live Music Now (LMN) The Joy of Remembering Through Music £8,968 Limavady
Open Arts Song and Dance for Dementia £9,980 Belfast
Play Resource Warehouse Meet Me £7,092 Belfast
Prime Cut Productions Ltd Re-Vision 3: Life From Time £8,900 Belfast
Prison Arts Foundation Older Men's Art project £4,922 Belfast
Richmount Rural Community Association INVOLVE £8,910 Portadown
Sticky Fingers Arts Connect Part Two £9,000 Newry
Streetwise Community Circus Age-ility 2019-20 £10,000 Belfast
Ulster Youth Orchestra STRINGTIME! £1,650 Belfast
Queen’s University Belfast Artage, a free, public web-based multimedia arts resource with and for older people £8,175 Belfast

 

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Special Tribute Event held in memory of renowned Belfast Poet Ciaran Carson

Tuesday 10th December 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured (L-R) at the tribute event are artists Leontia Flynn, Michael Longley, Sinéad Morrissey and Frank Ormsby. Image: Pictured (L-R) at the tribute event are artists Leontia Flynn, Michael Longley, Sinéad Morrissey and Frank Ormsby.

A special event paying tribute to the life and work of the late Belfast poet Ciaran Carson (1948-19) took place at the Lyric Theatre last night.

Hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast and the Irish Secretariat in Belfast, the free event was hosted in memory of the late writer who died after a period of illness on Saturday 6th October, aged 70.

The event presented by Glenn Patterson, writer and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's, featured readings and reflections from a host of artists, including the current Ireland Professor of Poetry, Frank Ormsby, Sinéad Morrissey, Michael Longley, as well as music from harpist Úna Monaghan, traditional Irish singer Len Graham, and more.

Speaking about the event, Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“From the poems of Belfast Confetti and The Ballad of HMS Belfast, to the prose of The Star Factory and the Booker-longlisted Shamrock Tea, all of it praised around the globe, Ciaran Carson’s writing is intimately connected to the streets and thoroughfares of his native city. It is fitting then that this gathering in the Lyric Theatre, one of the great arenas of our shared cultural life, has celebrated a life well lived and the legacy of first-class literature his genius left to the rest of us as citizens of the world.”

Glenn Patterson, writer and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s commented:

Glenn Patterson, writer and Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s commented: “Ciaran Carson was the first Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre, a dear friend and colleague to all there, and an inspiration as a poet, writer, and as a citizen: a great European literary figure who lived his entire life in Belfast. This event has been an opportunity for the city of Belfast and for all who value literature on the island to recognise and to celebrate his work, his life, and his legacy.”

Born in Belfast in 1948 and brought up as an Irish speaker, Ciaran Carson graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in English, before joining the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1975, where, until 1998, he served as Traditional Music Officer, then Literature Officer. In 2003, he was appointed Professor or English and the Founding Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University. He retired from Queen’s in 2016, remaining Emeritus Professor of the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s.

He published his first collection of poetry, The New Estate, in 1976. He would go on to publish fourteen collections of poems, five prose books and celebrated translations of the Dante’s Inferno (2002), for which he was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Irish saga, Táin Bó Cúailnge (2007).

His award-winning poetry collections include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, Belfast Confetti (1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry, First Language: Poems (1993), winner of the TS Eliot Prize, Breaking News (2003), which won the Forward Poetry Prize, For All We Know (2008), shortlisted for both the 2008 TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award, and From Elsewhere (2015), shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. From There to Here (Selected Poems and Translations) was published on the occasion of his 70th birthday, in October 2018.

His prose books include The Star Factory (1997), a memoir of Belfast, Fishing for Amber (1999) and Shamrock Tea (2001), a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize. Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music (1996), a book about Irish traditional music, reflects the author’s life-long interest in, and high level of accomplishment as, a musician.

 

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Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries boosted with new £240,000 Seed Fund

Tuesday 3rd December 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Craft , Drama , Film & TV , Visual Arts

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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (Tuesday 3rd December) announced  a new Creative Industries Seed Fund, worth £240,000, funded by the Department For Communities and Future Screens  NI, and supported by Digital Catapult.  The new fund aims to assist entrepreneurs, creative businesses and arts organisations to undertake projects that contribute to the growth of the creative industries and unlock future income generation.

Online applications are now open for grants capped at £10,000 and will close at 4pm on Monday 27th January, with decisions expected late February 2020.

The £240,000 fund, administered by the Arts Council, particularly welcomes collaborative partnerships between arts organisations, creative businesses and academia, to use established and emerging technology to innovate and enhance delivery of the arts in Northern Ireland. 

To help facilitate this collaborative approach, networking and advice workshops will take place in Belfast in 2020:
Belfast: 10 January 2020, 10am-1pm at Digital Catapult, Ormeau Baths

Matthew Malcolm, Creative Industries Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcomes this important investment by the Department For Communities into the creative industries here.  Globally there has been a marked shift from the declining traditional ‘heavy’ industries towards the creative industries and that is also reflected here in Northern Ireland.  The use of new and immersive technologies is a fast-growing market and incorporating these into the creation and delivery of arts experiences can open up valuable new ways of generating income for arts organisations.”

He continued:

“We want arts organisations and creative businesses to collaborate, share their expertise and create opportunities for growth.  Our creative sector remains one of the few areas of economic growth and is a vital source of our competitive strength, wealth and job creation, as well as raising the profile of Northern Ireland as a place that’s ready to compete and do business with the world.”


For further information and to apply online visit the funding page at www.artscouncil-ni.org

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Leading artists honoured with £15,000 awards by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Thursday 28th November 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music , Literature

(L-R)  Four leading artists, writer, Susan McKay, poet, Moyra Donaldson, musician/composer, Neil Martin and composer, Deirdre Gribbin, pictured with Ciaran Scullion, Arts Council of Northern Ireland Image: (L-R) Four leading artists, writer, Susan McKay, poet, Moyra Donaldson, musician/composer, Neil Martin and composer, Deirdre Gribbin, pictured with Ciaran Scullion, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Acclaimed artists, writer, Susan McKay, poet, Moyra Donaldson, composer, Deirdre Gribbin and musician/composer, Neil Martin, have each been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIA), worth £15,000 each, from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, the highest honour bestowed by the body responsible for the development of the arts in the region.

The prestigious awards are given in recognition of the contribution each of the artists has made to creative life in Northern Ireland and make it possible for these artists to produce a substantial, ambitious project that will make a significant impact to the development of their artistic careers.

Each of the artists will now use the award to develop a series of new works.

Award-winning journalist, Susan McKay, from Derry-Londonderry, will use the MIA award to write a new book about borders provisionally called, Outside in the Navy Dark, from a poem by Leontia Flynn. 
Writer and poet, Moyra Donaldson, from Newtownards, County Down, will use the MIA award towards research and development of a new poetry collection, based on a theme of ‘mothers and daughters’, with publisher, Doire press. 

Composer, Deirdre Gribbin, from Belfast, will use the MIA award to complete two strands of work, Dark Matter Hunting and Kindersang: Outsider Child.  Deirdre will work with astrophysicist, Professor Priya Natarjan, a leading expert on Dark Matter, as source material for the first composition, Dark Matter Hunting with the completed work due to be performed in 2020 at West Cork Music, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope. 

Musician and composer, Neil Martin, from Belfast, will use the MIA award to compose a new violin concerto, in three movements, for violinist, Maebh Martin, to be premiered in autumn 2020 to mark the launch of a new building housing the music department at St Andrew’s University, Scotland. 

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Congratulations to Susan McKay, Moyra Donaldson, Deirdre Gribbin and Neil Martin, four immensely talented artists who have already made an enormous contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland.  Each will benefit greatly from being able to take time out to concentrate purely on these innovative new projects with the financial backing they need to produce work of lasting value. This award will help to cement their national and international reputations as artists, and strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland, both home and abroad.”

The four join a distinguished list of artists who have previously benefited from the Major Individual Artist award, including writers; Carol Moore, Rosemary Jenkinson, Malachi O’Doherty, Jimmy McAleavey, Anne Devlin, Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman, Patricia Craig, Sinéad Morrissey, Glenn Patterson and Owen McCafferty; playwright Shannon Sickles (Yee), performance artist, Sinéad O’Donnell, visual artists, Mairéad McClean, Rita Duffy, Susan MacWilliam and Cara Murphy; composers, Ed Bennett, Piers Hellawell, Ian Wilson, Elaine Agnew, Conor Mitchell and Deirdre McKay; musicians, Michael McHale and  David Lyttle plus choreographer, Oona Doherty, among others. 

Major Individual Artist awards form part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) which is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually.  As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Arts Council made 209 SIAP awards to individual artists in 2019/20 totalling £567K.  Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for information on all funding opportunities.

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Craft NI hosts exhibition of works from the Arts Council’s Contemporary Art Collection

Thursday 21st November 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Craft , Visual Arts

Pictured launching the exhibition (L_R)  is exhibition curator and Craft NI Board Member, Kim Mawhinney, Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council Northern Ireland with Katherine McDonald, Craft NI. Image: Pictured launching the exhibition (L_R) is exhibition curator and Craft NI Board Member, Kim Mawhinney, Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council Northern Ireland with Katherine McDonald, Craft NI.

A special exhibition at Craft NI’s new Royal Avenue premises featuring selected works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s contemporary art collection is now open.  The exhibition has come about as part of the Arts Council’s new Art Lending Scheme, a free scheme which is open to curators, galleries, and organisations interested in putting works from the Collection on public display.

The exhibition at Craft NI has been curated by Kim Mawhinney, Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, and Craft NI Board member, who wanted to ensure the works on show were reflective of the breadth, diversity and talent that Northern Ireland excels in.

The exhibition shows work from nineteen contemporary Northern Ireland designer-makers using a range of materials and techniques including beautiful silver pieces, porcelain sculptures, detailed embroidery and flowing glass. There promises to be something for everyone, as the selection includes a range of emerging and established Northern Ireland artists dealing with topics such as grief, identity and the role of technology. 

Katherine McDonald, Director of Craft NI said:

“We are so pleased to have been able to benefit from the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme to make these beautiful and stimulating works available for audiences to see and learn about. It’s a great way to open our new combined exhibition, retail and gallery space in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter”.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“We are delighted to have works from the Collection exhibited at Craft NI’s new premises in the heart of Belfast city centre.  Many of the artists represented in the Collection have major national and international reputations and by offering the collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. I would encourage everyone to go along and see this exhibition at Craft NI which promises to be an impressive mix of emerging and established artists.”

The Arts Council Collection Exhibition at Craft NI continues until 17th January. For opening times, visit, www.craftni.org

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The National Lottery Celebrates its 25th Birthday in Northern Ireland

Tuesday 19th November 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments

Pictured at the National Lottery 25th Birthday event is Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with singer-songwriter, Reevah. Image: Pictured at the National Lottery 25th Birthday event is Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with singer-songwriter, Reevah.

In the past quarter of a century more than £1.2 billion has been invested in 25,000 local good causes across the arts, sport, community and heritage sectors.

To mark the occasion of the very first draw, The National Lottery has released two special films.

These include ‘What has the National Lottery Ever Done for Us?’ a Monty Python style look at the impact of funding across the UK starring the likes of comedian Jimmy Carr, Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlin and cycling great Sir Chris Hoy. Based on the famous sketch from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, this new take was and created by BAFTA nominated writer and director David Schneider. It can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFzYd7kw1tU&feature=youtu.be

A second short film skips through 25 years funding in Northern Ireland in just 25 seconds, highlighting many of the local organisations who have benefitted from National Lottery support from our local distributors; the Arts Council Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Community Fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sport Northern Ireland.

These include:

  • The first ever National Lottery grant in Northern Ireland - £195,000 to Belfast City Council for the Mary Peters Stadium in 1995
  • The largest single National Lottery award in Northern Ireland - £45 million to build the SSE Arena
  • Funding to a host of Northern Irish sports stars including Rory McIlroy, Michael Conlon, Carl Frampton, Kelly Gallagher, Bethany Firth and Mark Allen.
  • The reinvigoration of the local arts scene from the building or renovation of iconic venues such as the Lyric Theatre, the Millennium Forum and commissioning public art installations such as The Rise sculpture in Belfast
  • Investment in heritage such as the restoration of the likes of HMS Caroline, SS Nomadic, Derry’s Playhouse, the Ulster Museum and St George’s Market.
  • Transforming the community in Northern Ireland by supporting landmark projects like the Connswater Community Greenway and thousands of charities and groups like the NI Children’s Hospice, WAVE Trauma Centre and the creation of healthy living centres throughout Northern Ireland.

The ’25 Years in 25 Seconds,’ film can be viewed below: 

Paul Mullan, chair of the National Lottery Forum in Northern Ireland and Director of Northern Ireland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“The last 25 years has seen immeasurable change in Northern Ireland and the National Lottery has been at the heart of this transformation.

“More than £1.2 billion of National Lottery players money has been invested in more than 25,000 local people and projects.

“This has allowed our sporting stars to compete at the highest level and we have the gold medal, world titles and major championships to prove it.

“Our artists and theatre groups have state of the art facilities to produce high quality arts that are appreciated on a local, national and global stage.

“We have been able to understand value and share our heritage which brings people together, inspires pride in communities and boosts investment in local economies.

“And this funding has allowed people in Northern Ireland to do extraordinary things, taking the lead to improve their lives and the community.

“But none of this would be possible without those people from Northern Ireland who have played The National Lottery over the last 25 years and we would like to say a huge thank you for your support.”

Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage, culture, film, charity and community.

The 25th birthday is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary impact The National Lottery has had on the UK. Since The National Lottery began, over 565,000 individual grants have been awarded across the UK. That’s the equivalent of 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district.

The 25th Birthday National Lottery activities are a great opportunity to say thank you to National Lottery players for contributing around £30 million to good causes every week.

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Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme opens

Wednesday 13th November 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured helping to launch the scheme are Críostóir Ó Bradáin (13) and Gráinne Ní Bhradaín (11) from the Armagh Pipers Club. Image: Pictured helping to launch the scheme are Críostóir Ó Bradáin (13) and Gráinne Ní Bhradaín (11) from the Armagh Pipers Club.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is offering a number of funding opportunities under its Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, three funding programmes have opened offering support for artists and groups to purchase instruments up until March 2020.

The scheme is good news for marching bands, non-professional and professional performing groups, community groups, professional musicians and schools that may be eligible to apply to purchase instruments and music-making equipment. The Musical Instruments scheme is designed to increase the quality of music-making in Northern Ireland and to ensure as many groups and individuals as possible have an opportunity to purchase new instruments.

Programme one: Musical Instruments for Bands
This existing fund will be ring-fenced and grants of between £500 and £10,000 will be available. This funding is designed to help bands replace worn –out instruments and purchase new ones. It is open to bands based in Northern Ireland, which are constituted, including marching, accordion, brass, concert, flute, pipe and wind bands.

Visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/musical-instruments-for-bands-2019 for more information on the Musical Instruments for Bands scheme and to apply.

Programme two: Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups
Grants of between £500 and £30,000 will be available. This strand is open to schools and to professional and non-professional performing groups in any genre of music, including community, youth and resource organisations. All organisations must be constituted and instruments applied for must be used for rehearsal, tuition and performance. Instruments must be owned by a constituted group which operates as not-for-profit, that is, a voluntary or charitable body with its own separate bank account.

Visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/musical-instruments-for-professional-and-non-professional-performing-groups for more information on the Musical Instruments for Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups scheme and to apply.

Programme three: Individual Professional Performing Musicians
Grants of between £5,000 and £10,000 will be available. This strand is designed to provide support for highly-skilled performing musicians based in Northern Ireland, working at a professional level, who seek support for the purchase of high quality instruments that are central to their performing career.

Visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/musical-instruments-for-individuals for more information on the Musical Instruments for Individuals scheme and to apply.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“With much appreciated capital investment from the Department of Communities, the Arts Council is delighted to announce the opening of the Musical Instruments Scheme. This valuable scheme offers bands, musical groups, schools and professional musicians the opportunity to buy new instruments, helping to increase skills for all players, from young musicians just starting out, right through to highly trained performers. All the information about how to apply is on the Arts Council website and we would encourage anyone interested in the scheme to visit www.artscouncil-ni.org for more details."

Debbie McKibben, Head of Arts and Creativity Branch, Department for Communities said:

“This investment by the Department for Communities of £500,000 in a Musical Instruments Scheme is great news and will no doubt help develop musical skills across Northern Ireland. This programme not only supports music-making but celebrates music and its unique ability to bring people together, enrich our lives and support our wellbeing. We know these funding opportunities will be welcomed across the arts sector and will provide valuable support for individual musicians, performing groups and bands across the region.”

Please visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for more information.

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Arts Council announces funding of £67,000 for 14 talented artists from Northern Ireland

Saturday 9th November 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Literature , Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) are ACES awardees, writer Scott McKendry, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and writer Dawn Watson. Image: Pictured (L-R) are ACES awardees, writer Scott McKendry, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and writer Dawn Watson.

14 artists from Northern Ireland have been announced as the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s ACES awards 2019-20, a National Lottery supported funding grant bestowed upon Northern Ireland’s most talented emerging artists to enable them to develop their professional, artistic careers through the creation of new work.

Awards under the Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) are made annually to professional artists working in music, visual arts, drama, dance, literature and participatory arts and are among the most prestigious awards bestowed by the Arts Council.  This year’s awardees includes five literature awardees, four musicians, two visual artists, one drama awardee and one dance awardee.

In addition to receiving a bursary of up to £5,000 each, many of the 14 artists have been partnered with a professional organisation or leading artist, at home or abroad, to help each of them to deliver new creative work.  Some of these partners include; Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, Golden Thread Gallery, Dumbworld, international choreographer, Judith Camero, Champion Sound Music, Kabosh, Seamus Heaney HomePlace and Sonic Arts Research Centre.   

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“These 14 artists are already established and highly regarded in each of their fields. The ACES awards are given in recognition of their work to date and also to provide them with financial support to take their careers to that vital next level. The ACES programme has been running successfully now for ten years and addresses the need for on-going training and skills development within the arts sector.”

The 14 artists awarded ACES funding include:

Literature
Ashling Lindsay
Dawn Watson
Louise Kennedy
Mícheál McCann
Scott McKendry

Music
Bernadette Morris
James Thompson
Owen Lamont
Patrick Brennan
Niall Hanna

Visual Arts
Edy Fung
Paul Moore

Drama
Louise Parker

Dance
Maytee Segura

The Artists Career Enhancement Programme (ACES) forms part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) which is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually with funding from the National Lottery.  As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Arts Council made 209 SIAP awards to individual artists in 2019/20 totalling £567K.  Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for information on all funding opportunities.

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Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019

Saturday 2nd November 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019 Image: Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is set to open a number of funding opportunities in the coming month as part of a Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, three funding programmes will be opened in early November 2019 with a procurement process to be completed by early March 2020.

The scheme will be good news for marching bands, non-professional and professional performing groups, community groups, professional musicians and schools that may be eligible to apply to purchase instruments and music-making equipment. The Musical Instruments scheme has been designed to increase the quality of music-making in Northern Ireland and to ensure as many groups and individuals as possible have an opportunity to purchase new instruments.

Programme one: Musical Instruments for Bands
This existing fund will be ring-fenced and grants of between £500 and £10,000 will be available. This funding is designed to help bands replace worn –out instruments and purchase new ones. It is open to bands based in Northern Ireland, which are constituted, including marching, accordion, brass, concert, flute, pipe and wind bands.

Programme two: Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups
Grants of between £500 and £30,000 will be available. This strand is open to schools and to professional and non-professional performing groups in any genre of music, including community, youth and resource organisations. All organisations must be constituted and instruments applied for must be used for rehearsal, tuition and performance. Instruments must be owned by a constituted group which operates as not-for-profit, that is, a voluntary or charitable body with its own separate bank account.

Programme three: Individual Professional Performing Musicians
Grants of between £5,000 and £10,000 will be available. This strand is designed to provide support for highly-skilled performing musicians based in Northern Ireland, working at a professional level, who seek support for the purchase of high quality instruments that are central to their performing career.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“With much appreciated capital investment from the Department of Communities, the Arts Council is delighted to announce the Musical Instruments Scheme. It will offer bands, musical groups, schools and professional musicians the opportunity to buy new instruments. 

We think there will be a high demand for these funding opportunities and we really want to alert organisations and artists to be ready to apply when the fund opens. Keep an eye open to the Arts Council’s website www.artscouncil-ni.org and get set! “

Please note the three funding programmes in the Musical Instruments Scheme are scheduled to open in week commencing November 4th 2019. Please visit www.artscouncil-ni.org for more information.

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Matt Curry, Artist and Film-maker

Friday 1st November 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Film & TV

Image:

The Arts Council has learned with sadness of the death of Armagh-born film maker, Matt Curry, who has died after a short illness with cancer. Matt enjoyed a background in drama and theatre and was widely known and respected in Northern Ireland media circles for his work in film and production with his Belfast-based company Bluebird Media. Several of his short films were screened at international film festivals and he worked on a series of television productions for the BBC, including Panorama and Spotlight.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer at the Arts Council, paid tribute: 

“Our theatre and dance family is heartbroken by the passing of Matt Curry. Matt was a key member of our creative community, a sensitive artist and a kind and generous man. As a film maker he regularly worked in our live performance sector. We will feel his loss personally and professionally. Matt was the beloved husband of Emma Jordan, Artistic Director of Prime Cut Productions, and twin brother of Nicola Curry, Artistic Director of Maiden Voyage Dance. Our hearts go out to Matt’s family, Emma and their three girls, and Nicola. Our community has been devastated by loss in recent times, but we have strength in our compassion and togetherness, and we will once again come together to support each other, especially the Prime Cut and Maiden Voyage families, in this time of great sadness and loss.”

He will be laid to rest in his native Armagh this Saturday in St Patrick’s Cemetery, following Requiem Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 10am.

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F.E. McWilliam Gallery launch Linen Lab exhibition

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Linen Lab exhibition, F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November 2019. Image: Linen Lab exhibition, F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November 2019.

A new exhibition which explores the story of linen and its connection to the local area has opened at the F.E McWilliam Gallery & Studio in Banbridge. Developed by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Linen Lab is the result of  a year-long creative collaboration between eight artists - Rachel Fitzpatrick, Deborah Malcomson, Lyndsey McDougall, Robert Peters, Jill Phillips, Heather Richardson, Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek of Studio Plastique and 400 young people from 13 local schools.

Linen Lab, which runs at the Banbridge arts venue from 12 October to 9 November 2019, is part of a large-scale engagement programme called Connected, jointly funded by the Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Local Government Challenge Fund. This fund has offered local authorities the opportunity to increase investment in the arts by offering match funding of up to £1.5 million across Northern Ireland.

The Linen Lab exhibition documents the creative interactions between the artists and the young participants and presents new work developed during the project. Each artist’s distinct thematic and aesthetic concerns have emerged and developed to produce an exhibition that reveals the versatility of linen as a material, and reminds us of the significance of linen in our families, homes and industrial past.

The story of linen and Banbridge are intertwined, as it was once one of the main linen producing towns in Northern Ireland.  At the height of the linen industry, there were some twenty mills associated with different processes in the production of linen dotted along the Bann Valley from Katesbridge to Gilford.  Banbridge is the only town in Ireland that still produces Irish double-damask linen, under the auspices of Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, which was established in 1854. Today, with a new focus on sustainability and biodegradable materials, linen and flax are once again in the spotlight and are being celebrated through the work of Linen Biennale NI.

The Linen Lab exhibition is a celebration of the many creative collaborations that took place over the course of the project and would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and curiosity of all the young people, artists and teachers who engaged in the project along with the support of the project partners: Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, Banbridge and McConville’s Flax Mill, Dromore and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Community Arts Development Officer and project lead, Louise Rice, said,

“Collaboration and engagement is at the heart of the Linen Lab project.  We are all delighted to have had the opportunity to establish such positive working relationships and look forward to developing and widening further connections with the community in the future. The Local Government Challenge Fund has given three of our borough’s cultural venues a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative creative programmes that help sustain collaborative partnerships between artists and local residents.”

The Arts Council’s Local Government Challenge Fund is supported by the National Lottery, which this year celebrates its 25th birthday. Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council is pleased to have supported a local project like this which has brought professional artists and communities together to celebrate linen, one of the most important assets of our creative and industrial history. Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place in 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community, enabling projects like this to make a big difference in local communities.”

Linen Lab runs at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November. Admission is free. For further information go to femcwilliam.com.

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Belfast teens create film to highlight dangers of online bullying

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments

A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing. Image: A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing.

A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing. It examines mental health issues, particularly from the male perspective and looks at online bullying, self-image and suicide.  The film was shown for the first time at a special screening for World Mental Health Day on the 10th October.

The project has been developed by West Belfast based Suicide Awareness and Support Group and Arts organisation Kids in Control (KIC), and the makers hope it will help raise awareness, reduce stigma and build resilience among young people.  The group of participants, who were invited to take part through schools, youth clubs and community centres, decided on the film’s themes, created the script, and perform in the film.

The project received funding as part of ARTiculate, a three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people. Kids in Control delivers physical theatre outreach programmes in the community, exploring and devising material around issues that are relevant and important to participants.

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25,000 free books delivered to primary schools across Northern Ireland

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with Carryduff St Josephs pupils ,Muireann Quinn and Conal Caughey, at an announcement to distribute free books to every primary one child in Northern Ireland. Image: Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with Carryduff St Josephs pupils ,Muireann Quinn and Conal Caughey, at an announcement to distribute free books to every primary one child in Northern Ireland.

Every primary one child across Northern Ireland is set to receive a free Time to Read pack this Autumn. The delivery comes as BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, commences the latest in its Arts Council of Northern Ireland school author tour series, this time with Marta Altés, author and illustrator of ‘Little Monkey’ starting from Monday 14th October.

The Time to Read packs which include a free copy of the book ‘Little Monkey’ and tips and advice for parents and carers, will be distributed to all 25,000 primary one children to take home and share with their families. With the help of The Education Authority Schools Library Service all schools will receive the packs at the beginning of the Autumn term.

To help celebrate the book distribution, the schools author tour supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will see Marta visit four schools over the course of two days to run reading and craft workshops, designed to inspire, engage and help to create the authors and illustrators of the future. The school involved include - St Joseph’s Primary School Carryduff, Millennium Integrated Primary School, Saintfield, Moorfields Primary School, Ballymena and Parkhall Primary School, Antrim.

Marta Altés, author and illustrator of ‘Little Monkey’ said,

“One of my favourite parts about my work is getting to visit the children and watch their creativity grow! It’s incredible that my book will be in so many homes around Northern Ireland, and I hope that Little Monkey and her adventures in the jungle not only inspire a love of reading but also remind children that even when you're small you can do amazing things!”

Liz Canning, BookTrust Northern Ireland says

“We are delighted to be able to share ‘Little Monkey’ with children across Northern Ireland with the help of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The Education Authority Schools Library Service. We really hope the children in the sessions are inspired to get reading and that every child receiving the packs shares a little bit of that magic.”

Marta Altés two day visit is the first in a series of author visits planned for this year, with more schools across Northern Ireland set to benefit from scheme over the coming months. The BookTrust programme is support through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary since the first draw in 1994.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“This wonderful initiative is all about inspiring a future generation of readers to enjoy reading from their earliest years, as they set off on their own journeys discovering new characters, places, stories and ideas. Access to books is something which we know supports all aspects of a child’s development and we are delighted to continue our funding for BookTrust’s author tours once again this year, with a copy of Marta Altés stunning book also going out to every primary one child in Northern Ireland.”

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The Arts Council is relocating

Friday 11th October 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments

Linen Hill House, Lisburn Image: Linen Hill House, Lisburn

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is relocating from The Sidings in Lisburn.

The new address will be:

Linen Hill House
23 Linenhall Street
Lisburn BT28 1FJ
Northern Ireland

To accommodate the office move, The Arts Council will be closed to the public from Thursday 17th October 2019 and will reopen on Wednesday 23rd October 2019 in Linen Hill House. 

Our main telephone line will be unavailable from 12 noon on Thursday 17th October and will reopen on Wednesday 23rd October 2019. We will also be unable to send or receive emails during this period.

The relocation is in keeping with the Department of Finance's Asset Management Strategy.

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World Mental Health Day 10th October 2019

Thursday 10th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments ARTiculate Young People & Wellbeing Arts Programme

Pictured are Séamus Mullen (PHA), Lorraine Calderwood (Arts Council), Chris Deconink (Extern), artists Glenn Black and Ken Maze (Blaze FX), with some of the staff and young people involved in Extern’s arts project funded through the ARTiculate Programme Image: Pictured are Séamus Mullen (PHA), Lorraine Calderwood (Arts Council), Chris Deconink (Extern), artists Glenn Black and Ken Maze (Blaze FX), with some of the staff and young people involved in Extern’s arts project funded through the ARTiculate Programme

Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme set by World Federation of Mental Health is suicide prevention.

Three years ago the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Public Health Agency, launched a new £600,000 programme to promote positive mental health and emotional well-being in young people through the arts.

So far the ARTiculate Programme has supported 47 projects across Northern Ireland, linking youth and community groups with professional artists and arts organisations.  Each project has engaged with vulnerable young people, targeting those at higher risk of suicide or self-harm.

The specific aims of the programme are:

  • Improve emotional, physical and social wellbeing of participants
  • Enable participants to express opinions or feeling using arts-based methods
  • Realise and improvement in wider services for young people with mental health issues
  • Empower communities to take a more pro-active role in promoting mental health and wellbeing
  • Reduce stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing through improved education; and
  • Support and promote help seeking behaviour amongst participants

Initial findings from an evaluation of the programme provides self-reported evidence from the young people of improvements in self-confidence and greater awareness of where to seek help and support. 

The ARTiculate programme is funded through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds. Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community. People can discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has had on their community over the past 25 years by using the 25th hashtag #NationalLottery25 .

Find out more about the projects supported so far through the ARTicualte Programme:


For more information on World Mental Health Day, advice on looking after your mental health and how to access support visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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Belfast to host First all-island Dance Conference

Wednesday 9th October 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Dance

Co-Motion Dance Conference, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October. Image: Co-Motion Dance Conference, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October.

The first ever all-Ireland dance conference will take place in Belfast this month in association with Belfast International Arts Festival.

Co-Motion is an initiative between Dance Ireland and Dance Resource Base and will be held at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October.

Coming just a week before Brexit, its themes are both practical and political, as an essential platform for dancers, educators and policy makers to consider borders, connections and how to develop and promote practices for working together.

Conference curator, Dr Aoife McGrath of Queen’s University Belfast, a professional dancer and choreographer whose research interests include the interplay of dance and politics, said,

“The conference responds to a critical moment, both globally and on the island of Ireland, in which renewed hardening of international borders threatens division and stasis.  It gives us the opportunity to ask, how does dance function as a site of connection and movement?  At junctures of threatened division, how can dance question, confirm and strengthen ongoing currents of fluidity, support and co-motion?

“This conference will bring critical attention to complexities of interrelations in this time of precarity and flux.”

The Co-Motion conference takes place during Belfast International Arts Festival’s big weekend of dance which includes the show-stopping French arts collective (LA)HORDE, who will perform their energetic jumpstyle street dance phenomenon, To Da Bone, at the Grand Opera House; renowned choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh’s dance company performing Staging Schiele at The MAC; Pat Kinevane’s searing solo musical theatre inspired Before; and looking ahead to the Festival’s closing event, the UK and Ireland premiere of Lady Magma, choreographed by Belfast-born Oona Doherty, along with Prime Cut Productions.

Keynote speeches and workshops will be led by these international artists, as well as previous Festival alumnus, Fearghus O’ Conchuir (Butterflies and Bones 2016), as well as Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola and Luc Dunberry of Sasha Waltz.

Adam Knight, Chair, Dance Resource Base said,

“Dance Resource Base is thrilled to be partnering with our colleagues at Dance Ireland to bring to Belfast the first ever All-Island Dance Conference, and to collaborate with the Belfast International Arts Festival and Queen’s University to shine a spotlight on our world-class dance talent from across the island of Ireland. This has been a vision many years in planning. With a host of international dance talent gathering here, it has never been more important, both nationally and globally, to celebrate our creative excellence, and in uncertain times this provides a significant opportunity to explore how we can work together to transcend borders of any kind.”

Paul Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Dance Ireland said,

“Strategic partnerships, creative collaborations, networking and citizen artists are at the heart of Co-Motion: Dance & Borders. At a time of many challenges for professional dance practice on the island; we are excited to come together and lead in partnership with Dance Resource Base on this momentous moment, shining a light on how critical and creative dance ideas contribute to a better understanding of the times we are living through.” 

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“With the whirligig of political discourse around at the moment, the Co-motion Conference is a timely opportunity to turn focus on another dynamic, powerful form of discourse, power and engagement: dance. Participants will have the opportunity to reframe discourse around the body, movement and space, to dissect the eloquence and subtlety of the all too often overlooked language of the body. The rich mix of speakers promises to make this a riveting and unmissable event, and a perfect complement to the artistic vibrancy of the Belfast International Arts Festival.”

For more information visit: https://belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/co-motion/

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Countdown to seventh International Festival of Dance and Movement

Tuesday 8th October 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Dance

This Time by Ockham's Razor Image: This Time by Ockham's Razor

Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement will return in November with a major series of performances and events in venues around Derry and beyond.

Now in its seventh year, this year’s edition features world-class circus theatre from England, contemporary dance from around Ireland, cutting edge physical theatre from Hungary and Austria, and acclaimed step dance from Ireland and the USA.

Fresh from stunning success at Edinburgh Festival and multiple five-star reviews, the brilliant Ockham’s Razor company return to the city with the Irish premiere of their new aerial theatre work This Time which will be shown in the spectacular setting of Derry’s Guildhall.

Acclaimed step dancer from Michigan, USA, Nic Gareiss will present unique site-specific performances in Derry city and county and in County Antrim.

Irish choreographers are well represented in this year’s programme with work by Ayesha Mailey, Oona Doherty, Eileen McClory, and Liam Ó Scanlaín; as well as a host of other opportunities for local people and visitors to move and be moved.

Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement is supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle welcomed the Festival’s return:

“Derry City and Strabane District Council are proud to support Echo Echo’s International Festival of Dance and Movement through its headline events fund. Over the last seven years the festival has developed a reputation for the high standard of its performances and classes. Congratulations to Echo Echo and their partners on developing another exciting 12 day programme.”

Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Drama and Dance Officer, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, said:

“The Arts Council is delighted to support the seventh outing of the Echo Echo International Festival of Movement and Dance. We are very excited by the mixture of leading dance practitioners and innovators visiting Derry/Londonderry from across the world, such as the sublime Ferenc Fehér from Hungary, the singular Nic Gareiss from the USA, and the superb Ockham’s Razor from Great Britain. And then there is our superb home-grown talent: Ayesha Mailey, Oona Doherty and Eileen McClory. The Arts Council has been proud to support each of these local dance artists in the development of their practice, and we are thrilled that this festival gives them the platform to share their work and demonstrate how Northern Ireland punches above its weight in terms of the sheer quality and innovation of dance and movement that we produce. An event not to be missed.”

Tickets for Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement 2019 go on sale Friday 27th September. For more information visit www.echoechodance.com.

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Ciaran Carson (1948 – 2019)

Monday 7th October 2019 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the highly-acclaimed Belfast poet, writer, musician, and former colleague at the Arts Council, Ciaran Carson, who has died after an illness on Sunday 6th October, aged 70.

Born in Belfast in 1948 and brought up bi-lingual, Ciaran Carson graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in English, before joining the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1975, where, until 1998, he served as Traditional Music Officer, then Literature Officer. In 2003, he was appointed Professor or English and the Founding Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University. He retired from Queen’s in 2016, remaining Emeritus Professor of the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s.

Ciaran Carson published his first collection of poetry, The New Estate, in 1976. He would go on to publish fourteen collections of poems, five prose books and celebrated translations of the Dante’s Inferno (2002), for which he was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Irish saga, Táin Bó Cúailnge (2007).

His award-winning poetry collections include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, Belfast Confetti (1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry, First Language: Poems (1993), winner of the TS Eliot Prize, Breaking News (2003), which won the Forward Poetry Prize, For All We Know (2008), shortlisted for both the 2008 TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award, and From Elsewhere (2015), shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. From There to Here (Selected Poems and Translations) was published on the occasion of his 70th birthday, in October 2018.

His prose books include The Star Factory (1997), a memoir of Belfast, Fishing for Amber (1999) and Shamrock Tea (2001), a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize. Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music (1996), a book about Irish traditional music, reflects the author’s life-long interest in, and high level of accomplishment as, a musician.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Ciaran Carson was a poet of extraordinary breadth and depth, and one of the best and most respected of his generation. His work is steeped in the presence of Belfast, its history, its cityscape, its language and its music, all of which he lived and translated into words of rare insight and brilliance. Even in his later works, which had become more expansive in their scope, he remained an artist who was, to the end, made in Belfast.”

Ciaran Carson is survived by his wife, the acclaimed fiddle player Deirdre Shannon, and their three children, Manus, Gerard and Mary.

Ciaran Carson’s essay, A fusillade of question-marks; some reflections on the art of the Troubles, written for the Arts Council’s Troubles Art Archive in 2009, can be viewed at the Troubles Art Archive, www.troublesarchive.com.

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All Saints Youths turn movie-makers to promote positive mental health

Friday 4th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments ARTiculate Young People & Wellbeing Arts Programme

Pictured are Jason Givens, Lindsay Armstrong, LJ Youth Media, Gerry McVeigh, Start 360, Jude Pollack, LJ Youth Media, Cate McCarte and Conall Gordon. Image: Pictured are Jason Givens, Lindsay Armstrong, LJ Youth Media, Gerry McVeigh, Start 360, Jude Pollack, LJ Youth Media, Cate McCarte and Conall Gordon.

A group of young people from All Saints Youth Club in Ballymena have got behind the camera to create short film to raise awareness of mental health issues among their peers.

The film , entitled ‘Ask, Don’t Assume’, shows the reality of living with mental health difficulties and how important it is for young people to support each other.

The project coordinated by Start 360 is one of 27 to have received funding as part of ARTiculate, a three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people.

Start360 working with several groups in Ballymena, including All Saints Youth Club. Gerry McVeigh from Start360 said,

“It has been a fantastic experience working with All Saints Youth Club on the Articulate programme. The young people have made a film which gives a real sense of what it is like to be struggling with mental health issues.”

As part of the programme Action Mental Health delivered a Mental Health Awareness Workshop with the young people. LJ Youth Media then worked with the young people to develop and produce the film.

Lindsey Armstrong, Director at LJ Youth Media commented,

"We are delighted to be working in partnership with Start360 and All Saints Youth Club. The heart of what we do at LJ is support young people to find their voice and create a short film about a subject that they feel passionate about. The young people at All Saints YC threw themselves into every aspect of our programme and have produced a really meaningful piece of film on mental health issues.”

Louisa Reed, Leader in Charge at All Saints Youth Club said,

“We were grateful to have been given this opportunity to work on such an important topic with Start360 and LJ Youth media in raising awareness on mental health. The young people wanted to create a piece that could have an impact in their community. After viewing the short film young people felt that this could encourage at least one person to speak out for themselves or for their peers. We will continue to support and promote Mental Health Awareness.”

Watch the film below.

 

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Belfast voices feature on new film and album by older people

Thursday 26th September 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Arts and Older People

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A new album, Voices of Belfast, featuring older people from East and West Belfast has been released on Tunecore and other streaming platforms, including Spotify. Recorded as part of a project led by musicians’ development charity Live Music Now, the eleven tracks were arranged and produced by musicians Peter McCauley and Owen Denvir, who worked with older people at Ballyowen Day Centre and Edgecumbe Assessment & Therapy Unit. A short film features participants at Edgecumbe, and captures the spirit of this unique project.

Over six months, the older participants shared their memories and sang favourites such as Lili Marlene, The Mountains of Mourne, Daisy Daisy, My Aunt Jane and I’ll tell me Ma. The result is a unique set of arrangements, featuring guitar, piano, viola and ukulele, bringing together voices from across the city in a blend of nostalgia and Belfast wit. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust and the Utley Foundation.

Alice Lewis, Director of the Northern Irish branch of Live Music Now, said,

‘This film and album capture not just the actual voices of older people in Belfast, but their sense of humour and sheer joy in remembering and sharing songs. We hear a lot of laughter and jokes as well as some really poignant moments. Pete and Owen have created a beautiful and evocative sound world which sensitively showcases the talent of the participants and captures the spirit of Live Music Now, which is all about making life better through music.’

Many of the participants are living with dementia and expressed how vital music is to help them retain memories and to lift their mood.   There is growing evidence showing the impact of live music on people with dementia: it helps manage symptoms, has a calming effect, promotes social interaction and can reduce the need for medication.

Paula McHugh, Arts in Health Manager for Belfast Trust said

This project is a brilliant example of how people can ‘live well’ with dementia, continue to make a unique creative contribution to society and feel empowered in relation to their own wellbeing. ‘

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council, commented,

"The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support this impressive project which brought professional musicians together with older people to improve their lives through the power of music.  We know that the arts can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as helping to relieve stress, worries and pain. The Arts and Older People’s Programme creates opportunities for our older people to take part in the arts by funding a range of projects across the region. The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people to find a voice and express the issues which affect them on a day-to-day basis, adding to their sense of well-being as-well as promoting positive physical and mental health.”

Live Music Now Northern Ireland: Older people living with dementia from Live Music Now on Vimeo.

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Live classical music for little listeners at The Crescent Arts Centre

Wednesday 25th September 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured at the launch concert are Ciara Burnell and her baby Lucy Burnell-McAleavey, with musicians Kristine Donnan (piano) and Laura McFall (Voice). Image: Pictured at the launch concert are Ciara Burnell and her baby Lucy Burnell-McAleavey, with musicians Kristine Donnan (piano) and Laura McFall (Voice).

Belfast Music Society (BMS), promoter of live classical chamber music, has launched Chamber Cherubs, a new series of live classical music concerts for pre-school children, aged 1-3 years, in partnership with The Crescent Arts Centre, supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Chamber Cherubs follows on from a similar venture, Chamber Babies, established by BMS in 2014, designed to offer the best live classical music to the youngest listeners aged 0-18 months (and their parents too of course!). The new programme was launched at a concert at the Crescent Arts Centre on Friday 20th September featuring soprano, Laura McFall and pianist, Kristine Donnan. 

All Chamber Cherubs concerts are performed by professional classical musicians from Northern Ireland and present selections of short classical pieces that are carefully chosen to be suitable for young children and adults alike.   It’s very informal and children are welcome to walk, dance or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed both to engage and enchant. 

Pam Smith, concerts Manager, Belfast Music Society, said,

“BMS is delighted to be introducing this new series at The Crescent Arts Centre. Chamber Cherubs was conceived in response to the huge interest we have had in our existing Chamber Babies concerts, and these new concerts are based on that popular model – relaxed, accessible performances with top local musicians in a really intimate setting – but with a touch more interaction and fun! Hopefully, we’ll be helping to nurture a life-long love of live music in the children – not forgetting their grownups, of course!”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the Principal Funder of Belfast Music Society and The Crescent Arts Centre, Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

The importance of introducing children to music and the arts at an early age cannot be overestimated.  Belfast Music Society continues to bring the best in classical chamber music and local classical artists to audiences in Belfast and we’re delighted to see the launch of the new Chamber Cherubs series which is sure to be a hit with families everywhere. Get your tickets now!”   

Visit www.belfastmusicsociety.org for details on all upcoming concerts.

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World famous conductor, Paul McCreesh, helps launch Sestina’s Master and Pupil programme

Wednesday 25th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Sestina Singers Image: Sestina Singers

Sestina, the Belfast based early music ensemble, will be joined by their patron and world renowned conductor, Paul McCreesh, later this month for a special performance launching the Master and Pupil Programme for 2020.

Next year Sestina's Easter Mentoring Course in 2020 will feature a programme tracing the artistic influence and legacy of the roles of Master and Pupil following a thread of learning from Jean Mouton (c.1459-1522) to Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and his own assistants. The rehearsal week and concert tour will take place from 13-18th April 2020 across Belfast, Cork and Dublin, funded by Exitex, Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Foyle Foundation.

During the Easter tour, Sestina will record the programme, in an exciting new collaboration with the Resonus Classics label. This will be Sestina's first ever recording, and the first of a planned three discs with Resonus on the "Master and Pupil" theme.

On 26th September, Sestina will launch this new programme with a performance featuring Sestina singers, musicians and Musical Director Mark Chambers. Sestina patron Paul McCreesh, who is founder and Artistic Director of the renowned Gabrieli Consort, will join the evening.

Commenting on the launch, Mark Chambers, Sestina’s Musical Director, said; “

The Master and Pupil idea was born out of the ethos at the centre of Sestina's work, which is learning by collaboration and being exposed to excellence-whether that be players or guest professional singers.  Having taught singing in Ireland for many years, I have always been struck by the natural ear of the singers and musicians here and their ability to pick up subtle details of style and inflection very quickly.”

Master and Pupil follows a trail of composers and their pupils across a time span of 1400-1650 in Italy and Europe, proposing that each "great" composer had to learn from someone above them.  This is exactly how we learn with Sestina and this is now borne out by many of our singers singing as full time professionals, and now, they are set to become the "Masters" for a new generation of Irish singers.

The evening later this month is a perfect way to celebrate our Masters and Pupils and to have Paul McCreesh join us will make for a very special evening indeed,” Mark added.

On 27 September at the Ulster Museum, Sestina will play its autumn concert series Beyond the Veil: Revealing the secret music of Italy and the Concerto delle donne, funded by Exitex and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Sestina sopranos Fiona Flynn, Aisling Kenny and Charlotte Trepess, along with some of Europe’s finest early music instrumental specialists, including Steven Devine on keyboards, Paula Chateauneuf on theorbo/lute and Aileen Henry on harp, will bring rarely heard music of late Renaissance Ferrara to audiences.  The following evening, Sestina will play to audiences in St. Ann's Church, Dawson St., Dublin (28 September). For details of all concerts or how to get involved visit www.sestinamusic.com

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Duncairn welcomes GCSE art students to an exhibition featuring work from the Arts Council Collection

Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L_R) are Dominican College students, Caoimhe Rooney and Mollie Quinn. Image: Pictured (L_R) are Dominican College students, Caoimhe Rooney and Mollie Quinn.

The Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts recently welcomed over 100 GCSE Art & Design students from schools in North Belfast to view an art exhibition featuring works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection, as part of the centre’s Creative Industries Week.

The exhibition has come about thanks to the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme, a free Art Lending Scheme offered to venues, curators, museums and galleries across Britain, Ireland and Europe that are interested in exhibiting works from its rich, contemporary art collection.

The Arts Council’s current collection holds around 500 works by established and emerging visual artists working in, or from, Northern Ireland.  The Loan Scheme provides an opportunity to make the collection available for the public to view and shine a light on the artistic talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland. 

Debbie Young, Outreach and Development Officer, Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts, commented,

“We are absolutely thrilled to have part of the Arts Council Collection on display here.  This is an amazing opportunity to bring the work of artists from Northern Ireland to North Belfast to be enjoyed by the local community.  It has also formed part of our Creative industries Week where we’ve brought ten local secondary schools to the Duncairn to enjoy the exhibition and take part in a series of workshops with local working artists.”

Maeve Mulligan, Head of Art, Dominican College, Fortwilliam, added,

“I’m very passionate about art as an art teacher but also as a person from the local area.  The Duncairn makes it more accessible to us as a school to get involved in art activities.  A lot of our art students here today might not have had the opportunity to visit an art gallery before or meet artists and this exhibition is just great to have in our local area.  This whole experience will undoubtedly enthuse and inspire our young art students, as-well as encourage them to think about a potential career working in the creative industries.”

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Many of the artists represented in the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection have major national and international reputations, such as two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty; Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queens’ portrait in 2016, Ian Cumberland, and Paul Seawright.

“By offering the Collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. Curators can curate their own show or the Arts Council’s expert staff can help compile and theme an exhibition suitable for any space. We can provide works in all media, from painting, sculpture, crafts, print, photography and video through to digital art.”

The Art Lending Scheme is free and is open to organisations, venues and galleries, locally, nationally and internationally and covers loans of single art works up to full exhibitions.  It offers museums and galleries an opportunity to bring a new audience to contemporary works of art and to interpret the Collection material in new ways; potentially becoming a catalyst for education and outreach or bringing other aspects of a theme into play.

The exhibition at the Duncairn Centre continues until Thursday 26th September.  To view the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Collection visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/collection and for more information on the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme email: collection@artscouncil-ni.org

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Arts Council offers residencies for artists to travel to India

Monday 23rd September 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments

Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper travelled to Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi earlier this year as part of the Arts Council’s residency scheme. Image: Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper travelled to Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi earlier this year as part of the Arts Council’s residency scheme.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is offering four residency opportunities for artists to travel to India.

Working in partnership with the British Council, the Arts Council is inviting applications for up to two artists to go to the Sanskriti Foundation residencies in New Delhi and two at the Shruti Foundation Vedaaranya residency in Ramgarh Shekhawati, Rajasthan.

The Sanskriti Foundation in New Delhi has hosted over 600 artists, poets, scholars and writers as-well as 300 craft makers from across the world and is offering two six-week residencies for artists from Northern Ireland.  The Shruti Foundation Vedaaranya residency in Ramgarh Shekhawati, Rajasthan are offering one artist a serene, inspiring, stimulating and enabling environment to work, reflect and interact with other artists for a one month residency. The residencies are part of the Arts Council’s Support for Individual Artists programme.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Arts Council’s role is to invest in artistic excellence and ensure that quality work is presented to the widest possible audience.  These residencies will support the development of our artists as they pursue their creative ambitions, helping them to present new quality work that can be shared on an international platform, inspired by the rich culture of India.”

Closing date for applications is 4pm on Thursday 10th October. For more information visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/indian-residencies

Textile artist Mairead McCormack travelled to the Sanskriti Cultural Centre earlier this year. Read about her experience here

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Musicians Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside arrive in Brussels for Culture Night Showcase

Wednesday 18th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside Image: Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside

Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside will bring the spirit of Culture Night to Brussels on Friday for a special showcase performance, as part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Brussels Platform.

Hosted by the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels, Culture Night will attract an audience of officials from the EU Institutions, across the diplomatic community and beyond. The event will coincide with this weekend’s Culture Night Culture Day celebrations in Belfast, which showcases Northern Ireland’s arts and cultural scene.

On Friday night Brigid O’Neill will perform a selection of songs from her latest album ‘Touchstone' and previous EP release 'Arrivals and Departures’, as well as a number of as yet unrecorded new songs, including one from her 'Heritage in Song' Project , curated in association with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.  While award-winning alternative folk artist Joshua Burnside, who is currently on tour with dates across Ireland, the UK, America and beyond, will share some of his latest music, infused with Latin rhythms and world music.

Speaking about the Brussels Platform, Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the immense talent we have here in Northern Ireland.  Both Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside are wonderful musical ambassadors for the arts here and the Arts Council is delighted to support this weekend’s showcase in Brussels for Culture Night.”

Andrew Elliott, Director of the Northern Ireland Executive office in Brussels said:

"This region produces far more than its fair share of talent and musical brilliance.  We will continue to showcase our home-grown talent on a European stage and to highlight Northern Ireland’s ever growing reputation as a centre of excellence in the arts. I look forward enormously to welcoming Brigid and Joshua to Brussels for Culture Night.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is involved in a range of international platforms including the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and artist residencies in Indian, at Ramgarh Shekawati, Rajasthan and Sanskriti.

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25 years of National Lottery support marked at the Cathedral on Culture Night

Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will present an evening of music and song to mark 25 years of National Lottery funding for the Arts in Northern Ireland, kicking off with Culture Night Belfast celebrations on Friday 20th September.  The stage will be set this Friday at St Anne’s Cathedral for two of Northern Ireland’s most impressive artists, pianist, Ruth McGinley and jazz vocalist, Katharine Timoney, as part of the wider 25th birthday celebrations of National Lottery funding in Northern Ireland later this autumn.  Catch both artists from 8pm following a performance by the Ulster Orchestra.  Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994 more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.

Jazz vocalist, Katharine Timoney, from Holywood, County Down, is a current Young Musicians’ Platform Awardee, a joint initiative of the Arts Council and BBC Northern Ireland, which aims to showcase and support the development of exceptional young musicians.  The award provides individual National Lottery funding awards of £5,000 which enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.

Concert pianist, Ruth McGinley, is a former recipient of the Arts Council ACES (Artist Career Enhancement Scheme) award, a National Lottery funding award worth up to £5,000, bestowed upon outstanding artists to allow them to develop their professional, artistic careers through the creation of new work.  With her ACES award Ruth produced her critically-acclaimed debut album, Reconnections, which tells the story of the artist’s reconnection with the music that resonated with her most over the years, having taken a break from the pressures of life as a concert pianist.

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“Culture Night has firmly established itself as an exciting must-do experience in Belfast and we’re delighted to see it develop across two days this year moving into Saturday 21st September.  As part of the Culture Night celebrations on Friday 20th September, the Arts Council is extremely proud to present two exceptional artists, pianist Ruth McGinley and vocalist, Katharine Timoney, at St Anne’s Cathedral, who have both benefitted from National Lottery support.  Both performances promise an evening of exceptional, mesmerising, world-class music and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland evening of music and song with Katharine Timoney and Ruth McGinley, will take place from 8pm on Friday 20th September at St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast.  Visit www.culturenightbelfast.com

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Micky Donnelly (1952 – 2019)

Monday 16th September 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Micky Donnelly, Lily Among the Hats (1987). Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection (Gifted to National Museums Northern Ireland in 2013) Image: Micky Donnelly, Lily Among the Hats (1987). Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection (Gifted to National Museums Northern Ireland in 2013)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the acclaimed Belfast artist, Micky Donnelly.

Micky Donnelly was born in Belfast in 1952 and educated at the Christian Brothers Grammar School in west Belfast, before going on to study Mathematics and Computer Science at Queen’s University. After a period working as a social worker in west Belfast, he enrolled at the University of Ulster School of Art and Design, receiving a BA (1979) and an MA (1981) in Fine Art.

In the early 1980s Micky Donnelly was heavily involved in the Artists Collective and Queen Street Studios, and was a founder member of Circa magazine of contemporary art. He was exhibiting large-scale paintings and drawings at the Orchard Gallery in Derry City and was one of the first artists to exhibit at the newly-opened Fenderesky Gallery in Belfast. With interest growing from abroad in Northern Ireland’s visual arts, Donnelly was invited to participate in a series of large group exhibitions by Northern Irish artists which toured to England, Germany, USA and Canada.

In 1985 he was awarded an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Scholarship to the British School at Rome, an event which the artist has acknowledged as a turning point in his work. Italian Renaissance art became a major influence on how he used his painting to critique Irish culture and politics. The ‘Belfast Series’ of the early 1990s, with their street references and allusions to Belfast murals, show the influence of Italian fresco painting. By the end of the decade, the deliberate interpretive ambiguity he had always built into his work had developed into the ‘Reflex Series’, based on Rorschach inkblot tests, asking viewers to interpret his work from their own psychological viewpoints. The work would become still more poetic and opaque in the ‘Proposition Series’ of diptychs, which emerged around 2008.

In 1996 Micky Donnelly’s contribution to the arts was acknowledged when he was elected a member of Aosdána, one of the most prestigious positions in Irish arts. He exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is included in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Ulster Museum, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection, and the European Parliament.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Micky Donnelly was a key figure in the development of the contemporary visual arts scene here in the 1980s and 1990s, and one of the major artists responsible for putting Northern Ireland’s visual arts on the international map. The body of work he leaves behind will ensure his lasting place amongst the front rank of Northern Irish painters.”

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Glass artist Andrea Spencer partners with Queen’s University’s Anatomy Department to create new work

Monday 16th September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are Mr Ian K Walsh, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, artist, Andrea Spencer and Joanna Johnston, Arts Council. Image: Pictured (L-R) are Mr Ian K Walsh, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, artist, Andrea Spencer and Joanna Johnston, Arts Council.

Glass artist, Andrea Spencer, was recently supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, through the Artists’ Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) , a fund which enables artists to take that all-important, vital, next step in their artistic careers by developing a new body of work.  Andrea used the award to learn new skills and create a new body of work through her partnership with Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education.

Artist, Andrea Spencer, commented,

“Through the ACES award I was able to develop new glass making skills by going on a casting course at Northlands Creative  and also being able to work with the scientific glass blowers at Queen’s University. Through my partnership with the university’s Anatomy Department I was able to have regular access into the department and to engage with the students whilst they were going through the process of cadaver dissection, which inspired this new body of work.  I also had the opportunity to work closely with medical students and use the arts to enhance their medical practice and education; an endeavor that was very well received by all.”  

Andrea worked alongside Mr Ian K Walsh on the, Human Beings Being Human Project, an initiative established by Queen’s University medical school which explores and fosters the humanistic aspects of medical education and practice. Their work together has been largely based around anatomical pursuits and visual art.  It involves getting groups of interested students together to discuss their interest in the arts and to see how that aligns with their medical practice.  From this students created representative artwork which looked at ECGs (electrocardiogram) of people who have had terminal events; they also considered aspects of medical care, suffering and humanity using artistic methods. 

Mr Ian K Walsh, Clinical Academic Urologist and Senior Lecturer, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, commented,

“There are probably about ten percent of students in any given year, at undergraduate level, that are artistically creative by nature and they feel that they have to give their artistic pursuits up to pursue a career in medicine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s exactly the type of thing that we want to foster and having the established artist, Andrea Spencer here within the department and at the school has been seminal in getting that idea across.  It’s been a very positive move for the medical school.”

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“The Arts Council’s ACES programme supports serious career artists and gives them the ability to be more aspirational in their practice area through working alongside a partner organisation who gives them mentorship support over one year.   Through her partnership with Queen’s University anatomy Department, Andrea was introduced to a completely different approach of scientific glass blowing which she has been able to apply to create a new portfolio of work.  This will enable her to apply to some of the top craft galleries nationally and internationally which will be really beneficial for her future career development.”   

Keep up to date with Andrea Spencer’s work at www.andreaspencerglass.com

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Chinese links with Northern Ireland marked by cultural celebration

Thursday 5th September 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments

Pictured at the programme launch (L-R) Tim Losty, Mme Zhang and Roisin McDonough. Image: Pictured at the programme launch (L-R) Tim Losty, Mme Zhang and Roisin McDonough.

Chinese Consul General Mme Zhang Meifang and Danny Wong, Chairman of the Chinese Welfare Association, have launched the China Cultural Programme, a series of cultural events taking place in Northern Ireland throughout September 2019.

The programme, launched at The Ulster Hall in Belfast with key figures from Northern Ireland government, includes performances by renowned Chinese artists and aims to celebrate and share the best of Chinese culture with people across Northern Ireland. A performance on September 26th by internationally acclaimed Pipa (Chinese Lute) virtuoso Ms. Zhang Hongyan is a highlight of the programme and a significant coup for Northern Ireland as this is Ms. Zhang’s first performance anywhere in the UK.

The cultural events mark several significant anniversaries: The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the UK. It is also the 5th anniversary of the agreement to establish a Chinese Consulate General in Belfast and the 5th anniversary of the NI Bureau office in China. 

Mme Zhang Meifang, Consul General said,

“We have always welcomed the business links between China and Northern Ireland, but today we are looking forward to celebrating our culture together.  Chinese culture is one of the richest and oldest in the world, and these events in September will give many people here a flavour of its depth and diversity.

“I am delighted with the growing relationship between China and Northern Ireland and remain optimistic about the potential to develop our connections further. I appreciate greatly the enthusiasm and the welcome we have received from the people of Northern Ireland and from government officials; the Northern Ireland Civil Service, local government representatives and so many others working in the fields of academia, business and culture. We live in a closely connected world; we are committed to building a shared destiny, one of lasting peace, harmony, mutual development and prosperity.”

David Sterling, Head of the NI Civil Service said:

“This programme is a celebration of how well the links between China and Northern Ireland have developed over the years. But it is also an opportunity to look forward to the future, and see how we can continue to strengthen that relationship.”

“The Chinese community has enriched life here in Northern Ireland, and our regional and local links with China have underlined the spirit of partnership and prosperity that connects us.”

For further information on the China Cultural Gala Programme click here:

The Chinese Consulate Belfast: http://belfast.chineseconsulate.org/eng/
Chinese Consulate webchat account: chinaconsulatebfs@gmail.com
The Chinese Warfare Association:  https://www.cwa-ni.org/about-us

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Northern Ireland Opera presents Die Fledermaus

Monday 2nd September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

L-R May McFettridge, Stephan Loges, Ben McAteer and Maria McGrann Image: L-R May McFettridge, Stephan Loges, Ben McAteer and Maria McGrann

Rehearsals with opera singers from across the world, a chorus of over 40 singers from Northern Ireland and the Ulster Orchestra are underway for the much anticipated Die Fledermaus.

This year is the 145th anniversary of the premiere of Die Fledermaus, having first been performed in Vienna in 1874. Die Fledermaus or The Bat, is the jewel in the crown of the real King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss. The tunes stay with you forever. The humour is wicked. The atmosphere indulgent. It is a farce about men taking liberties, women taking control, and the dangers of dressing up as a bat.

Die Fledermaus tells the story of Falke who wakes up on a bench with a killer hangover. Dressed as a bat.  His 'good friend' Eisenstein thought it would be hilarious to abandon him here after partying the night before, leaving him a long walk of shame.  It’s been a long time coming, but tonight’s the night for Falke to get his revenge at the most glamourous party of the season where there’ll be champagne. What could possibly go wrong?

Northern Ireland Opera’s two most recent productions - Rigoletto at the Grand Opera House and Sweeney Todd at the Lyric Theatre – resulted in sell-out performances and a season that has seen a further staggering 70% rise in their audience numbers. Founded in only 2010, Northern Ireland Opera has won international acclaim and awards for the quality of its work and been seen in the UK, Ireland and internationally.  From its inception, the company was determined to produce strongly imaginative, bold risk-taking work and to broaden the audience for opera in Northern Ireland.  Its new Artistic Director, Walter Sutcliffe, has already seen sold out shows and an increase in audiences of over 400% since his arrival. A graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, London, Walter has directed over 35 critically-acclaimed productions which have been seen in the UK, United States, Germany, Austra, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Estonia, and most recently Chile.

Walter Sutcliffe commented:

“The shows have all been greeted with standing ovations which is a fitting tribute to the quality of the artists on the stage, musicians in the pit and technicians working behind them. Our new operating model has brought in more attendees than ever before, brought us the largest box office since the company began, and has inspired literally thousands of visitors new and old. Thank you to everyone who has helped us take this step.”

On their latest production, Walter commented:

“The Bat, in German Die Fledermaus, is the world’s best and most popular operetta. If you love pure luxurious feel good music there is little more uplifting and indulgent than its incredible array of Viennese waltzes that sparkle even more than the champagne its characters are powered by. And, there’s so much more. It’s a brilliant comedy of male paranoia, bringing out the absurdity of man’s ego mania and obsessions with sexual potency, conquests and status.  In a masterclass of irony, it simultaneously seduces and ridicules us. It may be 145 years old, but its relevance today is probably even clearer than when it was written. Or perhaps it just shows us how little has changed. And if you can’t laugh at yourself then what can you laugh at.”

May McFettridge will be making her operatic debut and will be joined by Northern Irish baritone Ben McAteer (Eisenstein), who trained at the National Opera Studio in London and on the Guildhall School of Music & Drama opera course. He is a former winner of Les Azuriales Opera prize, the Guildhall School's English song prize, NI Opera's inaugural Festival of Voice. Her most recent operatic engagements include the roles of Countess Ceprano Rigoletto, Madame Herz Der Schauspieldirektor , Cunegonde Candide (Opera in the Open), Musetta La Boheme, Zerlina Don Giovanni and Sandman & Dewfairy Hansel and Gretel (OITO). Dresden-born Stephan Loges, who will perform the role of Falke, has given recitals throughout the world, including regular appearances at Wigmore Hall, London as well as Carnegie Hall, New York, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vienna Konzerthaus, Klavierfestival Ruhr, La Monnaie Brussels, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Santiago de Compostela, BBC Radio 3 and the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is immensely proud to be Principal Funder of  Northern Ireland Opera, through National Lottery and public funding.  The company excels at offering vital professional development opportunities for many of our brightest young singers to perform alongside world-class, critically acclaimed talent.  Die Fledermaus is one of the most loved operas and this performance promises an evening full of hilarity and stunning music.  Don’t miss out!”

A key priority of Northern Ireland Opera is to broaden the company’s work in outreach and education through extending the company’s engagements and its reach, lifting the curtain on opera by demystifying it through increased community participation and making the art form more accessible. They’ve provided an unprecedented level of access to stage and orchestral rehearsals to primary schools, post primary schools, young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, young people in care, diversity charities, LGBT charities, health charities, carers, choirs, cross-community groups and homeless shelter user groups. Their most recent dynamic outreach week involving over 40 organisations, proved NI Opera are out to show that opera is for everybody. Northern Ireland Opera will once again be providing open rehearsals to Die Fledermaus and opportunities for over 4000 of our most vulnerable people to see opera free of charge.

Tickets available from www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/die-fledermaus

 

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Luminous Soul celebrates a decade of dance with the ‘MeetShareDance’ festival

Wednesday 28th August 2019 at 8am 0 Comments Dance

Linda Fearon & Andy Paton from disability dance group Luminous Soul celebrate a decade of dance  with a free public performance at Cornmarket on Sat 7 Sept at 1pm. Image: Linda Fearon & Andy Paton from disability dance group Luminous Soul celebrate a decade of dance with a free public performance at Cornmarket on Sat 7 Sept at 1pm.

Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its dance group Luminous Soul by hosting the inclusive dance festival MeetShareDance in Belfast from 5 - 7 September 2019.

Luminous Soul is the only contemporary dance development programme for disabled people in Northern Ireland and features members who have a range of disabilities: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness.

Now in its eighth year, MeetShareDance is an international workshop dance festival which is based around the ideas of inclusivity and exchange.  It aims to raise the profile of integrated dance in artistic and everyday life. The festival has previously taken place in Porto, Madrid, Helsinki, Berlin, Lubjana and Dublin - this will be its first visit to Northern Ireland. 

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive of Open Arts said:

“MeetShareDance embodies the ethos of what Luminous Soul as a disability dance group has been doing for the past 10 years.  We bring people of all abilities together to learn to dance, make new connections and share their talents with each other and the public.

Over a decade of dance, Luminous Soul members have worked with and been trained by some of the most well known inclusive choreographers in the UK and Ireland and some have even gone on to have their own successful careers in professional dance.  We’re really looking forward to celebrating the group’s achievements with dancers from all over Europe at MeetShareDance in Belfast in September.”

During the festival forty amateur and professional dancers from eight countries - Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, UK, Slovenia - will take part in three days of inclusive dance workshops at the Crescent Arts Centre. Participants in MeetShareDance will then showcase their skills to the public with a performance of a newly devised collaborative piece in Cornmarket at 1pm on Saturday 7 September.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to access and engage with the arts.  Congratulations to Open Arts on celebrating ten years of providing high-quality dance development opportunities, for people with disabilities, through the Luminous Soul programme and we look forward to the Meet Share Dance Festival coming to Belfast to mark the occasion this September.”

For further information on Luminous Soul and the MeetShareDance 2019 festival, visit http://openartsni.org/dance/

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Tributes are paid to Belfast actor, Julie Maxwell

Tuesday 27th August 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments

“A wonderful, engaging, instinctual presence”

Tributes have been paid to Julie Maxwell, the Belfast actor who appeared in the BBC Northern Ireland comedy Soft Border Patrol, who died suddenly on Saturday night (24th August).

Julie, a previous winner of the Kenneth Branagh Renaissance Award and an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Individual Artist Award, was a regular on the stage of the Lyric Theatre, appearing in many shows, including Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat, Be My Baby, The Miser, The Crucible, Three Sisters and Ladykillers.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, drama officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“We at the Arts Council are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic news of Julie's passing. On stage Julie was a wonderful, engaging, instinctual presence; off stage she was one of the most generous, warm, funny and unassuming people you could ever meet. Her talents and flair extended beyond acting, receiving an award from the Arts Council for playwriting and assistant directing 'Shirley Valentine' at the Lyric at the time of her passing. Theatre in Northern Ireland is a close knit, familial sector, which survives by the brilliance and dedication of those who work in it. Our sector is devastated by Julie's death and the loss will be felt sorely by all and for a long time to come. Our thoughts are with her husband Rhodri

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Artist, Maurice Orr, tells of life-changing encounter with the Arts

Thursday 22nd August 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Maurice Orr Image: Maurice Orr

Ballymoney-based painter Maurice Orr is an internationally-recognised artist whose paintings are exhibited and included in public and private collections around the world. He is also disabled, with an ‘invisible’ physical impairment, following illness and life-changing surgery. Today Thursday 22 August, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland published a new piece of research into the benefits of funding awards for deaf and disabled artists like Maurice who claims this award for him was life-changing.

In the case study Maurice shares his experiences in a candid interview with author Una Lynch (Sonrisa Solutions) and talks about the benefits of the Individual Disabled/Deaf Artists funding awards (iDA) managed by the University of Atypical. He discusses how his disability affects his day-to-day  life, the support he has received through the iDA Awards in building his career as an artist, and the transformative impact this support has had on improving his sense of health and wellbeing.

In 1994, following surgery, a heavy cocktail of medication and living with constant pain, Maurice could not return to work as a civil servant. All of this left him in a state of emotional anguish, with a lost sense of purpose in life and contemplating suicide.  A life-changing encounter with the arts came in 2002, in the form of an art bursary from the University of Atypical (formerly the Arts & Disability Forum), which he applied for under duress from his wife Jane, and which he now credits as having activated the artistic career that turned his life around. 

He said, “The University of Atypical has been so good to me. I wouldn’t have this career without them, and I try to encourage other people, ‘for goodness sake! Go and talk to people, get out there and do it’.”
The iDA Awards support disabled and deaf artists, writers, performers and musicians with grants of up-to £5,000 towards developing artistic careers. They offer the opportunity to gain new creative experiences through travel and access to professional mentoring.

Maurice identifies these elements as being at the crux of the scheme’s success. He interpreted the iDA award as a sign of other people’s confidence and belief in him, and found it to be hugely empowering. He was able to travel to Canada to develop his landscape painting then went on to become one of only 29 artists with disabilities to be commissioned by the 2012 Olympiad and Paralympic Games -  a highly successful career as a professional artist had begun. The iDA Award had marked the beginning of a major life enhancing experience for him.   Maurice said, “It gave me a second chance I never thought that I’d have”.

Graeme Stevenson, Researcher,  Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Maurice hopes that by sharing his story he will encourage other aspiring disabled and deaf artists to take that first step and contact the University of Atypical and apply for an iDA Award and he’s a great ambassador.

“Funding the University of Atypical and the iDA Awards are two key ways in which the Arts Council is making a clear statement about its determination to improve access to, and participation in, the arts for people with a disability, and about its commitment to fulfilling the statutory obligations in compliance with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998) and Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. These are priorities of the Arts Council’s five year strategy for the development of the arts in Northern Ireland, 2019-2024.

“In fact the Arts Council is very keen to learn more about how people with disabilities feel about the arts. I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to check our draft Disability Action Plan which is currently out for public consultation and tell us what they think.”

The iDA Awards support disabled and deaf artists, writers, performers and musicians with grants of up-to £5,000 towards developing artistic careers. They offer the opportunity to gain new creative experiences through travel and access to professional mentoring.

To find out more about this case study, commissioned by the Arts Council and authored by Dr Una Lynch from Sonrisa Solutions ltd, plus the range of approaches that are currently being taken to promote positive attitudes and encourage greater participation in arts and culture by people with disabilities in Northern Ireland, visit the Arts Council website, www.artscouncil-ni.org

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Ulster Youth Orchestra set to perform showcase concerts in Derry and Belfast this August

Wednesday 21st August 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Ulster Youth Orchestra Image: Ulster Youth Orchestra

Northern Ireland’s award winning and dynamic national youth orchestra set to perform showcase concerts in the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry and the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 23rd and 24th August 2019.

The Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO) is regarded as one of the jewels in the crown of the local arts scene with a reputation for excellence in all its performances. Established in 1993, the Ulster Youth Orchestra continues to flourish as the premier showcase youth orchestra in Northern Ireland. 

Following rigorous competitive auditions, 94 talented young musicians have been selected to attend the annual summer course in preparation for two public concerts in Derry-Londonderry and Belfast.  The young players will be coached by a team of highly experienced professional tutors during the intensive 10-day residential course at Greenmount Agricultural College, Antrim.

This year’s programme begins with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by Weber – a crowd pleasing entertainer which will open the concerts with a punch!

Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra features Irish flautist Eimear McGeown (an alumna of UYO) who has steadily built a reputation as being one of the world's most versatile exponents of both the classical and Irish flute. Liebermann’s Concerto was commissioned by, dedicated to and first performed by UYO Patron Sir James Galway in 1992.

Arguably Tchaikovsky’s greatest work, Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, (Pathétique), concludes the evening with uninhibited expressions of longing which promises to stir the emotion of the hardest of hearts.

The UYO is thrilled to welcome British conductor Rumon Gamba to the podium for the first time. 

Rumon Gamba studied at the Royal Academy of Music winning the Lloyds Bank BBC Young Musicians Conductors Workshop in February 1998 before becoming Associate Conductor to the BBC Philharmonic, a post he held until 2002. Gamba has held the positions of Principal Conductor and Music Director of NorrlandsOperan and Chief Conductor of the Aalborg Symfoniorkester. He was also Chief Conductor and Music Director of Iceland Symphony Orchestra between 2002 and 2010.  As a champion of new music he recorded new works with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and returned to the BBC Proms in 2017 to conduct the Proms Youth Ensemble. The Royal Academy of Music recognised his contribution to music when they made him an Associate in 2002 and in 2017 he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

Public concerts will be given at the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry on Friday 23 August and at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Saturday 24 August.
The Ulster Youth Orchestra is grateful for the substantial funding it receives from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support its work.

Paula Klein, UYO General Manager, says:

“Excitement is building as we prepare for the annual summer residential course and concerts and we can’t wait to get immersed in this fantastic repertoire. We are thrilled to have someone of Rumon Gamba’s expertise and experience to inspire our young musicians to excel and look forward to producing high quality, sparkling performances!”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Congratulations to those talented young musicians who have won a coveted place at the Ulster Youth Orchestra summer residential course.  Working with internationally acclaimed conductors and tutors and performing to live audiences in both Belfast and Derry will develop their skills and confidence as orchestral musicians.  I wish them all success in what promises to be a fantastic experience!”

Tickets available from https://uyo.org.uk/exhibits/

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Job opportunity at the Arts Council

Tuesday 20th August 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Image:

The Arts Council is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland and now has the following temporary vacancy: Part Time Arts Development Officer

Temporary to June 2020 18.5 hours per week
Curatorial E grade  £30,149 to £31,760 per annum pro rata (Aug 17 rate)

The post holder will be responsible for the management of the Arts Council’s Arts Collection and be one of the principal professional advisers on all aspects of the Collection.

 


Closing date for applications is 4.00pm on Friday 30th August 2019.

The Completed application form and monitoring form should be returned in an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL and must be addressed to:

The Human Resources Officer
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
1 The Sidings
Antrim Road
LISBURN
BT28 3AJ

We are an equal opportunities employer and we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons.

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Tourism NI & the Arts Council join forces to launch spectacular arts programme at key tourism sites

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 5pm 0 Comments

Pictured (L-R) launching the programme are John McIlDuff, Dumbworld, Neil Martin, Snow Water, Dara Vallely and Anne Hart , Armagh Rhymers, with Paula McFetridge, Kabosh. Image: Pictured (L-R) launching the programme are John McIlDuff, Dumbworld, Neil Martin, Snow Water, Dara Vallely and Anne Hart , Armagh Rhymers, with Paula McFetridge, Kabosh.

'Embrace The Place', an exciting new partnership between Tourism NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, will animate four key tourism sites across the region by using the arts to tell the stories of that particular area, offering visitors something new and inspiring to enjoy.

Following an investment by Tourism NI of £150,000 and an open call, Dumbworld, Kabosh, The Armagh Pipers and Snow Water, were commissioned to present an original art work that reflects the heritage of some of the Northern Ireland most special locations including, Belfast's Maritime Mile, Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, Navan Fort in Armagh and The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.

Tourism NI Director of Product Development, Rosemarie McHugh, said:  “We have a very vibrant arts sector here. We want this project to enable the best talent to create new innovative content to animate key tourism sites across Northern Ireland. Visitors want to engage with the authenticity of the destination and its people and the best way to get an emotional connection with place is through the arts. This creates memories and gives visitors even more compelling reasons to visit, return and encourage their friends and family to visit. 

“We have had a phenomenal response to this project from the arts sector and were overwhelmed by the quality of entries, given it was a new initiative. We are very excited to have supported the creation of the four projects and look forward to our visitors experiencing them over the coming weeks,” Rosemarie added.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to partner with Tourism NI on this thrilling programme of arts and heritage events to be held at some of Northern Ireland’s most scenic  locations.  There is so much to look forward to and all four projects promise to be wonderful, immersive experiences for the thousands of visitors that will engage with them.”       

The multi award-winning, Dumbworld along with project partner, Titanic Foundation, will present, All The Things We Are, a striking piece of audio-visual contemporary art that uses three shipping containers to reflect the comings and goings of this unique coastal location.  The art work, which is located at the Titanic Slipways, is free to access and marks the beginning of a new multi-purpose art installation that will remain in place for six months, drawing local people and tourists to the Maritime Mile.

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, who also funded the launch project, All The Things We Are, commended all the partners involved, “Embrace The Place is an innovative approach to location inspired art. For us, the initial investment from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Tourism NI was a much-needed catalyst to deliver a project of scale with Dumbworld, which we could never have achieved alone. Through unique collaborations, all the projects have delivered exciting new content, unlocking new partnerships and fresh ways of working.  We are delighted to be involved and look forward to building on this success in the future”.

Theatre company, Kabosh and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, will present, A Bellaghy Tale, across three weekends in September.  A Bellaghy Tale is a theatrical walking tour, beginning at HomePlace and linking key sites throughout the village of Bellaghy that are closely related to the life and works of Seamus Heaney.  Written by Vincent Higgins, the 60 minute experience consists of 6x7 minute long dramas featuring local songs brought to life by Jane Cassidy.   Inspired by the history of each location, these original short plays will give voice to the spirit of each site and how they impacted on the life of Seamus Heaney, ultimately inspiring his life’s work.  The dramas and music will be available to download from the HomePlace and Kabosh websites with the scripts made available in a number of different languages.

On 6-7 September, the Armagh Rhymers and Armagh Pipers Club will present Macha at Navan Fort, a spectacular multi-media performance featuring music by renowned composer, Niall Vallely.  Macha is a unique musical and dramatic celebration of the myths and mysteries of Eamhain Macha, the ancient seat of the rulers of Ulster. Commencing at the Navan Centre, the two evenings includes a dramatic performance by Armagh Rhymers, musicians from Armagh Pipers Club and audio-visual displays together with a promenade to the Fort itself.

Snow Water has created Live at the Folk Park, which takes visitors on a musical journey charting the stories of those who had to leave Ulster over the course of 300 years.  It involves some of Northern Ireland’s finest musicians and singers (including Gareth Dunlop, No Oil Paintings, Jack Warnock, ROE, Eilidh Patterson, Niall Hanna and Maurice Leyden) with Neil Martin as Musical Director and Joe Lindsay as Presenter.  Live performances filmed in locations throughout the Ulster American Folk Park include songs from home and songs written from afar about home; Scottish-influenced fiddle music and piping; Appalachian music; religious songs; fast, lively, energising dance music and slower, reflective pieces.  It will culminate in a new permanent online exhibition, a piece of vinyl, and an innovative app which will be used as a guided tour of the Park and as part of a treasure hunt. 

For tickets and more information on Embrace The Place events visit

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Belfast International Arts Festival 2019 Programme Launched

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Terence Brannigan, Chair Tourism NI, Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council NI, La Dame Blanche, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Richard Wakely, Artistic Director Belfast International Arts Festival, Image: Terence Brannigan, Chair Tourism NI, Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council NI, La Dame Blanche, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Richard Wakely, Artistic Director Belfast International Arts Festival,

The programme for the 57th Belfast International Arts Festival has been launched, with a showcase performance by one of the Festival’s signature artists, Cuban-born Parisian musician, La Dame Blanche, who will perform at the Belfast Empire on Saturday 19th October.  (Real name) Yaite Ramos Rodriguez is the daughter of the Creative Director of the Buena Vista Social Club.  Reflecting the festival’s key themes of internationalism and artistic fusion, La Dame Blanche brought guests at the launch to their feet with her infectious and unique blend of hip-hop, cumbia and reggae.

Festival Artistic Director, Richard Wakely unveiled the programme, which will this year feature over 200 events from the world of music, dance, film, visual arts, literature and theatre.

He revealed that Belfast has been chosen to contribute to two major international cultural celebrations, Japan-UK Season of Culture and FranceDance UK.  He said, “The 2019 Belfast International Arts Festival will open on 15 October with the UK premiere of Median, a contemporary paring of choreography with digital projection and electronic sound from Japanese multi-disciplinary artist Hiroaki Umeda. Think of the most creative music videos by Radiohead and Aphex Twin, meets the stealth and intensity of The Matrix.  Also featuring in the programme will be ASUNA, a wonderful young artist from Tokyo with his quirky, immersive sound installation, 100 Keyboards. It is an honour to have been selected to host some of Japan’s finest artists.”

Richard went on to reveal another major arts first for the city.  He said, “Showcasing the best of international dance for Belfast audiences has always been one of my biggest goals for the Festival.  I am especially pleased to announce that on the weekend of 25th and 26th October, Belfast International Arts Festival will be co-hosting the first ever all-Ireland dance conference, Co-Motion, in partnership with Dance Ireland, Dance Resource Base and Queen’s University Belfast.

“That weekend’s Festival programme will include performances by Shobana Jeyasingh Dance performing an Irish premiere of Staging Schiele (the story of radical Austrian nude artist and self-portraitist, Egon Schiele) before it heads to Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall for its London run; and acclaimed French company (LA)HORDE performing their high energy jumpstyle piece To Da Bone.  This is a captivating, contemporary rebel-call to the social media generation, both in its narrative and in the way that the cast was crowd-sourced from across Europe, through an open audition on the internet.  The work of (LA)HORDE will be recognisable from the multi-million-viewed music video for Christine and the Queens’ track Girlfriend.”

This year’s Embrace FREE public events programme will be headlined by a breathtaking UK and Irish premiere performance by French all-female circus-arts troupe led by Chloe Moglia, called La Spire, which will take place in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October. This is a free, unticketed event, no booking required.

In a typically surprising sidestep for the Festival, Belfast architects Hall McKnight will showcase an immersive large-scale installation at Ulster University for three weeks, which was originally presented at the prestigious Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition.  Entitled Unique Instruments, Expectant Spaces, this critically acclaimed installation looks at the re-imagining of civic spaces – an interesting subject, as the Cathedral Quarter and University undergoes its own landscape re-imagining.

Meanwhile, the eclectic musical offering in this year’s programme will feature two shows in the Grand Opera House by Glen Hansard, which have all but sold-out on pre-release, County Down-born Two Door Cinema Club and Joshua Burnside, 70’s ska favourites, The Selecter and a host of classical performances including NI star pianist Ruth McGinley and violinist Darragh Morgan performing as a duo for the first time; and classical pianist Lucy Parham, joined by Juliet Stevenson and Tim McInnerny, performing Beloved Clara which brings to life the love triangle story between Robert Schumann, his wife Clara and Johannes Brahms.

In the field of theatre, and underscoring the continuing importance of cultural relations across the island, the Festival brings together some of Ireland’s finest, including Dublin-based Fishamble with Pat Kinevane’s searing solo choreography and theatre piece Before, which touchingly combines some of the best-loved songs from musical theatre with a family drama centred around the closing day in Dublin’s iconic Clery’s department store; and an edgy, of-the-moment piece by Chalk it Down Productions, Spliced, a study of mental health and male identity in the uber-masculine sports world of gaelic games.

On the lighter side, Forced Entertainment will bring its mesmerising and Beckett influenced hit play, Real Magic to the MAC; while Northern Ireland’s Big Telly Theatre Company will premiere The Worst Café in the World, a special for the Festival, in a make-believe pop-up café in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.  Here, the diners will become flies on the wall as reality theatre unfolds around them through a histrionic chef, a menu of real-life pathos, comedy and drama, and waiting staff who just, well, wait.  With 8 performances from Wednesday 23 to Sunday 27 October this is chaos not to be missed and diners are advised to book a post-theatre meal elsewhere!

The literary and film sections of the programme are packed with highlights and big names, including author Michael Rosen (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) and Booker longlisted authors Max Porter (Grief is a Thing with Feathers and Lanny) and Kevin Barry (Night Boat to Tangier), along with hotly tipped Kerry Hudson (Lowborn), Emilie Pine (Notes to Self), Meena Kandasamy (Exquisite Cadavers) the Octavia Poetry Collective and a special event on 30 October, the eve of Brexit, featuring journalist and author Gavin Esler talk about his latest book Brexit without the Bullsh*t.  Perfect timing!

Always seen as an important platform to profile some of Northern Ireland’s top artists, this year’s Festival season will close with a tour-de-force UK and Ireland premiere of Lady Magma by Belfast-born choreographer and dancer, Oona Doherty. In partnership with Prime Cut Productions, Oona will come, fresh from Edinburgh Festival, to perform this brand new ode to female strength and new femininity.

Richard Wakely gave heartfelt thanks to Festival supporters and funders, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland, the British Council, the Department for Communities, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, and Belfast City Council, without whose backing the Festival would not be possible.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“This is a programme of art of a truly international quality, carefully curated from around the world, the likes of which we would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.

“This is not just a boon for local audiences, but it raises Northern Ireland’s creative reputation at home and abroad and strengthens opportunities for cultural exchange between international artists and our homegrown talent.

“The Arts Council is very proud to be the principal funder of this strategically and artistically important festival. We support it with Public and National Lottery funds which allow Belfast International Arts Festival to continue to deliver a hugely ambitious and inspiring programme of artistic excellence.”

Visit belfastinternationalartsfestival.com to view the full programme.

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Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for NI by Arts Council and Queen’s

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland Image: Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland

Award-winning writer Kelly McCaughrain has accepted the post as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast.

The Fellowship was created as part of Queen’s University and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's (ACNI) joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies. Kelly follows on from the inaugural Children’s Writing Fellow Myra Zepf, who has held the post for the last two years. Kelly will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s for two years, working with students and engaged in outreach activities.

Speaking about the appointment, Kelly said:

"I feel so honoured to have been invited to be the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland. It’s a wonderful role and I applaud The Seamus Heaney Centre and the Arts Council for creating it. Reading offers so many benefits to children’s development, and therefore to our whole society. Children’s literature is something that should be valued and promoted, and I’m thrilled to see that happening in Northern Ireland.

“We have some truly inspiring organisations, teachers, librarians and writers already working hard to promote children’s literacy and reading for pleasure and I’m really looking forward to working with them and learning from them and I hope that I can use my fellowship to support them.

“This is an opportunity to do something really special and I think it’s going to be an adventure!"

Kelly McCaughrain is a Young Adult writer from Belfast. She studied Creative Writing at Queen’s and mentors young writers at Fighting Words. Her first novel, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, published by Walker Books, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and won the Children's Books Ireland Eilis Dillon Award, Children's Choice Award and Book of the Year Award 2019 and the Northern Ireland Book Award 2019.

Catherine Heaney, daughter of Seamus Heaney, commented:

As the first Children’s Writing Fellow at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Myra Zepf brought incredible energy and enthusiasm to the role, and set the bar in fostering a love of reading and writing among children and teenagers across Northern Ireland. I am delighted with the appointment of Kelly McCaughrain as her successor, and look forward to watching Kelly carry on that vital work over the coming two years.”

Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We look forward to welcoming local writer, Kelly McCaughrain, to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s and working with her over the next two years as the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

“Kelly is a wonderful writer and I know she will inspire many children and young people to take an interest in creative writing and reading more books.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, commented:

“We are delighted to announce Kelly’s appointment today as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland. Working with primary and secondary schools, she will promote reading for pleasure, encouraging children of all ages to discover the joy of books, as well as embarking on their own story-telling adventures.

“We’d like to thank Myra for the incredible work she has done over the last two years, sharing her infectious love of books with hundreds of children across Northern Ireland, through interactive workshops, readings and school visits.”

Kelly McCaughrain will take up her post as the Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland in August 2019.

For more information on the Fellowship and the Fellows’ public programme, please visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/seamus-heaney-centre/people/fellows

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Northern Ireland to shine at Edinburgh International Festival

Tuesday 6th August 2019 at 11am 0 Comments

Pictured (L-R) is actor, James Doran, playwright, Meghan Tyler, actor, Vincent Higgins and dancer, Sam Finnegan. Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information. Image: Pictured (L-R) is actor, James Doran, playwright, Meghan Tyler, actor, Vincent Higgins and dancer, Sam Finnegan. Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council Northern Ireland are supporting three arts organisations from the region to perform at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Kabosh will perform their play, ‘Green and Blue’, written by local writer, Laurence McKeown, PrimeCut Productions and Oona Doherty will perform’ Hard To Be Soft, A Belfast Prayer’ and The Lyric Theatre in partnership with the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, will stage ‘Crocodile Fever’ a play written by Meghan Tyler.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said,

“It’s vital that our artists and arts organisations are given opportunities to show their work to audiences outside of Northern Ireland .  It’s incredibly exciting that hiqh quality work from here is performed at the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.   These festivals are hugely popular and these works will be seen by thousands of people, helping to put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons and opening up the potential for these works to be toured nationally and internationally.”

Kabosh’s ‘Green and Blue’ runs from 2 until 25 August at Summer Hall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

Traverse Theatre/Lyric Theatre’s, ‘Crocodile Fever’ runs from 2-25 August at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and returns to the Lyric Theatre from 3-8 September.

Prime Cut and Oona Doherty’s ‘Hard to be Soft, A Belfast Prayer’ runs from 21-24 August at the Lyceum as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information.

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Return of spectacular seven-screen film WITHOUT

Monday 29th July 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Dance

WITHOUT - Bridge Street Image: WITHOUT - Bridge Street

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company is delighted to announce the return of WITHOUT – the world class seven-screen film installation by Rosemary Lee and Echo Echo that was created for City of Culture 2013.

Without has been described as “a spectacular poem of the city” and “one of the greatest artworks I have ever seen” by audience members in 2013 and the work subsequently toured to Dublin Dance Festival and British Dance Edition in Cardiff to very wide popular and critical acclaim.

Director of Without, Rosemary Lee, is one of the UK’s leading choreographers. Reflecting on the process of making the work in Community Dance Magazine recently she said:

“Without seemed to produce a sense of seeing their city through fresh eyes for some of the general public who came to see it. One lovely piece of feedback from a man in his sixties made me feel that we had done the right thing. He said, ‘Thank you. You’ve helped me see my city through new eyes and see it at peace.’”

Around 500 people were involved in filming Without during April 2013 including cyclists, tea-dancers, skateboarders, dancers, and hundreds of local primary school children. Many thousands of people watched the work being filmed around the city from Bishop Street to the Guildhall, from Ebrington to Creggan.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said:

“I am delighted that this event has been included as part of the Council’s Walls 400 programme that sets out to showcase a wide range of local cultural and arts projects across the city and district. Good luck to everyone involved and I hope it is a huge success.”

Echo Echo’s principal funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, supported the initial creation of Without in 2013. Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to have supported the development of this powerful and moving work in 2013; a project that was hugely engaging for the local community that helped to create it. Following a successful tour in Ireland and the UK, we’re absolutely thrilled to see this special work return to the city where it was created to be enjoyed by many.”

The seven films of Without are shown concurrently, in-the-round, in a specially created installation accompanied by an original sound score by Graeme Miller. Each full cycle lasts 22 minutes and is shown on a continuous loop.

Without will return to the city for a month-long exhibition from Friday 23rd August 2019 at Echo Echo Studios in Magazine Street as part of the Walls400 programme of events. Visit www.echoechodance.com/whatson for opening hours and further information.

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Ulster Youth Choir celebrates its 20th anniversary with a tour to the Provençal Festival, France

Friday 26th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) at rehearsals are Ulster Youth Choir singers,  Anthony Cowan, Victoria Thompson, Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, Aiobh O’Neill and Jonathan Green. Image: Pictured (L-R) at rehearsals are Ulster Youth Choir singers, Anthony Cowan, Victoria Thompson, Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, Aiobh O’Neill and Jonathan Green.

The Provençal Festival will welcome 40 of Northern Ireland’s most talented young singers, in concerts from 2-5 August, as part of the Ulster Youth Choir’s milestone 20th anniversary celebrations.  The tour, which is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, follows a spectacular performance  with 240 singers at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July, featuring current members of  the organisation’s three choirs plus many of their alumni who have gone on to carve out successful singing careers.

The Ulster Youth Choir is the leading youth music provider in quality choral tuition and performance opportunities for the finest young singers in Northern Ireland.   Over the last few years, the organisation has grown to three choirs, supporting young people, aged from 11 up to 24, to access high-quality music making and develop their talents, coached by a team of highly-experienced professional tutors.

Andrew Nunn, Artistic Director, Ulster Youth Choir, commented,

“This summer is a big celebration for Ulster Youth Choir as we mark our 20th anniversary.  All three of our choirs will be gathering together to perform in the magnificent surroundings of the Ulster Hall, alongside 30 of our alumni, which promises to be a very special moment.  Following this we will tour to France for a series of performances at the wonderful, Provençal Festival, an experience that will undoubtedly remain with the young people taking part for a long time.” 

Joanne Wright, Arts Development Officer for Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

“Congratulations to the Ulster Youth Choir on achieving 20 years as the foremost youth music provider in the training, development, and showcasing of our finest young singers in Northern Ireland.  The Arts Council is proud to be principal funder of this important organisation and is also delighted to have been able to support this tour to France to mark this special 20-year milestone.  I would encourage everyone to go along to their performance in the Ulster Hall which promises to be an evening of tremendous music.”

The 20th anniversary concert, conducted by Ulster Youth Choir’s Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, takes place at the Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July at 7:30pm.  Visit www.ulsterhall.co.uk/what-s-on/all-events/ulster-youth-choir for tickets.

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Celebrate Northern Ireland’s Local Creative Talent with August Craft Month 2019

Friday 19th July 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Craft , Visual Arts

Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again Image: Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again

Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again. Showcasing the growing number of exceptional creative talent on its doorstep, August Craft Month will shine a spotlight on our renowned regional craft known across the globe and the new hidden gems making waves in the local craft world.

With internationally-recognised makers, craft start-ups and increasingly popular hands-on craft activities, the vibrant craft sector is continually thriving in NI. August Craft Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the local talented artists, designers and makers across NI, each with their own personal story behind their unique craft.

There will be over 100 hands-on and intimate events this August including workshops, exhibitions featuring world-class Craft makers, fun festivals and insightful talks. The August Craft Month event listings guide and online calendar are the perfect way for people to find out what’s on, plan their travel and embark upon their own creative adventures.

The eclectic collection of ceramists, textile makers, glassblowers, jewellery makers and more includes a mix of August Craft Month favourites and new creative faces. Each have been selling their bespoke wares online, from home and in stores, and are now bringing their products to life for the people of NI to experience. With the fantastic opportunity to interact with, and become immersed in, local craft talent, August Craft Month can be found across all pockets of NI.

This year, there will also be a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing, demonstrating how craft can be a positive impact and open up meaningful conversations.

Katherine McDonald, Director, CRAFT NI said,

“We are delighted to be coordinating August Craft Month for another year. Celebrating its 13th year, the events are always an incredible opportunity to highlight the remarkable quality of craft across Northern Ireland. We would encourage visitors to engage with our makers, to enjoy the experiences and to learn more from some of our top talent, immersing yourself in the world of craft.”

August Craft Month is coordinated by CRAFT NI on behalf of the Craft Sector and is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the National Lottery.

Patricia Lavery, Arts Development Officer, Visual Arts, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“August Craft Month is back with another impressive programme across Northern Ireland. It is the ideal time for people to explore the world of craft as never before, with something new for everyone. The Arts Council is delighted to support this wonderful celebration of craft, which offers an important platform to showcase the talent of our local craft makers, bringing great art and craft to all.”
August Craft Month provides a platform for makers and the public to create, share and meet, and the immersive nature of a wide range of events ensures that it offers such variety to suit a multitude of interests, from children to craft fans alike.

Each event showcases the excellence and diversity of craft in NI. The month-long programme provides a fantastic opportunity for everyone to make, see, learn about and buy craft. Highlights of August Craft Month 2019 include:

  • Yarnfolk Festival of Wool returns to Whitehead for its third year, with artisan textiles, craft, workshops, demos and food market features in the village. Bring the whole family aboard a heritage steam train ride and enjoy a fantastic yarn and fibre-filled day.
  • Adam Frew will be opening his ceramics studio to visitors, including a four-day pottery course. Participants will work entirely in porcelain, throwing and turning pots. They will also benefit from Adam's unique and expressive approach to decoration through insightful demos.
  • Field is the annual group exhibition of contemporary craft and fine art curated by Sharon Adams and inspired by the local landscape. Works include glass, textiles, painting, sculpture and prints sitting among the old byre’s original agricultural features.
  • Benefield Spencer Glass is performing glassblowing demonstrations at its studio, with the opportunity to purchase beautiful, unique handblown glass.
  • Collectives of Craft makers are springing up and thriving across the land.  North Down Craft Collective present a special August Craft Month Market and pop-up café.  Members have been working in pairs over the last few months designing and making collaborative pieces.   South Down Craft Collective is celebrating its first birthday during August Craft Month. Browse through the unique, handmade products from a great line up of Craft makers and food producers at the Craft Market. There will be live food and craft demonstrations and you can also enjoy a delicious snack and a cuppa in the pop-up café.
  • Ceramicist Anna Smyth’s The Dinner Party installation focuses on aspects of contemporary living, exploring issues through hand thrown, porcelain plates as metaphors for the diners. Contributions by photographer Nathanael Smyth and silversmith Joel Smyth add to the setting.

For more information on the events across Northern Ireland, visit www.craftni.org/augustcraftmonth and share your own craft stories with #augcraft #craftni

To find out more about craft all year round visit www.craftni.org where you can subscribe for news, browse the Directory, an online listing of local Craft makers, or click on the interactive Craft Map that includes details of shops, galleries, venues and makers’ studios across Northern Ireland that are open to the public.

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1,700 young, aspiring performers take to the stage at Belfast’s Grand Opera House

Thursday 11th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama

Pictured at rehearsals (L-R) are Nathan Johnston, Lara Mulgrew, Louis Fitzpatrick and Ian Wilson, Grand Opera House. Image: Pictured at rehearsals (L-R) are Nathan Johnston, Lara Mulgrew, Louis Fitzpatrick and Ian Wilson, Grand Opera House.

Over 1,700 young people have taken part in the Grand Opera House’s Summer Youth Project since it began in 2011.  This summer, for the first time, the Grand Opera House will present not one but two large-scale productions – Bugsy Malone, starring 150 local 10-18 year olds, and Miss Saigon® School Edition, with a cast of 80 talented young people aged 16-18, supported by Phoenix Natural Gas and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Now in its ninth year, the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Production gives young aspiring singers, actors, and dancers the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people on the iconic Grand Opera House stage, following in the footsteps of stars including Laurel and Hardy, Luciano Pavarotti and Darcey Bussell.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to supporting opportunities for our young people to access and participate in high quality arts.  The Grand Opera House excels at offering such opportunities through their impressive, Summer Youth Programme and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy what promises to be two terrific performances.”  

Michael McKinstry, Phoenix Natural Gas, Chief Executive Officer said,

“We are delighted to partner with the Grand Opera House on the Summer Youth Productions and give young people from across Northern Ireland a valuable opportunity to develop their skills and take centre stage in a professional production.

“Last year more than 200 aspiring actors and young people got their break into the creative industry through the Summer Production programme and we’re proud to play our part in helping them access a platform where they can learn, perform and showcase their potential.”

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House, added,

“Everyone at the Grand Opera House is extremely proud of the Summer Youth Productions. These shows give young people invaluable opportunities to work with a professional creative team and our vastly experienced technical crew, making new friends and having great fun at the same time.

“I am delighted that Phoenix Natural Gas is supporting the Summer Youth Productions once again this year. We look forward to staging the biggest and most ambitious productions ever in July and August.”

Catch the shows, Miss Saigon® School Edition, from 18-21 July, and Bugsy Malone, from 1-3 August.  For tickets visit www.goh.co.uk

 

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Arts Council awards almost £1.2million of National Lottery funding to local projects

Thursday 4th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Community Arts , Craft , Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Youth Arts

OBon on the Foyle have been awarded £25,000 under the latest round of Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: OBon on the Foyle have been awarded £25,000 under the latest round of Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Forty-seven (47) arts organisations across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from almost £1.2million of Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, to bring a series of high-quality arts projects to people across the region.

The funding will be used by groups to support the development and creation of events, exhibitions, performances and workshops across all areas of the arts, including community arts, literature, visual arts, music and theatre.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, stated,

“I am delighted to announce we are awarding almost £1.2million of National Lottery funding to arts projects that will bring a high-quality, diverse programme  of activities to communities across Northern Ireland. National Lottery funding helps make extraordinary things happen and touches the lives of many individuals, families and communities; capturing the imagination of Northern Ireland through great arts activities.

Indeed with the National Lottery approaching its 25th birthday in November 2019, we can look back on an amazing arts legacy here in Northern Ireland. We have seen many fabulous projects come to fruition, for example, the Building Peace through the Arts Programme, replaced signs of sectarianism and racism with innovative public art, through to the successful capital programme that built arts centres and theatres at the heart of towns and cities across NI, as cultural anchors for regeneration and creativity.”

Over the last 25 years, National Lottery funding has contributed vastly to the socio-economic and cultural growth of Northern Ireland.  It is a vital source of funding that allows the Arts Council to support organisations that are bringing quality arts events and programming to all.

The relative decline in National Lottery funding over recent years has meant that, consequently, the demand for the annual National Lottery Project Fund exceeded the available resources – the Arts Council was simply unable to fund all eligible work.

This year the Arts Council received 61 applications requesting over £2.25M and unfortunately not all applicants could be funded.  Among the 47 successful applicants offered National Lottery Project Funding in 2018-19 were:

  • R-Space Gallery in Lisburn has been awarded £47,000 to support their annual visual arts programme and accessible learning activities.It will also support major commissions of artwork including a light installation by local artist, Robin Price, as part of the wider Festival of Light in Lisburn city this autumn-winter.
  • Obon On The Foyle has been awarded £25,000 to support an outreach programme of workshops in taiko drumming, manga art and Japanese dance in Derry, Claudy, Whitehead, Carrickfergus plus a collaboration project to bring internationally renowned taiko artist, Shogo Yoshii, and his performance group from Tokyo to Derry to work with local musicians and perform at the Obon On The Foyle festival.
  • The internationally acclaimed, Armagh Pipers, has been awarded £46,500 to support the 53rd year of their annual education & tuition programme.The Armagh Pipers play a core role in the traditional arts sector in Northern Ireland; promoting access to high quality music tuition, year round audience building and connecting the local piping fraternity with international musical networks of the highest calibre.
  • The 174 Trust, which manages the Duncairn Arts Centre in north Belfast, received £ 50,000 to support their annual programme of events and workshops plus a salaried post.The venue has delivered a high level of artistic growth since opening in 2014 and has firmly established itself as one of the most popular and successful arts centres in Belfast.

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JLF Belfast, a spectacular weekend celebrating literature, Indian culture and creativity

Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 7am 0 Comments Literature

Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival Image: Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival

The inaugural JLF Belfast, an international celebration of literature, creativity and music, brought together a wealth of distinguished speakers and cultural thinkers from across the world to packed audiences at the Lyric Theatre and Seamus Heaney HomePlace on 21-23 June.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast brought a true spirit of the original Jaipur Literature Festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth, to Northern Ireland. Across the weekend audiences enjoyed 16 events including readings, fascinating  panel discussions and stimulating debates with acclaimed writers discussing themes of Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Artificial Intelligence.

Throughout the weekend audiences heard from some of the most inspiring, trailblazing authors and cultural commentators of our time from the UK, Ireland, India and beyond. 

Highlights included; special guest, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, distinguished granddaughter of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, who gave an emotive and uplifting speech at Seamus Heaney Homeplace on Sunday where she spoke of her pilgrimage to “ the soil of south Derry which nourished Seamus Heaney”.  Tara emphasized the importance of non-violence and friendship on her visit to Northern Ireland urging young people here to look into their minds and “not to be nourished by hate”.

At the Lyric Theatre on Saturday, writer and historian, William Dalrymple, together with Navtej Sarna, discussed the intriguing story of the Kohinoor, the world’s most infamous diamond.  Mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy, explored creativity alongside advances in artificial intelligence and what this means for the future whilst celebrity chef and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Asma Khan discussed her experiences of cooking, community and life.

The iconic and charismatic, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, joined Bee Rowlatt in discussing her life as a transgender rights activist and Brian Keenan talked about his experience of the trauma of incarceration and the will to survive. 

Cameroon-born writer, Eric Ngalle Charles joined Sudeep Sen, Francis Jones  and Ruth Padel to read their own work and also their most-loved poem by Seamus Heaney and Namita Gokhale joined Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu to discuss, myth, memory and culture.

Irish-American author, Michael Patrick MacDonald, discussed writing about conflict with fellow authors Malachi O’Doherty, Navdeep Suri and Glenn Patterson whilst Lucy Caldwell, discussed foremothers: women and freedom with Bee Rowlatt , Namita Gokhale and Vayu Naidu.      

Throughout the weekend, Indian and Irish musical traditions came together with musical performances from local Irish traditional musicians Jason O’Rourke and young people from the Glengormley School of Traditional Music, and Indian musicians, Harpreet and Vidya Shah, accompanied by Polish sitar player, Daniel Pers.  

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland,

“The Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest festival of its kind and focuses firmly on topics that are both contemporary and also reflect the concerns that our society has.  We were thrilled to present the inaugural JLF Belfast with our partners, British Council and Teamwork Arts, an enriching manifestation of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in Northern Ireland.  The weekend brought together unbelievably brilliant speakers and people that are eminent in their field to be enjoyed by audiences from here and beyond.  We very much look ahead with anticipation to next year’s JLF Belfast.”

Sanjoy Roy, Director, TeamWork Arts, added,

“JLF Belfast is all about looking at shared experiences between different cultures, celebrating our common factors but also understanding the differences, and actually examining them both from a local, national and international perspective.  This weekend has been a tremendous success we very much look forward to presenting JLF Belfast in 2020.” 

Asma Khan, chef and restauranteur, commented,

“There is a place in India where two rivers meet and JLF Belfast reminds me of that; of cultures meeting and merging together.  All cultures have turned up this weekend to enjoy JLF Belfast and there’s a real sense of joy and of a new beginning of an exciting journey.”

JLF Belfast will return in 2020, keep up to date at www.artscouncil-ni.org and www.jlflitfest.org

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Celebrating creativity and diversity at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival

Tuesday 25th June 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Circus & Carnival Arts , Comedy , Craft , Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Keith Lynch, Noel Harron, Gary Crossan from Baby Daddy and Katie Richardson from 80s Prom themed event The Beautiful Ones. Image: Keith Lynch, Noel Harron, Gary Crossan from Baby Daddy and Katie Richardson from 80s Prom themed event The Beautiful Ones.

From the 1st-11th August places and spaces across east Belfast will transform into hubs of creativity and diversity for the annual EastSide Arts Festival. Supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland, this year’s  exciting programme is filled with glorious new experiences, amazing and inspiring activities which are open for everyone to enjoy.

With so much to do across music, comedy, film, theatre, talks, workshops, exhibitions, literature, events for the young and old, community events and heritage tours over the 11 days, here’s 11 ideas to capture your imagination:

1. The Big Top at C.S. Lewis Square is back. There’s cool stuff for families with The Irish Video Game Orchestra, Bollywood Baba and Pink and Blue. Music from Kitt Phillipa and Beauty Sleep, a day celebrating 50 years since The Pound opened in Belfast, culminating with a performance by Henry Cluney and Jim Reilly’s X-Stiff Little Fingers; circus cabaret with Tumble Circus and to finish the festival in style, a Dragtastic Wrap Party.

2. Visual Arts: Enjoy late night art events with ArtisAnn Gallery, The Vault and Creative Exchange or call into the fantastic new QSS Studios in the Wyse Byse building for their members’ exhibition.

3. Film: Classic films at  Strand Arts Centre include the 60th anniversary screening of Some Like It Hot and Sunday brunch and screening of When Harry Met Sally.

4. Tower Street Faculty Takeover: For one day only join Seedhead Arts as they take over the old Tower Street Campus and go back to school, but not as you know it – this school curriculum includes beginners’ axe throwing, ballroom dancing and a cocktail masterclass.

5. Workshops: If you are into all things dance check out Project Dance’s weekend of dance featuring leading names from the dance industry, or if creative writing takes your fancy, discover the history of the area and join east Belfast author Heather Richardson for her workshop, ’Stories of the Streets.’

6. Talks & Tours: From Van Morrison to George Best,  Yardmen to Gaelic Tours, Titanic Belfast to Belfast During the Blitz, Gourmet Greenway Foraging  to discovering the stories of people from the past in Dundonald Cemetery, there are dozens of tours to choose from.

7. Children and Families: Travel to Narnia with Mr Tumnus and Translink, listen to three beardy men play music just for babies in ‘Baby Daddy’, meet books and bears at Connswater Shopping Centre, join in all things creative at the FunKademy or check out Drag Queen Story Time at Holywood Arches Library.

6. Special Events include a tea dance at Knocknagoney Community Centre, a literary knittery with Emily DeDakis and Yoga in the Park with East Belfast Yoga and Vault Artist Studios.

9. Theatre and Comedy:  Enjoy A night in November, the award-winning play by east Belfast’s Marie Jones at Strand Arts Centre, a new play by Daniel Kelly about living with Dementia, A Thought for Your Pennies, back by popular demand the cult classic Murder She Got Wrote Off or take a sneak preview of a brand new play, Living the Dream, based on a true story featuring the ‘spirit’ of George Best and John Lennon.

10. Music and Words: Take you pick from an 80’s Prom with live band at The Vault, live music by The Ronnie Greer Almost Big Band with special guests Alice McCullough and Ken Haddock, Hex Hue at St. Martin’s Church, Boxcar Blues Brothers, Matt McGinn, poetry with Colin Dardis, storytelling with Tenx9 and ‘Reporting the Troubles’ with Deric Henderson and Ivan Little.

11. EastSide Festival Fayre and Parkfest: Enjoy A World of Rhythms with ArtsEkta, street dancing with JamzNI and an event showcasing new DJs with More Volume. Two days and two parks -  enjoy free family fun at C.S Lewis Square and Orangefield Park as part of EastSide Parkfest and look out for the live sessions stage featuring young talent from the annual Forestside singer/ songwriter competition at Orangefield Park.

Roisin McDonough, Chief  Executive of Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:

“It’s always a pleasure to welcome the annual EastSide Arts Festival with its packed programme of inspiring and entertaining arts and cultural  events for everyone to enjoy. The Arts Council, as a principal funder, is delighted to be able to support the EastSide Arts in their continued success as they go about delivering their vision for the creative transformation of east Belfast.”

Director of the EastSide Arts Festival, Rachel Kennedy:

“This year’s festival programme reflects and celebrates the growing diversity and creative that is making its presence felt in this part of the city.  It is with huge thanks to the support of Arts Council of Northern Ireland as well as all our funders and sponsors that we can continue to deliver our annual festival. The people and places of east Belfast provided the inspiration for our amazing 11 days of events. We warmly welcome everyone to come and join us and enjoy this year’s unique and exciting programme.”

For the full festival programme visit www.eastsidearts.net and follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ESAFest19.

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Gandhi’s granddaughter to open JLF Belfast’s celebratory weekend of literature and creativity

Friday 21st June 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured are Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Namita Gokhale, writer, publisher and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Art, Reba Som, historian and author, David Torrens, No Alibis Bookstore Image: Pictured are Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Namita Gokhale, writer, publisher and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Art, Reba Som, historian and author, David Torrens, No Alibis Bookstore

Distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, who has devoted her life to working for public welfare, will open the two-day literature festival, JLF Belfast, at a launch event on Friday 21st June at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office.

Key JLF Belfast highlights

  • JLF Belfast 2019 takes place on Saturday 22 June 2019 at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and Sunday 23 June 2019 at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy
  • This inaugural edition of JLF Belfast includes 16 sessions across 2 days featuring themes of Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence
  • Distinguished speakers include William Dalrymple, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, Brian Keenan, star chef and writer, Asma Khan and Patrick Gale, among others

BELFAST, Friday 21 June 2019 – The spirit of the magnificent Jaipur Literature Festival in India comes to Northern Ireland for the first time this weekend, 21-23 June, with a packed programme of events at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.  Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producer, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will embody the true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on Earth.

JLF Belfast will welcome eminent authors and thinkers from India, Northern Ireland and across the globe to showcase India and South Asia’s literary heritage, multilingualism, oral traditions, performing arts, books, food and ideas in a packed weekend of readings, panel discussions and debates. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.  There will also be a pop-up shop hosted by No Alibis Bookstore where people can get their books signed by the authors in attendance. 

Namita Gokhale, Writer and Co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival in India has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast, are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome JLF Belfast to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, this weekend. This new, two-day arts event will celebrate our links with India and our shared love of conversation, literature and debate.”

“This tremendous festival will be a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts and will deepen our partnership with key Indian cultural institutions. We are delighted to welcome international writers and audiences to the festival this weekend and share our famous Northern Ireland hospitality.”

Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, commented:

“British Council is honoured to be working with our colleagues at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Teamwork Arts, the producer of the  Jaipur Literature Festival to deepen the existing literature connections that we have with India, to welcome authors from India to Northern Ireland and share Indian writing and publishing with our audiences at the inaugural JLF Belfast.”

“Building inbound and outbound exchanges and opportunities between Northern Ireland and other countries including India is a key focus of the British Council’s work and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival in India is already a key platform for Northern Ireland writers working internationally.” 

Maeve Walls, Director of Culture, Department for Communities, said,

“I am delighted to see JLF come to Northern Ireland. It presents a wonderful opportunity to further strengthen international relations whilst celebrating the richness and diversity of our literature and the wider creative arts sector. Congratulations to all involved in bringing this special event to Belfast.”

Among those taking part this weekend are:

Asma Khan: Celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of the charity, Second Daughter’s Fund, and star of Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: Distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director.

Marcus Du Sautoy: Author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: Fierce activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognise the third gender.

The above join a list of distinguished speakers including:  Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell. 

View the full programme of events http://artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/news-documents/JLFBelfast2019-FullProgramme.pdf

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Newtownards couple win trip of a lifetime to India in celebration of the Jaipur Literature Festival

Saturday 15th June 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is winner Jacqueline Dickson with her husband Billy Dickson and Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (middle). Image: Pictured is winner Jacqueline Dickson with her husband Billy Dickson and Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (middle).

Jacqueline and Billy Dickson, from Newtownards, have won a trip to the Jaipur Literature Festival in India this January 2020, in celebration of the festival’s first visit to Northern Ireland on 22-23 June, with a packed weekend of events planned for the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will bring a true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth.

Commenting on the win Jacqueline Dickson said,

“India is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and it’s coming up to our 30th wedding anniversary so to win this prize is absolutely amazing.”
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, “I can’t imagine a better prize, a week in India, in palatial surroundings, at the biggest literature festival on earth; that’s just about as good as it gets!”

The two-day festival in Belfast and Bellaghy will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland and the UK, gathered to share each other’s stories in a celebration of books, poems, creativity, ideas, food and music. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.

Among those confirmed for the exciting weekend are: 

Asma Khan: celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of charity Second Daughter’s Fund and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Festival Co-Ordinator of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Marcus Du Sautoy: author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: outspoken activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognize the third gender.

Other distinguished speakers at the festival include Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell.

View the full programme of events at http://artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/news-documents/JLFBelfast2019-FullProgramme.pdf and visit www.lyrictheatre.com or www.seamusheaneyhome.com for tickets.

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Preparations underway for JLF Belfast

Monday 10th June 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland Image: Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, at the Lyric Theatre, where preparations are underway for the JLF Belfast.

JLF Belfast will recreate the magnificent spirit, colour, energy and atmosphere of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in India, with a packed weekend of events celebrating books, creativity, ideas and culture.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival's producers Teamwork Arts, events will take place on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd, at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

Among those already confirmed for the two day line-up are: Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, who has devoted her work to continuing the work of her grandfather Mahatma Gandhi; esteemed writers William Dalrymple and Patrick Gale; award-winning poet Ruth Padel; transgender rights activist, actor and dancer, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Asma Khan, one of the UK’s most prominent female chefs and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Visit www.jlflitfest.org/belfast for details.

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The only month-long festival in Ireland is open for business

Friday 7th June 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Comedy , Drama , Film & TV , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Launching the programme for the 7th Open House Festival in Bangor Image: Launching the programme for the 7th Open House Festival in Bangor

King of the chat show sofa, Sir Michael Parkinson, leading forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes, and BBC Radio 6 Music’s poet-in-residence Murray Lachlan Young are among the multitude of artists and performers joining The Specials, Villagers and The Staves at this year’s Open House Festival Bangor in August.

The 2019 programme for the only month-long festival in Ireland, which was launched today, features 163 events in 46 venues over the 31 days of August, with over 600 performers, participants and producers taking part. 

This will be the 7th annual Bangor Festival, which has more than tripled in size since 2013 and continues to re-establish Bangor as a thriving seaside town. It has become known for combining headline national and international artists with local musicians, writers, chefs and other creatives, and for curating bespoke events such as Folk on a Boat, Island Picnic and the Bangor Rocks Musical Bus Tour – a 90-minute trip that takes in the birth places and stomping grounds of some of Bangor’s most famous musical offspring, including Snow Patrol, Foy Vance and Two Door Cinema Club.

Northern Irish participants this year include three Bangor playwrights, including Carol Moore who is one of this year’s Arts Council Major Individual Artist recipients, DJs Bobby Analog and Mark Blair, Ronnie Greer with his Blues Band, and author and former Newcastle United player, author Paul Ferris. Another event with a Bangor connection concerns internationally acclaimed artist and video maker Charlie Whisker who was born in the town. His former partner, Dublin author Julia Kelly, will be talking about her book, Matchstick Man, which details Charlie’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“As well as being our biggest, this year’s festival is probably our most eclectic yet,” said Festival Director, Kieran Gilmore. “Aside from welcoming such household names as Sir Michael Parkinson and Alan Johnson, and ska legends The Specials, it is a true celebration of Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and particularly embraces Bangor’s vibrant creative scene. Alongside multiple music, literary and theatre events we have Irish whiskey tastings, lots of quirky food events showcasing local produce, a local brewery Taproom takeover and tasting events in Donaghadee’s brand new Copeland Distillery.”

Around 45,000 people are expected to visit the festival throughout August. Tickets start at just £5 and more than one third of the 163 events are free.

Stephen Reid, Chief Executive, Ards and North Down Borough Council, said:

“If you thought last year’s Open House Festival was good, this year is going to be even better! Since the first Open House Festival in 2013, it has continued to grow year on year, bringing an exciting mix of international artists, home-grown talent and household names to our Borough. Local businesses, visitor attractions and accommodation providers all reap the benefits. Last year’s Open House Festival injected an estimated £2.1m into our local economy – a figure that I’m confident will grow even larger in 2019. I hope all of our residents and visitors to the Borough enjoy the many events on offer and to all those involved, I’d like to wish you a splendid seventh Festival!”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Open House Festival, now in its 7th year, has firmly established itself as an annual summer highlight in Bangor attracting high-quality, world-class international acts and visitors to the town. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific festival which demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities closer together as well as being a tool for economic regeneration.”

Tourism NI’s Chairman Terence Brannigan said:

“Tourism NI is pleased to support the Open House Festival as it enters its seventh year. August will bring a whole month of music, theatre, comedy, film and more to Bangor, with headline performances from an eclectic range of local and international acts. Over 160 events are lined up across the 40 venues, drawing thousands of local and international visitors to North Down for this home-grown festival which works with local businesses to provide a distinctive Northern Ireland experience. Events such as the Open House Festival are valuable in generating significant economic benefit and helping to boost the profile of tourism in Northern Ireland. My best wishes for another successful year go to the organising team, their sponsors and all the participants and attendees.”

For full details of the 2019 programme, go to: www.openhousefestival.com

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UK and Ireland first as interactive Jump Trump installation opens in Belfast

Thursday 6th June 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Image © Erik Kessels, Unseen Amsterdam, 2017 Image: Image © Erik Kessels, Unseen Amsterdam, 2017

Jump Trump, the interactive visual art installation by Dutch artists Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender, has gone on display for the first time in the UK and Ireland as part of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival.

It coincides with the US President’s arrival in Ireland following an official UK state visit.

The photography festival, which presents some of the finest national and international contemporary photography, runs from Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 June.

Under the theme of “Truth and Lies”, the festival will look at how photography can be used to influence opinion; from carefully choreographed photoshoots to image manipulation and misrepresentation.

The festival’s Director, Michael Weir, said: “Belfast Photo Festival works to make visual art engaging and interactive, so when we discovered the work by Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender it was a very strong fit with our organisational aim to make visual art engaging, but also with the theme of this year’s festival.

He continued: “The fake news phenomenon is something many people closely associate with Donald Trump, both as a perpetrator and an individual who has made accusations about being subjected to it.”

Exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery, the Jump Trump installation sees the gallery space dominated by a one-metre deep inflated crash mat emblazoned with an image of the 45th President of the United States.

Complete with a raised platform for daring visitors to jump onto the mat, it challenges audiences to get up close to the politician and express their feelings toward the influential and often controversial figure. It was produced by the artists for Unseen Amsterdam and premiered at the festival in 2017.

Michael continued: “It is an installation that challenges audiences. The jump, whether one chooses to make the leap or not, is based on that person’s own interpretation of the piece.

“There will be visitors who choose to jump and those who won’t, but that’s a very important part of the story of this installation. It reflects how the man and his politics can be divisive and how those views, both for and against, are played out in people’s decision whether or not to engage with the artwork.”

He added: “It’s important for visual art to encourage debate and contribute to the dialogue around wider issues. Visual art can challenge audiences in ways other artforms can’t.”

Jump Trump forms part of a larger exhibition, Do Governments Lie?, at the gallery. Other works include Philippe Chancel’s Kim Happiness, a series of photographs taken in North Korea exploring the management of happiness by the country’s government, and Marc Lee’s video installation which trawls social media in real time and seamlessly weaves tweets, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads by political parties and their election candidates into a dystopian live television show.

Jump Trump is at the Golden Thread Gallery until Saturday, June 29. The accompanying exhibitions by Philippe Chancel and Marc Lee will remain on display until Saturday, July 27.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up-to-date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Stage is set for 13th Belfast Mela Festival at Botanic Gardens

Wednesday 5th June 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Dance , Northern Ireland Music

Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with hosts U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens. Image: Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with hosts U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens.

Northern Ireland’s largest celebration of cultural diversity, the Belfast Mela returns to Botanic Gardens on Sunday 25th August from 12 noon until 6pm for its biggest festival ever with principal sponsor Sensata Technologies.

Pictured as the Belfast Mela website goes live online for tickets are:  Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with U105’s Carolyn Stewart, UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive  Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens.

Organised by ArtsEkta, one of Belfast’s leading arts and cultural organisations, this year’s Belfast Mela is set to provide a wonderful family day out to celebrate increasing cultural diversity with music, dance, food and much more from around the world. UTV’s Paul Reilly and U105’s Carolyn Stewart will host the Belfast Mela on stage with UTV’s Julian Simmons taking charge in Mela’s cookery theatre where local chefs and producers will give cookery demonstrations with global flavours.

Nisha Tandon, Executive Director, ArtsEkta says:

“This is the 13th year of the Belfast Mela and each year the festival continues to go from strength to strength. Once again we will transform Botanic Gardens into an exotic magical garden with many new sights, sounds and aromas from a wealth of nations planned this year.  With up to 30,000 people expected to attend Belfast Mela, our website is now live for ticket bookings, so get online now to ensure you don’t miss out.”  

Tickets are £7 for adults; £6 concession and a family ticket costs £15, covering entry for 2 adults and 2 children under 16. For more information go to www.belfastmela.org.uk

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Asma Khan, Star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, launches programme for Jaipur Literature Festival Belfast

Thursday 30th May 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is celebrity chef and author, Asma Khan Image: Pictured is celebrity chef and author, Asma Khan

Star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, founder of charity, Second Daughters Fund, and owner of Darjeeling Express restaurant, Asma Khan, visited Belfast on Wednesday 29th May to launch the JLF Belfast programme of events.

JLF Belfast will aim to recreate the magnificent atmosphere of the legendary Jaipur Literature Festival in India when it comes to the region for the first time on 21-23 June, with a packed weekend of events at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy. 

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will bring a true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth. It features readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland and the UK, gathered to share each other’s stories in a celebration of books, poems, creativity, ideas, food and  music. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.

Among those confirmed for the 2019 JLF Belfast line-up are: 

Asma Khan: celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of charity Second Daughter’s Fund and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.
Shashi Tharoor: dynamic Indian politician, acclaimed author, witty raconteur and former diplomat and UN office-bearer.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Festival Co-Ordinator of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Marcus Du Sautoy: author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: outspoken activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognize the third gender.

The above join the list of distinguished speakers already announced including:  Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell.

Paul McVeigh, Writer and Programmer JLF Belfast, commented:

“Never been to India? Well, a little of Jaipur is coming here to us. We are delighted to reveal today the final details of our June programme and there is much to look forward to. The festival will be a wonderful, immersive experience. If you love listening to and engaging with writers and thinkers from around the world then you'll love JLF Belfast.”

Namita Gokhale, Writer and co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

 

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Young jazz musicians invited to apply for Jazzlife Alliance mentorship programme

Thursday 23rd May 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Jazz Musician David Lyttle with fellow musicians Image: Jazz Musician David Lyttle with fellow musicians

Jazzlife Alliance is offering young jazz musicians the opportunity to apply for its second round of mentorships with its artistic director, MOBO Award-nominated jazz musician, David Lyttle.

Following the success of its first mentorship programme, which included a rural tour and masterclasses from jazz icons, David Kikoski and Jesse van Ruller, Jazzlife Alliance is now welcoming applications for two mentorship opportunities.  The first mentorship opportunity is for a jazz musician and the second is for a young musician/music promoter, both under 25. 

Also included in the ambitious mentorship opportunities are ‘International Mentors’ as a follow up to mentoring received from David Lyttle.  Last year’s participants, Donegal saxophonist, Micheal Murray, will study with U.S. saxophone star, Jaleel Shaw, whilst participant and Derry guitarist Joseph Leighton, will study with Dutch guitar icon, Jesse van Ruller.

As part of his mentorship, Micheal toured with David in Scotland and took part in his first creative retreat on Rathlin Island with his twin brother Conor, who received last year's Jazzlife Alliance young promoter award and recently toured with David in Russia. Micheal and Conor will also perform 30 dates around Ireland with David in June. Joseph Leighton has performed around 50 dates with David, bringing jazz to new audiences on Jazzlife Alliance's two rural tours.

Jazzlife Alliance will also programme three performances commencing in July at Bennigans Bar, Derry/Londonderry, featuring David Lyttle alongside leading jazz musicians from around the world. David’s recent performances of this kind included Kurt Rosenwinkel and Seamus Blake.   Jazzlife Alliance will also present a masterclass with jazz legend Jean Toussaint in Derry in July.

David Lyttle says, 

“Jazzlife Alliance is an exciting new organisation which is about encouraging artistic growth, inspiring and developing future jazz artists and looking differently at how jazz music is presented and taught. I feel very privileged to be in the position of artistic director and very grateful for the generous support of the Arts Council.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for young people to develop their musical careers.  We are delighted to support these important new initiatives from Jazzlife Alliance which offers young people the opportunity to be mentored by some of the finest jazz musicians working in Northern Ireland as well as developing new audiences for jazz – terrific! “

Applications are now open for Jazzlife Alliance mentorships and will close on June 15th.  For more information visit www.jazzlifealliance.org

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Sarah McIntyre gets school kids bubbling with creativity

Tuesday 21st May 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland Image: Children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland

From spider teachers to lion astronauts and beetle spies, children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland

Over three-hundred students from five Northern Ireland primary schools have had a chance to meet world renowned children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntryre in interactive book sessions arranged by the UK’s largest reading charity, BookTrust.

Sarah McIntyre, well known for her comic ‘Vern and Lettuce’ and picture books ‘There's a Shark in the Bath’ and ‘Dinosaur Police’ hosted sessions on May 7th and 8th with students from Portavogie Primary (Newtownards), Portaferry Integrated Primary School (Newtownards), Belmont Primary School (Belfast), St Joseph’s Primary School (Belfast) and Orangefield Primary School (Belfast).

Students were eager to whip out their pencils, paper and books ready for an interactive session of reading and fun with Sarah. She helped students to think creatively to come up with ideas for their own books by thinking of animals and different jobs they could do, from spider teachers, lion astronauts and beetle spies! Sarah talked about how she made her books and taught the pupils to draw Dipsy the Diplodocus from Dinosaur Firefighters.
  
Children’s author Sarah McIntyre said:

“Meeting students is one of my favourite parts of being an author. Of course, writing books is always great fun but seeing the kids enjoying the books and watching how it inspires them is always so rewarding. It is even more wonderful that every single child gets a copy of the book to take home, it always puts a huge smile on their faces!”

Liz Canning, Head of BookTrust Northern Ireland commented:

“Hosting these sessions is a great way to engage children with reading and books. As children read more often in school they can lose touch with the creativity and fun in books. There are so many benefits to children reading for pleasure and it’s so important to remind and inspire them.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Artist visits like this are a fantastic opportunity for pupils to meet a successful writer or illustrator and gain an insight into their creative process.  These workshops with Sarah McIntyre have been a great success - inspiring the children to start thinking about developing their own stories. The Arts Council is pleased to support Booktrust NI in promoting the value of reading to young people across Northern Ireland.”

All pupils received a copy of Dinosaur Firefighters after visit and each school also received a selection of Sarah’s books for their school library.

 

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New Creative Learning Fund will support fresh approach in the classroom

Friday 17th May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music , Dance , Drama , Literature , Craft , Film & TV

Year 10 students, Odhrán McCart, Francine Faloon and Alliemarie Conway are pictured with teacher Gilah McCarroll, Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority, Jennifer McAlorum from Nerve Belfast. Image: Year 10 students, Odhrán McCart, Francine Faloon and Alliemarie Conway are pictured with teacher Gilah McCarroll, Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority, Jennifer McAlorum from Nerve Belfast.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative are backing a new three-year programme to inject more creativity into the classroom, in a bid to improve educational outcomes for students.

Today’s announcement follows a successful pilot scheme rolled out last year in 10 post-primary schools serving communities supported by the Urban Villages Initiative – a good relations headline action of government’s Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy. 

The Creative Schools Partnership programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning. These include better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increasing confidence and self-motivation, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

Eleven schools serving Urban Village areas have so far been awarded funding from the £300,000 scheme to take part in the first phase of the new programme. They are:  Belfast Boys’ Model School, St Joseph’s Boy’s School, Blessed Trinity College, Ashfield Girls’ High School, St Cecilia’s College, St Genevieve’s High School, Mercy College Belfast, St Vincent’s Centre, Belfast Model School for Girls, Malone Integrated College, and St Colm’s High School.

The schools will be working with artists on a range of creative projects including, music production, journalism, photography, film making, animation, and ceramics.

The Arts Council is investing £150,000 from its National Lottery funds to support the scheme. Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback we had from the schools who took part in last year’s pilot programme and are delighted to be working with the Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative once again to create a new three year programme which will benefit many more children. 

“While each of the projects will be different, what they each have in common is that they will help the young people involved develop new skills, build confidence and self-belief, as well as supporting their learning and development in all aspects of school life.”

Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative, commented:

“It is evident from last year’s programme that young people have learned new skills and improved their self-confidence through a wide range of exciting and creative projects. The programme has also had very good results in promoting positive mental health and well-being, which is a key issue for communities in Urban Village areas. Schools serving these places across Belfast and Derry~Londonderry play a key role in fostering positive community identities and we aim to share good practice and strengthen partnership working with local communities”.

EA Chairperson Sharon O’Connor said:

“The Creative Schools Programme is making a valuable contribution to our schools. It is placing high quality arts engagement and at the heart of young people’s lives. It focuses on creating collaborative opportunities for schools, teachers, artists and communities. The programme enables our young people to bring about real change in how they see and value themselves, as well as understanding how they can make a positive impact in their own community.”

 

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Festival tackles role of photography in the era of fake news

Thursday 16th May 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) launching the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival are Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival Director. Image: Pictured (L-R) launching the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival are Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival Director.

Northern Ireland’s premier month-long visual arts festival, the Belfast Photo Festival, will take over art galleries and dominate outdoors spaces throughout Belfast this June with experiential and engaging exhibitions exploring the role of photography in the era of post-truth, alternative facts and fake news.

The photography festival, which presents some of the finest national and international contemporary photography, runs from Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 June.

Under the theme of “Truth and Lies”, the festival will look at how photography can be used to influence opinion; from carefully choreographed photoshoots to image manipulation and misrepresentation.

“The camera never lies,” the age-old saying goes, but increasingly consumers are having to be ever-more diligent in distinguishing fact from fiction – and photography has a crucial role to play in the era where billions of new images are captured daily and content is consumed at a staggering rate.

Among this year’s highlights is Jump Trump, the interactive exhibition by Dutch photographers Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, which will be on display for the first time in the UK and Ireland. Exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery, the installation sees the gallery space dominated by a one-metre deep inflated crash mat emblazoned with an image of the 45th President of the United States. Complete with a raised platform for daring visitors to jump onto the mat, it challenges audiences to get up close to the politician’s face and express their feelings toward the influential and often controversial figure.

Jump Trump forms part of a larger exhibition, Do Governments Lie?, at the gallery. Other works include Philippe Chancel’s Kim Happiness, a series of photographs taken in North Korea exploring the management of happiness by the country’s government, and Marc Lee’s video installation which trawls social media in real time and seamlessly weaves tweets, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads by political parties and their election candidates into a dystopian live television show.

Controlled Perspectives at the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich presents works by Korean artists Seung Woo Back, Heesung Chung and Yeondoo Jung as they demonstrate how photography can be used to control perspective using constructed environments.

ICONS, by artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger, displayed on the lawn at Belfast City Hall, shows images of meticulous three-dimensional models constructed to create astonishingly realistic reconstructions of some of the most recognisable images in history, including Tank Man, the striking image of the unknown protestor who stood in front of a convoy of Chinese military tanks on Tiananmen Square, Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier, The Hindenburg Disaster and more.

Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who rose to international acclaim as the photographer behind fashion brand Benetton’s controversial advertising campaigns that pushed the limits of the industry, will host a talk and Q&A at the Ulster Museum on June 13.

At Belfast Exposed, Margins of Excess by Max Pinckers, who is listed among the ranks of Magnum Photos, presents a body of work looking at the role of mass media in communicating idiosyncratic versions of six individuals’ own reality who momentarily were subject to nationwide media attention and scrutiny in the US.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland-backed festival works to make visual art more accessible, explains Festival Director Michael Weir.

“We’re introducing it to public spaces and expanding our outdoor presence while making the artform interactive and engaging. Among the exhibitions that will take over these spaces, as well as those hosted in our partner galleries and venues, are significant bodies of work hand-picked for Belfast Photo Festival by representatives from global institutions such as Tate Modern, the New York-based Aperture Magazine and Magnum Photos; the agency behind some of the most striking and influential photographs of 20th century.”

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland proudly supports the Belfast Photo Festival which celebrates some of the finest local, national and international photography around.  It’s extensive, impressive programme encourages active engagement with this popular art form whether that’s through attending exhibitions, taking part in workshops or through public displays and I would encourage everyone to get involved.”

As well as its extensive programme showcasing globally renowned names, including multi-national media and broadcasting company VICE, the festival will exhibit works from lesser-known artists through its Open Submission programme which attracted almost 32,000 entries from 83 countries.

Michael said: “Our Open Submission proved hugely successful this year and demonstrates just influential and well-recognised Belfast Photo Festival is on the international stage; established and challenger artists are eager to exhibit on our shores.”

The winner of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival Open Submission will be revealed in June at the opening ceremony on Thursday 6th June.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up-to-date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Lyric Theatre announces six writers to take part in prestigious New Playwrights Programme

Tuesday 14th May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Drama , Literature

Pictured (L-R) are the 2019 programme participants (L-R)Clare McMahon, Sarah Gordon, Damian Smyth, Arts Council, Ross Wylie, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Clare Monnelly, Rían Smith, Annie Keegan and Jimmy Fay, Lyric Theatre. Image: Pictured (L-R) are the 2019 programme participants (L-R)Clare McMahon, Sarah Gordon, Damian Smyth, Arts Council, Ross Wylie, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Clare Monnelly, Rían Smith, Annie Keegan and Jimmy Fay, Lyric Theatre.

The Lyric Theatre and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2019 New Playwrights Programme, a six-month writing development programme, aimed at emerging playwrights to create new work.  This year, following a high level of interest, six writers were awarded a place on the programme; Annie Keegan, Clare McMahon, Clare Monnelly, Rian Smith, Ross Wylie and Sarah Gordon.

As part of the programme, the six writers will now develop their ideas over the next six months with the Lyric’s Literary Manager, Rebecca Mairs.  The new works will be brought to life by on stage at the Lyric Theatre in autumn 2019 by professional actors and directors.

Rebecca Mairs, Literary Manager, Lyric Theatre, commented:

“We are delighted to welcome six new writers for the third year of our New Playwrights Programme.  New writing is the lifeblood of any producing house theatre, and it is essential that we provide a platform for an emerging generation of playwrights to present contemporary issues in new and powerful ways.  Through this programme, the Lyric creates an inviting, dynamic, and inspiring space where new artists can thrive, offering them the support they need to create bold and vibrant new work. It is great to be part of such an exciting journey.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

“It’s critical that the Arts Council is involved in supporting writers at all stages of their careers and we are proud to partner with the Lyric Theatre in this important programme which ensures that six writers get dedicated, bespoke mentorship support over a six-month period to create new work.  We warmly congratulate all six new playwrights and look forward to seeing their work on the Lyric stage later this year.”

For further details on the Lyric’s new writing work, please see www.lyrictheatre.co.uk/new-writing-lyric

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Belfast to be transformed into a hub of traditional music, gigs and workshops for one week in 2019

Tuesday 7th May 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Musicians Lisa Robinson and Caitlin Scott with Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Armagh Rhymers at the launch of Belfast’s Trad Fest Image: Musicians Lisa Robinson and Caitlin Scott with Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Armagh Rhymers at the launch of Belfast’s Trad Fest

Traditional music fans are in for a treat as Belfast’s Trad Fest returns for its third incarnation this summer across all four corners of the city. A launch event at Bullitt Hotel, which brought together performers, music lovers and key sponsors, revealed a week-long series of events, sessions and masterclasses. The festival will be the only one of its kind in the North and brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions, in a shared celebration of culture and heritage.

Descending upon the city – in a series of concerts, masterclasses, workshops, talks and sessions – will be a host of world-renowned traditional musicians, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Jarlath Henderson, Scottish piping legend Finlay McDonald, six former winners of the prestigious TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards - Harry Bradley, Edel Fox, John Carty, Mary Bergin, Michelle Mulcahy & Conor Connolly alongside Niamh Dunne & Eamon Murray of Beoga (who recently co-wrote Ed Sheeran's massive hit 'Galway Girl'), Kevin Crawford of Lúnasa, Ulster Lambeg & Fife legend Willie Drennan, John Joe Kelly of Flook, Oisín MacDiarmada of Téada & Ríoghnach Connolly of the Afro Celt Sound System, amongst many others.

After two hugely successful years, Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music is re-branding as Belfast Trad Fest and will incorporate the summer school into its packed programme of events this year. In addition, this year Belfast Trad Fest will hold a very special opening concert on Saturday 27th July when three of the hottest acoustic acts in the Trad scene play Belfast for one night only.

In what will surely kick the festival off in style, Lúnasa, Ulaid & Ríoghnach Connolly will come together for what promises to be a spectacular night of traditional music and song in one of the most beautiful theatres in Ireland - The Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

The Arts Council wishes the Belfast Trad Fest another very successful event as it brings this highly accessible, upbeat and positive addition to the creative and cultural life of the city.

Joanne Wright, Traditional Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Belfast Trad Fest through our National Lottery funds. Belfast Trad Fest creates the opportunity for many more people to experience and enjoy traditional music, and it has turned Belfast into a hub for the best musicians from across these islands to come together to perform, to teach, and to encourage the emergence of the next generation of young musicians.”

For five days, hundreds of budding traditional musicians, of all ages, will get the chance to learn from traditional music royalty at the Ulster University, York Street, in a series of masterclasses across 18 instruments. In addition, the school will bring jigs and reels to all four corners of Belfast with concerts, demos and talks taking place at The Strand Arts Centre in East Belfast, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich in West Belfast, The Duncairn Centre in North Belfast and An Droichead in South Belfast- with the heart of the summer school and a packed programme of free sessions and events located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The program includes:

  • Master-Classes in 17 different musical Instruments, Traditional Singing & Set Dancing
  • 7 Concerts
  • 36 Afternoon events including Talks, Walks, Lectures, Demonstrations
  • 28 Free Traditional Music Sessions
  • 3 CD launches
  • 3 Ceilís

Speaking at the launch event, Bill Wolsey, Managing Director, Beannchor, said:

“As a key sponsor of Belfast Trad Fest we are thrilled to be a part of the festival again, promoting the arts, our local music scene and emerging talents. We are delighted that our venues, including The Dirty Onion, The Cloth Ear, and Bullitt, will play host to some great sessions, providing the perfect backdrop for the festival.”

A full program of events and further details can be found via www.belfasttraditionalmusic.com, or connect with Trad Fest on Facebook and Twitter @BelfastTradF, using the hashtag, #BelfastTradF.

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First list of speakers announced as ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’ comes to Northern Ireland

Friday 3rd May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

JLF Belfast embodies the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Northern Ireland with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers and raconteurs. Image: JLF Belfast embodies the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Northern Ireland with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers and raconteurs.

Preparations are well underway, as one of the biggest, most spectacular literature festivals in the world gets set to come to Northern Ireland for the first time this June. JLF Belfast will recreate the magnificent spirit, colour, energy and atmosphere of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in India, with a packed weekend of events celebrating books, creativity, ideas and culture.

Among those already confirmed for the two day line-up are: Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Indian diplomat and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; esteemed writers Brian Keenan and Patrick Gale and award-winning poet Ruth Padel. Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers Teamwork Arts, events will take place on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd, at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

In the true spirit of the original festival, JLF Belfast will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland, the UK and more, for a unique literature festival celebrating a joint love of books, creativity, music, and sharing each other’s stories. Themes under discussion will include Borders, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Tagore, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence. Early-bird tickets are available to buy now, with day passes from £25/£14 concession and children’s workshops from £5.  Full programme details will be announced later in May.

Paul McVeigh, Writer and Programmer JLF Belfast, commented:

“Never been to India? Well, a little of Jaipur is coming here to us. We are delighted to reveal today the first details of our June programme and there is much to look forward to. The festival will be a wonderful, immersive experience. If you love listening to and engaging with writers and thinkers from around the world then you'll love JLF Belfast.”

Namita Gokhale, Writer and co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy. He has written and published a number of books including Evil Cradling (1991), and Turlough (1996).

Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature and History at Delhi University. A monthly columnist for The Hindustan Times (New Delhi), The Telegraph (Kolkata), Nai Dunia(Indore) and Scroll , he writes for The Hindu (Chennai) as well. He is currently Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University.

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. In addition to his latest, Take Nothing With You, which was his fourth Sunday Times bestseller, his novels include Little Bits of Baby (1989), The Cat Sanctuary (1990), The Facts of Life (1995), Tree Surgery for Beginners (1998), Rough Music (2000), A Sweet Obscurity (2003), Friendly Fire, Notes From an Exhibition (2007), The Whole Day Through (2009), A Perfectly Good Man (2012) andA Place Called Winter (2015). There are also two collections of short stories, Dangerous Pleasures (1996) and Gentleman’s Relish (2009).

In 2017 his Man in an Orange Shirt was screened by BBC2 as part of the Gay Britannia season, which also featured the documentary All Families Have Secrets – the Narrative Art of Patrick Gale. Continuing to be broadcast regularly around the world, it won an International Emmy for best miniseries. He is currently working on a feature film adaptation of a Rose Tremain short story, a television adaptation of A Place Called Winter and two of early 20th century classics.

Ruth Padel is an award-winning poet and conservationist, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London. Her works include The Mara Crossing on migration, Emerald for green in a dark time, and Tigers in Red Weather, a prose memoir of tiger conservation.

William Dalrymple is a bestselling author of In Xanadu, City of Djinns, From the Holy Mountain, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives, and Return of a King: An Indian Army in Afghanistan. He has won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the French Prix d’Astrolabe, the Wolfson Prize for History, the Scottish Book of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Asia House Award for Asian Literature, the Vodafone/Crossword Award for nonfiction, and has, prior to the shortlisting of Return of a King, been longlisted three times for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In September 2016, a Hindustani translation of The Last Mughal was released as Aakhri Mughal. His latest book is Kohinoor, co-written with Anita Anand and he is currently working on the upcoming The Anarchy, scheduled to release in autumn this year. Dalrymple is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. 

Tickets
Prices for JLF Belfast start from £25 for a day pass/ £14 Concession
To book your ticket visit lyrictheatre.co.uk/jlf-belfast or www.seamusheaneyhome.com

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Ulster Orchestra rolls out the red carpet for five exceptional young musicians

Friday 3rd May 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) are recipients, clarinettist, William Curran, jazz singer, Katharine Timoney, conductor, Stephen Bell, flautist, Andrew Douglas, folk and traditional musician, Martha Guiney and baritone, Brian McAlea with the Ulster Orchestra members. Image: Pictured (L-R) are recipients, clarinettist, William Curran, jazz singer, Katharine Timoney, conductor, Stephen Bell, flautist, Andrew Douglas, folk and traditional musician, Martha Guiney and baritone, Brian McAlea with the Ulster Orchestra members.

Five exceptionally talented young musicians from Northern Ireland recently performed as soloists with the Ulster Orchestra.  The performance forms part of their Young Musicians’ Platform Award, bestowed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and BBC Northern Ireland.

The biennial awards which are run by the Arts Council in collaboration with BBC NI, aim to showcase and support the development of young musicians from the region by providing individual funding awards of £5,000. This funding enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.  For the second time, the awards have been extended beyond the classical music arena, reaching out to musicians from traditional folk and jazz backgrounds.

As well as this training opportunity, the awardees receive two professional radio broadcast engagements, including one with the Ulster Orchestra.  Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also give a boost to their performance experience.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful development for our artists.  Congratulations to all five musicians on receiving this award which offers a unique opportunity for outstanding musicians to develop their musical skills, learn from the best and perform live with a professional orchestra.  All of the previous recipients of this award have gone on to have successful careers in music and I’ve every confidence that the new recipients will benefit greatly from this experience.”

Emma Dunseith, Executive Editor Arts, Music and Learning, BBC Northern Ireland, says:

“At BBC Radio Ulster we are dedicated to providing our listeners with the best in specialist music and nurturing new talent is something we are extremely passionate about. We are delighted to be involved in finding new classical, jazz and traditional artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Lynette and Linley, each of whom are extremely talented musicians with a deep love of music.”

Previous recipients of the Young Musicians’ Platform Award include acclaimed classical pianist, Michael McHale, soprano, Laura Sheerin, harpist, Richard Allen, violinist, Michael Trainor, folk artists, Conor Mallon and Niall Hanna and jazz drummer, Ed Dunlop, among others.

John Toal presents a special edition of the concert on BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections on Sunday 19th May featuring the 2018/19 classical winners of the BBC NI and Arts Council Northern Ireland Young Musicians' Platform Award with the Ulster Orchestra.

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239 year old violin is presented to Ulster Youth Orchestra Leader, Samuel Kane, by the Arts Council

Thursday 2nd May 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the exquisite 239 year old, Milton Violin Image: Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the exquisite 239 year old, Milton Violin

Exceptional violinist, Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh, has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO), and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the Milton Violin, an exquisite instrument made by renowned Neapolitan violin maker, Joseph Gagliano, to be played throughout his tenure as leader.

The precious violin, which is 239 years old, was generously donated to the Arts Council by Professor Alan Milton in 1980 and in the past has been used by the Leader and principal players of the Ulster Orchestra.  In 2013 the Arts Council decided to loan the precious instrument to the Ulster Youth Orchestra to be used by exceptionally gifted musicians in their role as Leader. 

Samuel, who is in his first year at the Royal Northern College of Music studying with James Clark, faced a rigorous audition to become leader of the UYO.  Established in 1993, The UYO is the National Youth Orchestra of Northern Ireland and is supported by public funding and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council and offers the highest level of orchestral training in the region.  Through its annual summer residential courses and concerts and outreach projects, it provides young gifted musicians with the opportunity to develop their musical skills further. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Congratulations to Samuel in becoming Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra.  The Orchestra has become a vibrant and creative force in the musical life of Northern Ireland, bringing top quality orchestral playing to a wide audience, and providing gifted young musicians with access to the very best professional players, tutors and conductors.  Thanks to the generosity of Professor Milton, we are able to provide this exceptional instrument to generations of our best young violinists.  We are delighted by the appointment of Samuel and have no doubt he will put this very special opportunity to great use.”

Paula Klein, General Manager of the Ulster Youth Orchestra said,

“We are delighted that Sam has been awarded the position of leader in 2019.  We heard Sam recently playing one of his own pieces on the Milton Violin and both the delicacy and the power of this beautiful instrument will be such a great help to him in his developing career. The directors of the Ulster Youth Orchestra are extremely grateful to the Arts Council for providing the leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra with the opportunity of playing such a fine instrument.”

Membership to the Ulster Youth Orchestra is gained through a highly competitive audition process. All members value the opportunity to come together to perform with the very best young musicians from all over Northern Ireland.  Its members work together harmoniously in the pursuit of artistic excellence.  The Orchestra’s artistic programmes encourage individuals to develop practical and social skills, boost their confidence, enhance their well-being and empower them to achieve excellence.

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Career development awards for eleven artists with disabilities from Northern Ireland

Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Dance

Pictured (L-R) are 2019 iDA recipients, Katerina Fanouraki, Fiona Stewart. Chris Ledger, University of Atypical, Gary Shaw, Suzanne Mackenzie, Kristofer Marsden, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Emma Whitehead (centre) Image: Pictured (L-R) are 2019 iDA recipients, Katerina Fanouraki, Fiona Stewart. Chris Ledger, University of Atypical, Gary Shaw, Suzanne Mackenzie, Kristofer Marsden, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Emma Whitehead (centre)

Eleven artists with disabilities from Northern Ireland have been announced as recipients of the University of Atypical’s Individual Disabled Artist (iDA) Award, funding grants 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.  The artists have impairments ranging from physical disability, visual impairment, mental illness and learning difficulties.

Chris Ledger, Chief Executive of University of Atypical, said the iDA Awards Scheme is invaluable in supporting disabled and deaf artists to produce exciting new work. 

She added: “The grant scheme supports proposals from artists with all types of impairment or disability including unseen conditions such as diabetes, dyslexia and epilepsy. This is a developmental scheme so we welcome applications from emerging talent as well as from more established artists but decisions are made on artistic merit, talent and ambition.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “Congratulations to all eleven artists.  These grants are given in recognition of the artists’ work to date and to provide them with the necessary support to take their careers to the next level.  The Arts Council is pleased to support this important programme, which encourages the creation of new, high-quality artistic work and addresses the need for disabled and Deaf artists to have on-going training and skills development within the sector.”

Through the University of Atypical’s support, deaf and disabled artists have developed unique artwork of extremely high artistic quality, some progressing to a level where they have received international recognition. The iDA scheme’s purpose is to identify, encourage and nurture individual talent amongst disabled practitioners.

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Joshua Burnside and Ryan McMullan among the latest 21 artists to receive support from PRS Foundation

Thursday 18th April 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Joshua Burnside, And So I Watch You From Afar and Ryan McMullan Image: Joshua Burnside, And So I Watch You From Afar and Ryan McMullan

PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, together with PPL, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Invest NI and Spotify reveal the next 12 artists who will receive support from the pioneering Momentum Music Fund.  

The artists, who have been selected by a network of industry experts, are:

And So I Watch You From Afar – Audio visual and live show development
C Duncan – Touring
Eyesore & The Jinx – Touring
FUR – Touring
Grace Savage – Marketing and promotion
Holding Absence – Recording
Joshua Burnside – Touring
Kid Kapichi – Marketing
Kidsmoke – Recording and marketing
Kobi Onyame – Recording
Man of Moon – Recording
Martha Ffion – Recording
Miink – Recording
NOVA TWINS – Marketing and promotion for singles and touring
Oscar #Worldpeace – Marketing
Petrol Girls – Marketing
RED RUM CLUB – Touring
Ryan McMullan – Recording, mixing and mastering
Siobhan Wilson – Marketing
Sub Blue – Recording and releasing
Zilo – Recording and marketing

Momentum supported Nova Twins said, “Without this grant we wouldn’t be able to give our music the proper release support that it deserves”

This latest round includes the first artists to be supported through the new Momentum Accelerator initiative. Grants of up to £5,000, plus advice and support are available for talented Liverpool based artists and their growing teams to help them reach a crucial tipping point and become more investment-ready in the future.  The first two Liverpool based artists to benefit from this first round of Momentum Accelerator are, Eyesore & The Jinx and Sub Blue.

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“Huge congratulations to the talented artists that have been supported in this latest round of our pioneering Momentum Music Fund which includes the results of a new partnership with Liverpool City Council. By supporting our first two Momentum Accelerator artists, we’re extending our Momentum support to more emerging artists outside of London where we’ll be investing in local infrastructure and earlier stage talent. I’m looking forward to extending this Momentum support to other UK cities and following the next steps of all artists selected in this latest round.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists and the Momentum Music Fund does that by enabling artists to take that vital next step in the development of their professional musical careers.  We are proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest NI in this important initiative and congratulate And So I Watch You From Afar, Joshua Burnside, Ryan McMullan and all the artists taking part in this exciting opportunity.”

Managed by PRS Foundation, the Momentum Music fund awards grants of £5,000-£15,000 using funds from PRS Foundation, PPL, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI. Spotify, the official digital partner on the fund, contributes additional funding and a reward package containing exciting promotional opportunities and a close working relationship between Momentum artists and the Spotify team. Liverpool City Council’s partnership for the Momentum Music Fund, called Momentum Accelerator, ensures that at least £20,000 of grant support will be offered to talented Liverpool based artists.

The Momentum Music 5 year impact report, which was launched at the Great Escape in May this year, showed that since 2013 the fund has supported over 200 artists, over 90 new albums and more than 100 UK tours totaling over 650 UK live dates. The 2016 impact report analysing the first three years of the fund revealed that Momentum has generated £13million for the UK music industry.  PRS Foundation and Arts Council England initiated The Momentum Music Fund in 2013.   Arts Council England originally established the need for this specific fund and supported the programme from 2013-18.

For a full rundown of all the artists supported so far see prsfoundation.com/funding/momentum-music-fund/momentum-artists. The next deadline for applications to the Momentum Music Fund is 28th May 2019 via the PRS Foundation website. We are particularly interested in receiving more applications from outside of London prsfoundation.com/funding/momentum-music-fund

Listen to the latest Momentum supported artists on the Spotify Momentum playlist here.

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Arts Council launches pioneering programme to bring great art to schools across Northern Ireland

Tuesday 9th April 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are pupils Evie Close and Kenadie Butler with Suzanne Lyle, Arts Council, Maeve Walls, Department For Communities, teacher, Robin Cahoon and artist, Brendan Jamison with his sugar cube sculpture, Henry Tate’s Mausoleum. Image: Pictured (L-R) are pupils Evie Close and Kenadie Butler with Suzanne Lyle, Arts Council, Maeve Walls, Department For Communities, teacher, Robin Cahoon and artist, Brendan Jamison with his sugar cube sculpture, Henry Tate’s Mausoleum.

World-renowned sculptor, Brendan Jamison, has officially launched the Art Lending Scheme for Schools, a new visual arts initiative from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  The scheme offers schools the opportunity to exhibit works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Contemporary Art Collection and aims to increase opportunities for young people to be inspired by and engage with high-quality visual arts.

With support from the Department for Communities (DfC), the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme for Schools is a free programme which enables all schools to choose and exhibit works from the Collection, which currently holds over 500 artworks, by established and emerging visual artists working in Northern Ireland. 

The scheme was officially launched at Belfast Model School for Girls in North Belfast, one of four schools who are among the first to take up the scheme.  Other schools that are taking part include; St Cecilia’s College, Derry-Londonderry, Malone Integrated College and Mercy College, both in Belfast.  The Arts Council is keen to hear from schools that are interested in taking part in the scheme and are also on hand to help advise and curate an exhibition for each school if required. 

Artist, Brendan Jamison, commented,

"The aim is to inspire the next generation of creative thinkers at a pivotal point in their education, helping to expand the minds of young people and encourage teenagers to dream of ambitious futures where they can bring creative magic to all aspects of society".

Mr Robin Cahoon, Acting Leader of Learning Art and Design, Belfast Model School for Girls, said

“As an art teacher I always encourage pupils to go, view and experience artwork in galleries and museums.  To have the gallery come to our school will hopefully give all pupils a taste of what it is like to view and enjoy art.  More importantly it is fantastic that the artwork is by artists that work in Northern Ireland. It is my hope that as pupils see these art pieces every day it will ignite a spark to further explore their creative side.  My vision is that the girls will become ambassadors for the school and will be able to give their interpretation of the artwork to visitors at the Girls Model.”

Maeve Walls, Director of Culture, DfC said:

“The Department for Communities is delighted to be able to support the Art Lending Scheme for Schools by the Arts Council.  It is a wonderful opportunity for young people to view, interpret and be inspired by ‘real’ works of art in the classroom while allowing local emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their work”.

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Many of the artists represented in the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection have major national and international reputations, such as two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty; Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queens’ portrait in 2016, Brendan Jamison, Ian Cumberland, and Paul Seawright.

“By offering the Collection for public display in schools, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. Schools are welcome to curate their own show or the Arts Council’s expert staff can help compile and theme an exhibition suitable for any space. We can provide works in all media, from painting, sculpture, crafts, print, photography and video through to digital art.”

Interested schools should visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/collection for further information or call 028 9262 3555.

 

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Ebrington Primary School and Thornhill College win BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year

Sunday 7th April 2019 at 5pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Ebrington Primary School, Junior winners of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year Image: Ebrington Primary School, Junior winners of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year

Thornhill College and Ebrington Primary School, Londonderry have been named as Northern Ireland’s top senior and junior school choirs in the live final of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year.

Presented by John Toal and Kerry McLean, the final was broadcast from the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on BBC Radio Ulster earlier today (Sunday 7 April), and recorded for a special highlights programme for BBC NI television to be shown on BBC One Northern Ireland, Sunday 14 April at 5.30pm.

Sixty-two choirs battled it out over the course of the past eight weeks and six schools from across Northern Ireland took part in the live final, with three competing respectively in the junior and senior categories.

The awards to the two schools were presented by guest judge Carrie Grant, vocal coach, singer and television presenter.

The rest of the judging panel was made up of Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council for Northern Ireland; Richard Yarr, Senior Producer Classical Music, BBC Radio Ulster, and Andrew Nunn, Musical Director with the Ulster Youth Choir.

Each choir was invited to perform two songs and the judges decided which two choirs from the junior and senior categories would go head to head to pick up the two titles.

The choirs taking part in the Junior category final were: Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn; Ebrington Primary School, Londonderry, and Macosquin Primary School, Coleraine.

In the Senior category competing in the final were: Carrickfergus Grammar School; Thornhill College, Derry and Dalriada School, Ballymoney.

Thornhill College performed The Seal Lullaby and De Angelis, while Ebrington Primary School performed I Am A Small Part Of The World and Get On Board.

In the junior category Macosquin Primary from Coleraine and Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn were runners-up, and it was Dalriada School and Carrickfergus Grammar who were runners-up in the senior category.

The two-hour live radio programme also included a performance from the Ulster Youth Chamber Choir, followed by flautist Andrew Douglas, one of the recipients of the BBC NI/ACNI Young Musicians’ Platform Awards, accompanied by Ruth McGinley.

BBC Northern Ireland School Choir of the Year is produced in association with the Ulster Youth Choir, and supported by the Arts Council for Northern Ireland (ACNI).

The winning choirs will feature across a range of programming and events during this year.

If you missed the radio programme, catch it again via the BBC Sounds app. And for additional content check out Twitter #SCOTY and pictures go to bbc.co.uk/scoty

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The Arts Council announces Annual Funding of £12.8 million for 97 key arts organisations

Thursday 4th April 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Youth Arts , Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music , Literature , Community Arts , Craft , Dance , Drama , Circus & Carnival Arts

Pictured are dancer, Vasiliki Stasinaki, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Emma McEvoy and Ciara Lyttle Image: Pictured are dancer, Vasiliki Stasinaki, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Emma McEvoy and Ciara Lyttle

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) today (4 April 2019) announced annual funding of £12.8 million for 97 key arts organisations from its exchequer and National Lottery resources. Government funds of £8.4million will maintain the core costs of 97 arts organisations while £4.3 million of National Lottery funding will support their programming costs. The Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme (AFP) is the most significant allocation of public funding for the arts in Northern Ireland each year.

The Arts Council is relieved to have received standstill funding on its budget from the Department for Communities as 4% reductions had been anticipated; we are grateful for this acknowledgement of the fragile state of the arts sector. However, the National lottery income to the Arts Council which supports programming costs for AFP has been declining, resulting in that element of the AFP budget reducing by 4.5% compared to 2018/19. Consequently, ACNI’s Board had to again make difficult strategic funding decisions this year to protect the balance of art forms across Northern Ireland and the number of arts organisations supported by AFP in 2019/20 was reduced from 102 to 97.

The Arts Council Chair, John Edmund, commented,

“Today I announced that the Arts Council is able to award £12.8 million of annual arts funding to support the valuable work of our artists and arts organisations, all of whom are delivering great art for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

“However, within the context of reducing public funding, this year in particular from the National Lottery, the Board had to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of annually funded organisations while protecting the balance of arts forms for the year ahead. It is with regret that we had to refuse AFP 2019 funding to 5 current AFP clients. All of these organisations are eligible to apply to other Arts Council programmes in the future.

“The vast majority of applications received for Annual Funding this year were eligible, but there simply weren’t the resources to fund all that was asked for. Thirty-four organisations were offered standstill funding, five were offered strategic uplifts, while the remainder received cuts, in the majority of cases, cuts of 5% to programming costs.

“The five AFP organisations rejected from this year’s programme will be given 3 months funding to help them transition out of AFP funding while they consider other grant application streams.  I would like to take the opportunity to commend all those who were successful in their applications and I look forward to seeing the inspirational range of arts activities in the coming year.”


Annual Funding Programme Case Studies:

All Set Project
The All Set Project, based in Portadown, delivers high-quality cross-cultural programmes of traditional music and tuition in schools throughout Northern Ireland.  These programmes are unique to All Set and have been running in primary schools since 1996.  The All Set Project received a strategic uplift of £8,576 towards a new part-time administration role and artists costs.  This uplift will enable All Set to successfully deliver an increased programme for 2019/20.  

Maiden Voyage and DU Dance
Dance companies Maiden Voyage and DU Dance also received strategic funding uplifts of £6,229 and £5,218 respectively, to support the costs of an essential relocation to the Crescent Arts Centre in South Belfast where they will be based alongside Dance Resource Base, thus protecting the future of a dance hub within Belfast and ensuring that they meet the employer’s duty of care to provide safe working conditions for dancers as set out in the Equity/Dance UK’s Fit to Dance Space Charter.

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Gear up for the first ever JLF Belfast

Tuesday 2nd April 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is Noirin McKinney, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer for the Jaipur Literature Festival, and Colette Norwood British Council Northern Ireland with members of Arts Ekta and Sitar player, Daniel Perswick Image: Pictured is Noirin McKinney, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer for the Jaipur Literature Festival, and Colette Norwood British Council Northern Ireland with members of Arts Ekta and Sitar player, Daniel Perswick

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in partnership with the British Council and the producers of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival in India, have unveiled plans for a landmark event in June, set to bring in the magnificent energy and atmosphere of one of the world’s biggest and most spectacular literary festivals to Belfast.

For the first time ever, the Jaipur Literature Festival comes to Belfast from 21-23 June 2019 at select iconic venues in the city to celebrate literature and the rich diversity in thought that it inspires.

Since 2014, Teamwork Arts, the producers of the Festival, have expanded its global reach with editions in London, New York, Boulder, Houston, Adelaide, Toronto and now Belfast, recreating the spirit and magic of the original festival across the world.

The Festival in Northern Ireland follows close on the heels of the sixth edition of ZEE JLF The British Library, which runs 14-16 June 2019.

JLF Belfast will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland, the UK and more for a unique literature festival celebrating a joint love of books, creativity, music, and of sharing each other’s stories. Themes under discussion will include Borders, Gender, Poetry and Migration.

The Festival will host events at at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast on Saturday June 22nd and at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace on Sunday June 23rd 2019.

The event was announced on Tuesday at a special event in Belfast.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council, commented:

“It is with great pleasure that we can announce today that the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival is coming to Belfast. This is a new arts event for Northern Ireland which will celebrate our links with India and our shared love of conversation, literature and debate. Already confirmed for the programme are writers Pico Iyer, Navtej Sarna, David Park, Paul McVeigh, Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.”

“Working with our partners at the Lyric Theatre and Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, this fantastic new three-day festival will be a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts and will deepen our partnership with key Indian cultural institutions. We very much look forward to welcoming international writers and audiences to the Festival here this summer and sharing our famous Northern Ireland hospitality.”

Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Arts, Producers of the Festival, said,

“JLF at Belfast will explore our common legacy of post-conflict literature, cultural and political impact.  The Festival will showcase ideas and voices outside of the ‘Anglo-centric’ cultural expectations and will be a celebration of poetry, music and the written word.”

Jonathan Stewart, British Council, Director Northern Ireland, commented:

“British Council is honoured to be working with our colleagues at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival to deepen the existing literature connections that we have with India, to welcome authors from India to Northern Ireland and share Indian writing and publishing with our audiences at the inaugural JLF at Belfast in June 2019.”

“Building inbound and outbound exchanges and opportunities between Northern Ireland and other countries including India is a key focus of the British Council’s work and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is already a key platform for Northern Ireland writers working internationally.” 

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival takes place in India annually and has been described as ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’. Over the last twelve years, its size and reputation have grown exponentially and it is now considered one of the most important events of its kind across the globe, bringing together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, sports-persons and entertainers on one stage to engage in thoughtful dialogue and debate.

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Grand Opera House to undergo major restoration programme to mark 125th anniversary

Tuesday 2nd April 2019 at 11am 0 Comments

Belfast’s Grand Opera House Image: Belfast’s Grand Opera House

Work to restore the Grand Opera House, one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic buildings, will begin in the New Year as the Theatre announces support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Rescued from demolition in the mid-1970s, restored and reopened in 1980, the Grand Opera House was the first building in Belfast to attain Grade A listed status, and is the only remaining Victorian Theatre in Northern Ireland. Its historic and opulent auditorium is regarded as amongst the architecturally most important theatre interiors in the UK and Ireland.

Starting in January 2020 the ten-month project will focus on the restoration of the auditorium designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the Victorian era, Frank Matcham.

“There’s no doubt that Frank Matcham bestowed on Belfast one of his most imaginative and splendid creations,” says Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House. “The support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the project’s other funders will protect this unique heritage asset and will secure a thriving theatre for future generations.”

“As well as the restoration work the project will install, for the first time, an exhibition telling the Grand Opera House’s colourful history. Over 300,000 people attended shows last year. The addition of the historical exhibition will enable the Theatre to open its doors outside performances. This will further affirm the Grand Opera House’s place on the world stage as a centre for theatregoing and as a Belfast visitor and tourist attraction.”

The project will see the auditorium returned to its former grandeur, confirm the Theatre’s unique and significant heritage, and will include:

  • The restoration of the auditorium’s plasterwork, including the famous and unique elephant heads that support the ornate auditorium boxes, front-of-balcony designs, ceiling décor, paintings and the intricate decorative finishes.
  • The repair and restoration of the 1980 glass extension to the Great Victoria Street façade. This area, an important part of the Theatre’s history which is currently closed off from the public, will be reopened to allow theatregoers and visitors to enjoy more of the 1895 building.
  • Upgrade of the now outdated technical infrastructure including lighting and stage equipment to make them appropriate for modern standards of stage presentation and audience expectation.
  • Replacement of the seats throughout the auditorium and of the stage curtains.
  • Installation of much-needed modern air handling.
  • Upgrading of theatregoer facilities including increased wheelchair spaces, improving access into the auditorium and increasing the number of toilets.
  • Reimagining and remodeling the Act II front of house space so that it further supports access to the Theatre and brings alive its heritage and history through the first-ever permanent exhibition celebrating the many famous people who have appeared on its stage. These have included Laurel and Hardy, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell, Roger Moore and, of course, May McFettridge, to name but a few!

Each week National Lottery players raise around £30 million for good causes. Thanks to them, The National Lottery Heritage Fund will contribute £4.8 million towards the project costs of £12.2 million with the Grand Opera House Trust committing £4.2 million of its own reserves, carefully garnered over a number of years for this purpose. A further £0.5 million has been secured from a number of charitable trusts and foundations, and the balance will be sought from other sources including a public appeal.

During the ten months of closure the Grand Opera House Trust will present its biggest ever outreach and engagement programme which will include talks, tours, workshops and events across Northern Ireland. The restoration and development work will be completed ahead of the Theatre’s 125th anniversary in December 2020 which will start a year-long celebration of the Grand Opera House featuring an unparalleled season of shows plus outreach and community engagement activities.

Over the last 25 years The National Lottery Heritage Fund, formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund, has invested a huge £244 million in over 1,400 projects across Northern Ireland. Historic buildings and monuments, like the Grand Opera House, have benefited from £119 million to help restore, regenerate and safeguard them for the future.

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Arts Council hosts creative careers event to inspire future creative workforce

Thursday 28th March 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Craft , Dance , Drama , Film & TV , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Traditional Arts , Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are St Mary’s students, Stephen White, Aton McVeigh and Anton McVeigh with Kwame Daniels, Bounce Culture. Image: Pictured (L-R) are St Mary’s students, Stephen White, Aton McVeigh and Anton McVeigh with Kwame Daniels, Bounce Culture.

An event aiming to inspire young people to take up a career in the creative industries took place at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and supported by the Department for Communities. The event gave over 200 school children, careers advisors and further education students the opportunity to hear from professionals working in theatre, music, fashion & design, animation and digital technology.

Welcomed by music journalist, Rigsy, from BBC’s Across the Line, attendees heard from a host of leading lights about how an interest in the arts can feed a successful creative career.

Musicians Ryan Vail, Kwame Daniels and fashion designer Hannah Vail gave an insight into their education, career progression and what it’s like to work in the creative industries.  The young delegates got to see an excerpt from The 39 Steps currently running at the Lyric Theatre and then had a chance to hear from Executive Producer Jimmy Fay and his team members: former creative industries apprentice and now Theatre Producer, Bronagh McFeely and Head of Creative Learning, Philip Crawford, who discussed the many backstage roles it takes to put on a theatre production. 

Digital artists such as animator Joel Simon and virtual reality and technology specialists Brian Shaw from Makematic and Rory Clifford from Retinize also helped the panel to bring a career in the arts alive for the young delegates in the audience. 

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“We were delighted to host this event with support from the Department for Communities and the Lyric Theatre. At a time when our young people are making choices about their futures, we want to encourage them to see the arts and creative industries as an attractive career option.  The arts and our artists feed the creative industries pipeline here and are a major employer in Northern Ireland.  Being here and hearing from some of the leading voices working in the creative industries, will we hope inspire many in this young audience.”

Maeve Walls Director of Culture for the Department for Communities said;

‘’We are proud to be supporting the delivery of this event. Creativity is a key driver as part of a modern economy. It is essential that we make our young people aware of the opportunities in these fields and encourage them to think about how they can harness their natural creativity to develop careers for themselves and also contribute and develop a modern digital economy for Northern Ireland.”

Jimmy Fay, Executive Producer, Lyric Theatre, added,

“The Lyric is delighted to be hosting the Arts Council’s Creative Careers event. The morning is packed with presentations, discussions and performances from talented artists and professionals, showcasing the wide range of career paths for young people in the industry, both on and off the stage. From producing, acting, design, stage management, technical, marketing and creative learning; all avenues are covered. It’s the Lyric’s aim to advocate and promote the exciting and dynamic job opportunities within theatre to ensure the sustainably of new talent for the future success of the creative industries.”

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Shakespeare at The MAC a ‘Dream’ come true for Open Arts!”

Wednesday 20th March 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Drama

Fairy King and Queen Oberon and Titania (Gareth Smyth & Michelle Porter), sprinkle a little magic ahead of Open Arts 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at The MAC on 26-27 April. Image: Fairy King and Queen Oberon and Titania (Gareth Smyth & Michelle Porter), sprinkle a little magic ahead of Open Arts 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at The MAC on 26-27 April.

Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations will be stepping into the spotlight at The MAC on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April for a unique production of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Audiences will be transported to a magical forest world to meet the fairy king and queen Oberon and Titania and their mischievous servant Puck, who creates unintentional havoc for two lovestruck couples with the aid of a magic potion.

Adding to the comedic chaos are the motley crew of The Mechanicals (including in this adaptation a librarian, a DJ and a rugby coach!) performing the famous ‘play within a play’ and poor Bottom, whose head gets magically transformed into that of an ass, creating all the necessary ingredients for an hilarious story of order and disorder, reality and appearance and love and marriage.
Presented by the award-winning arts and disability charity Open Arts, this very special event will showcase the drama, dance, choral, visual art, creative writing and traditional Javanese Gamelan melodic percussion skills of up to 65 group members who have a range of disabilities: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness.

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive of Open Arts said:

"Given that it is national Shakespeare Week this week, we are especially delighted to be launching our unique adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ at The MAC, one of Northern Ireland's leading arts venues.  This ambitious production is the result of almost two years’ work by Open Arts participants and tutors and it promises to be an unforgettable celebration of creativity and inclusivity.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Open Arts is a remarkable arts organisation and is vital, not least because it provides opportunities for people with disabilities to access and participate in the arts, but also because it provides a platform for people to make friends, to learn new skills and to increase confidence and self-esteem.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific organisation, through National Lottery funding,  and I look forward to seeing the energy, commitment and creativity that the cast will bring to their take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.’
 
Tickets for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are priced £10/£8 and are on sale now from The MAC box office at themaclive.com/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream or tel. 028 90235053.

Open Arts is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and receives Core Multi-Annual Funding from Belfast City Council's Tourism Culture & Arts Unit.

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Belfast to welcome Man Booker Prize-winning author Anna Burns

Friday 15th March 2019 at 8am 0 Comments Literature

Man Booker Prize-winning author, Anna Burns Image: Man Booker Prize-winning author, Anna Burns

Man Booker Prize-winning author Anna Burns, whose standout 2018 novel Milkman captured the ultimate prize in literature last year, is set to come to the Lyric Theatre Belfast next month for a special evening event on Monday 15th April. The event will be jointly hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Faber Members, in association with the Lyric.

‘In conversation with’ acclaimed Irish author and fellow Man Booker-winner Anne Enright, Anna Burns will read extracts from her work and give an insight into her creative inspirations, and her much talked about novel.

Milkman is Anna Burns’ third full-length novel, winning the author her first major award. She is the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the prestigious prize.
Born in Belfast and now based in East Sussex, the novel draws on the writer’s experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Set in an unnamed city, the story focuses on middle sister as she navigates her way through a complex and dangerous world, overshadowed by the threat of gossip, rumours, social pressures and politics. 

Looking forward to the event, author Anna Burns said:

“I feel excited and joyous to be coming to my home town of Belfast to take part in this event. It is an honour to be the first Northern Irish winner of the Man Booker Prize and to have the chance to share this achievement with the place I was born and grew up in. I am delighted to find that my book has spoken, not only to those of my generation, but also to younger people who weren't even born during the era in which the book is set.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“We knew that Anna Burns was inventive and unnerving and daring as a writer. But it was only when Milkman appeared early in 2018, that the scale of her gift was visible. It was already clear that in Milkman she had written possibly the best novel from or about Northern Ireland in a decade.

“Since then, we have lived with the book’s scrutiny of the insidious and invasive cultures of the time, and with its intense and distinctive humour, and its masterly control of the play of our language. Somebody McSomebody and Middle Sister have joined the ranks of the indispensables of our culture. It is a huge joy of course to welcome her back to her home city of Belfast which she has so vividly refashioned for good in the image of her characters.”

Executive Producer of the Lyric, Jimmy Fay, said:

“We are honoured to have been chosen by Anna Burns to host this event. It marks her first public appearance in Ireland, north or south, since she was announced as the winner of the Man Booker Prize. Her brilliant novel Milkman, with a central character whose only means of escape is literature, is just the perfect fit for the Lyric Theatre Belfast, as the home of new writing in Northern Ireland.
The chance to meet and hear Anna Burns is a wonderful opportunity for book lovers and fans of new writing across the country. It is just fantastic that we can celebrate this extraordinary writer in her home town.”

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber, making it the fourth consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher. Faber & Faber has the second highest number of winning titles of any publisher, with six winners that include: Something to Answer For (1969), Rites of Passage (1980), Oscar and Lucinda (1988), The Remains of the Day (1989), True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), Vernon God Little (2003).

Tickets for the event are priced at £12, with a concession price of £8 per ticket for schools. To book your place visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

Faber Members is Faber & Faber's free-to-join literary programme of events, news and special partnerships - www.faber.co.uk/members

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Joshua Burnside, Roe and Jealous of the Birds showcased at major music gathering, South by Southwest

Wednesday 13th March 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured L-R, Joshua Burnside, Naomi Hamilton (Jealous of The Birds) and Róisín Donald (Roe) Image: Pictured L-R, Joshua Burnside, Naomi Hamilton (Jealous of The Birds) and Róisín Donald (Roe)

Three musical artists from Northern Ireland, Joshua Burnside, Jealous of The Birds and Roe are taking part in this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) showcase, the world’s largest gathering of the music, media and film industry in Austin, Texas.  Also attending is management for the artists, Lyndon Stephens, Declan Legge and Liam Craig.

This opportunity is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland’s new collaboration with PRS Foundation and their International Showcase Fund (ISF), which is also supported by Department for International Trade, British Underground, Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union, PPL, Creative Scotland, Wales Arts international and Arts Council Wale.  The ISF offers musicians, who are at critical stages of their careers, the chance to promote their work through showcasing performances and networking with industry leaders. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop their careers.  This opportunity, supported by the Arts Council through funding from the Department For Communities, does just that by giving artists, and their management, the chance to connect with leaders within the music industry whilst shining a light on the tremendous talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland.  We are proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest Northern Ireland in this important initiative which is enabling export ready artists vital access to a global stage.”

ISF is open to artists in Northern Ireland who wish to travel to and perform at music industry facing showcase events including; SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance, Classical:NEXT, Eurosonic, JazzAhead, Reeperbahn Festival and Canadian Music Week.  ISF can support costs for international travel, accommodation and visas for those artists invited to perform at an industry event in a territory that will be beneficial to their career development. 

Brian Dolaghan, Executive Director at Invest Northern Ireland said:

“Northern Ireland has a strong base of musical talent which has been developed over many years with support from a wide range of stakeholders including Invest NI.  By supporting this initiative we aim to help grow and develop the sector through increased access to key external markets and through events such as SxSW help develop closer business linkages within the global music industry.”

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“We’re delighted to partner with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland in extending our vital career development and international showcasing opportunities to talented music creators in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic news that the whole of the UK is now eligible to apply to this important fund which has a significant impact on music creators’ careers and continues to promote the strength of UK music worldwide.”

The International Showcase Fund is currently open for applications. 

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Sector leaders ‘on the same page’ with reading for children

Tuesday 12th March 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature

Image:

Policy influencers, corporate partners, authors and sector leaders came together on Tuesday 5 March to discuss early children’s book sharing across the health, education and arts sectors in Northern Ireland.

BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, hosted the ‘On the Same Page’ conference as a celebration of cross departmental working as well as a discussion about the impact that early book sharing has on children across Northern Ireland. 

Sector spokespeople including Koulla Yiasouma (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People), Siobhan Slavin (Nurse Consultant for Early and School Years Public Health Agency), Cathy Galway (Director of Youth, Education and Childcare, Department of Education) and Damian Smyth (Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of NI) alongside notable children’s authors and illustrators Dan Freedman, Myra Zepf, Andrew Whitson Kelly McCaughrain discussed the impact and the future of early children’s book sharing as well as strategies to diversify funding. The main outtakes of this included:

  • The importance of the right for a child to flourish and working in close partnership to ensure all children enjoy and achieve
  • The importance of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that every child gets the best start in life
  • The importance of early shared reading in supporting language & literacy skills, brain development, bonding, socio-emotional development and wellbeing

Koulla Yiasouma - Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“As a child I was enthralled by Enid Blyton and for my children, it was Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry that caught their imagination. However, not all parents and children have the access to books which is why the work of the BookTrust is so important. That the charity reaches 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support every year is testament to the hard work and dedication of the organisation and its many supporters. A love of reading helps children to get the best start in life so it is critical that our children are given every opportunity to enter the world of literature.”

Diana Gerald, CEO, BookTrust commented:

“On the Same Page has been a powerful opportunity to make real change in early book sharing which will impact children and families across Northern Ireland. Today’s conference brought department leaders together to discuss book sharing and take action so that every child has access to a bedtime story and an opportunity to discover the magic reading because we know that a love for reading can transform lives.” 

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Research shows that the earlier the reading experience begins with children the better the prospects for future educational and quality of life benefits. The fact that reading is also enjoyable, inspirational, memorable, life-enhancing and, in many cases, life-changing, is an added and wonderful bonus. The Arts Council was delighted to partner in this important conference discussing these and other issues relating to the reading life and to welcome guests from across the field of interest gathered with a common aim.”

Dan Freedman, Author of the Jamie Johnson football series commented,

“It was an absolute honour to have presented a key note speech at the BookTrust’s On the Same Page conference. Reading brings us so much joy and understanding. It was a great opportunity to meet the teachers, librarians, policy makers and practitioners who are helping to ensure that the young people in Northern Ireland can enjoy the pleasure of books from an early age – something they and the whole of society will benefit from.”

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Dancing with Joy! - 107 arts organisations awarded Equipment Programme funding

Monday 11th March 2019 at 10am 0 Comments

Pictured (L_R) is Roger Courtney, Interim Manager, Crescent Arts Centre, Helen Hall, dancer, Paul Moore, Department For Communities and Noirin McKinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: Pictured (L_R) is Roger Courtney, Interim Manager, Crescent Arts Centre, Helen Hall, dancer, Paul Moore, Department For Communities and Noirin McKinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today announced awards worth £740,000 that will help arts organisations renew and replace essential equipment. New exchequer funding from the Department for Communities, has offered much needed support to arts organisations hoping to enhance their artistic services for audiences. The fund helps to improve lighting and sound systems, renew staging and seating, as well as purchase backstage, essential items such as sewing machines, costume rails and IT equipment.

The Crescent Arts Centre received a grant of £10,988 which comes at a strategically important time for the busy, south Belfast venue. Roger Courtney, Manager said,

“The Crescent Arts Centre is literally dancing with joy - this equipment grant will help us achieve our strategic objective, to create a dance hub in Belfast, and extend the wide range of arts activities we provide here.”

Richard Wakely, Artistic Director, Belfast International Arts Festival, said,

“The grant we received will go towards a portable dance floor, an essential piece of equipment for any major arts Festival and one which will help relieve the burden of costs required to host a major international arts festival like this in Belfast.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Equipment Programme was a major success. We received applications valued at over £2 million, a reflection of the strong need within the arts sector. The Arts Council was able to make 107 awards for equipment worth £740,000 which included everything from stages and flooring to computers and sewing machines.  We are so pleased to receive this new funding package from the Department for Communities; it will benefit many artists, arts organisations and their audiences”.

Paul Moore, Head of Arts Branch, Department for Communities said:

“I am delighted the Department of Communities was able to invest £740,000 in the arts sector. This programme will provide necessary and valuable equipment to arts organisations across Northern Ireland and benefit the audiences and communities they serve.”

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Stories brought to life as Children’s Writing Fellow hosts Derry workshops

Saturday 9th March 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Myra Zepf pictured with, from left Grace Holly, Sarah Jane Logue and Cadhla Nixon Image: Myra Zepf pictured with, from left Grace Holly, Sarah Jane Logue and Cadhla Nixon

Seamus Heaney Children's Writing Fellow Myra Zepf was in Derry this week to host a special interactive workshop at the Guildhall.

Children from the city's three Irish medium primary schools, Gaelscoil Eadáin Mhóir, Gaelscoil na Daróige and Bunscoil Cholmcille, joined children's book writer Myra Zepf to mark the start of both Book Week and Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish language Week)l with stories, games, music and fun. The 'Lúcháir Leabhar' event (The Joy of Books) was hosted by Derry and Strabane District Council, and each school was awarded a box of books by the Mayor, John Boyle.

The role of Children's Writing Fellow was created by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with funding from the National Lottery, and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast. It is the first appointment of its kind and is one of a number of projects created by the two organisations to ensure the legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, and to inspire and support current and future generations of creative writing talent.

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Kathleen Jamie named Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow

Thursday 7th March 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Kathleen Jamie by Robin Gillanders Image: Kathleen Jamie by Robin Gillanders

Award-winning Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie has been appointed as the second Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.

The fellowship is part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast’s joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project and is supported by Atlantic Philanthropies. The appointment is worth £20,000 annually and made to a distinguished poet of international repute.

Jamie will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University later this year, presenting public readings, workshops and masterclasses for students at the University. She will also give a reading at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy.

Speaking about the appointment and looking ahead to her time in Belfast, Ms Jamie said:

“As a Scottish poet I've always looked to Ireland, admiring writers from north and south; for years I've secretly hankered to spend time there. I never imagined the opportunity would arrive in such a prestigious manner! I’d be delighted to become the next Fellow and I’m looking forward to it already.”

Kathleen Jamie was born in the west of Scotland in 1962. Her poetry collections to date include The Overhaul, which won the Costa Poetry Prize, and The Tree House, which won the Forward prize. Her non-fiction includes the highly regarded books Findings and Sightlines, both regarded as important contributions to the 'new nature writing'. Her most recent poetry collection, The Bonniest Companie appeared in 2015, and won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. A Selected Poems appeared in 2018.

Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, said:

“Along with the Arts Council, we are very pleased to announce Kathleen Jamie as the second Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow and look forward to welcoming her to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, and to Belfast. We know Kathleen’s appointment will benefit not only local writers, students and the academic community, but also the wider public here in Northern Ireland.”

Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“We are delighted to announce Kathleen Jamie’s appointment today. During her time in Northern Ireland, Kathleen will work closely with the MA students at Queen’s as well as taking part in public lectures, readings and workshops. As our second Visiting International Poet, Kathleen’s appointment follows a very successful visit to Northern Ireland by the American Poet Mark Doty and like he did, we hope Kathleen finds much to inspire her own future writing during her time here.”

The distinguished selection panel is comprised of current Ireland Professor of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and fellow poets Ciaran Carson, Gerald Dawe, Leontia Flynn, Michael Longley and Paula Meehan.

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Exhibition celebrating female artists from NI launches to mark International Women’s Day

Friday 1st March 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer and Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council. Image: Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer and Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council.

A special exhibition featuring female artists from Northern Ireland has been launched in celebration of International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March.  The exhibition, which includes works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s contemporary art collection, runs from 1-31 March at the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in Cookstown.

On show are some of the best examples of contemporary art from the artists in the region, covering a range of media including photography and painting.  The exhibition features a range of artworks from emerging and established female artists and includes photography, painting, printmaking and drawing.  Collectively, the exhibition brings together artworks which tell the stories of women from different cultures, life experiences and times.  The nine artists featured include, Shalleen Temple, Eve O’Connor, Laura McDowell, Ailbhe Greaney, Suzanne Colledge, Sharon Kelly, Fiona Finnegan and Gemma Anderson. 

The exhibition is a result of the Arts Council’s new Art Lending Scheme, a free scheme which is open to curators, galleries, and organisations interested in putting works from the Arts Council’s collection on public display.  The exhibition at Burnavon has been curated by Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer at the Arts Council, who is on hand to assist organisations in curating their own exhibition.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“We are delighted to have works from the collection exhibited at the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in celebration of International Woman’s Day.  By offering the collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. I would encourage everyone to go along and see this exhibition at which promises to be an impressive mix of emerging and established artists.”

The Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Sean McPeake, commented on the new exhibition at the Burnavon,

“I’m delighted that the Burnavon, Cookstown are able to showcase this fantastic exhibition of art from the Arts Council by female artists throughout March, which is most fitting as we celebrate International Women’s Day. I encourage everyone to call into the Burnavon and visit this free exhibition while we have it here in Mid Ulster.”

Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Frances Burton also said,

“As we mark International Women’s Day, we recognise this year’s theme ‘Balance for Better’ through this incredible exhibition by female artists across Northern Ireland. It offers a great opportunity to enjoy some of the best examples of contemporary art from the Arts Council’s Collection, which I hope the residents of Mid Ulster will thoroughly enjoy.”

The Arts Council Collection Exhibition at the Burnavon Arts and Culture Centre continues until 31st March, visit www.burnavon.com/theatre/art-exhibitions

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Leading performance artist, Sinéad O’Donnell, launches exhibition inspired by female empowerment

Thursday 21st February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured is Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland with artist, Sinéad O’Donnell. Image: Pictured is Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland with artist, Sinéad O’Donnell.

“We are all sisters in this world we have to support each other. Our place and understanding of place in this world is the same in our beings to survive, to resist oppression and to join and merge through artistic forces. My work created a meeting point, through performance art, to be free.”  (Sinéad O’Donnell, performance artist).

Acclaimed performance artist, Sinead O’Donnell, has launched her latest exhibition, Crossing Permissions, at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown.

The exhibition which includes a mix of photography, sculpture, video and performance art, reflects the artist’s response to time spent living and working among women in diverse locations including; Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Uruguay and Indonesia.  In each setting the artist exchanged stories and ideas with local women to draw out issues affecting them which have informed this new work and given a voice to these women. 

Describing her latest work, Sinead O’Donnell, said,

“Crossing permissions is the title that I used to describe a process.  A process that was like an unravelling of self, art, and others through, or driven by, feminist feelings through my performance practice.  The process looked at my practice and the wider world of art that I placed myself within. As a project, Crossing Permissions, for me, was about mutual exchange: living and working alongside women; I shared my stories and they shared theirs. In each of these countries the permissions differed from culture to culture, community to community, artist to artist and woman to woman.”

Sinéad O’Donnell was the first performance artist to be awarded a Major Individual Artist award by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2017/18.  These prestigious awards, worth £15,000, are given in recognition of an individual’s contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland and in order for an artist to create a significant body of new work, in this case, Crossing Permissions.  The project was commissioned by Millennium Court Arts Centre.     

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Sinéad O’Donnell is one of Northern Ireland’s leading performance artists  with an exceptional portfolio of work that is highly regarded internationally.  The Arts Council was delighted to recognise this significant artist with a Major Individual Award in 2017 and Crossing Permissions is the outcome from the time and space this award afforded the artist.  The result is a truly impressive exhibition with great touring potential.  Congratulations to Sinéad.”

Jackie Barker, Millennium Court Arts Centre, added,

“We have been delighted to work with Sinéad O'Donnell to produce 'Crossing Permissions', a year-long project that gave Sinéad the time, space and opportunity to develop her practice, further pushing herself to create new work based on the experiences that she has encountered throughout the year.  At MCAC, we strive to support artists to take risks and to not only challenge the gallery space, but also to challenge our audiences and artists.”

Crossing Permissions at Millennium Court Arts Centre continues until 27 March 2019.  Visit www.millenniumcourt.org

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New fund opens to help arts organisations renew and replace equipment

Tuesday 19th February 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments

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The Arts of Council of Northern Ireland has opened a funding round that aims to help arts organisations renew their working environment.

The new programme, supported by £740,000 of exchequer funding from the Department for Communities, offers much needed support to arts organisations hoping to replace old and outdated IT equipment, replace lighting and sound systems, renew seating, or purchase backstage essential items such as sewing machines and costume rails.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council’s Equipment Programme can be used for anything from IT equipment and seating to jig-saws, drills and microphones - all of it benefitting artists, audiences and participants in the year ahead. We were delighted to receive this new funding package from the Department for Communities. It just couldn’t come at a better time for our arts organisations, many of whom have been struggling to buy the equipment needed to benefit the audiences they serve”.

Director of Culture with the Department for Communities Maeve Walls said:

“This funding of £740,000 will be welcomed across the arts sector and will provide necessary and valuable equipment to many organisations across Northern Ireland.  I would encourage those organisations with an interest in applying to do so by the deadline of February 26th.”

For further information and to apply online by Tuesday 26th February 2019 visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/equipment-programme

Arts organisations in receipt of 2018/19 AFP or 2018/19 Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are encouraged to apply.

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Northern Ireland musicians showcased at major music gathering, Folk Alliance International, Canada

Monday 18th February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R), is Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Norther Ireland with Brigid O’Neill, Stevie Scullion and Lyndon Stephens. Image: Pictured (L-R), is Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Norther Ireland with Brigid O’Neill, Stevie Scullion and Lyndon Stephens.

Two of the region’s top emerging artists, Stevie Scullion of Malojian and singer-songwriter, Brigid O’Neill, took part in this year’s Folk Alliance International, the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community.  Also attending the five-day event in Montréal, Canada, was Lyndon Stephens, artist management for Malojian.

This opportunity is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI’s new collaboration with PRS Foundation and their International Showcase Fund (ISF),  which is also supported by Department for International Trade, British Underground, Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union, PPL, Creative Scotland, Wales Arts international and Arts Council Wales, offers musicians, who are at critical stages of their careers, the chance to promote their work through showcasing performances and networking with industry leaders. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop their careers.  This opportunity to attend Folk Alliance International does just that by giving artists the opportunity to connect with leaders within the music industry whilst shining a light on the tremendous talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland on an international stage.  The Arts Council is proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest NI in this important initiative which is enabling export ready artists vital access to a global stage.”

ISF, is open to artists in Northern Ireland who wish to travel to and perform at music industry facing showcase events including, SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance, Classical:NEXT, Eurosonic, JazzAhead,

Reeperbahn Festival and Canadian Music Week. ISF can support costs for international travel, accommodation and visas for those artists invited to perform at an industry event in a territory that will be beneficial to their career development. 

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“We’re delighted to partner with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI in extending our vital career development and international showcasing opportunities to talented music creators in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic news that the whole of the UK is now eligible to apply to this important fund which has a significant impact on music creators’ careers and continues to promote the strength of UK music worldwide.”

The International Showcase Fund is currently open for applications.  Visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/international-showcase-fund for details.

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Arts Council publishes its 2018 Annual Funding Survey

Friday 15th February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments

Culture Night Belfast 2018 Image: Culture Night Belfast 2018

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has released data from its 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey.

Investment levels in the arts over the last 7 years contributed to another difficult year for the arts sector. Key headline figures show fewer performances delivered in 2017-18, an increase in the number of staff working on a part-time or contract basis, a decline in the number of volunteers working for core arts organisations, and a reduction in the number of outreach activities taking place.

Despite declining income levels however, arts organisations reported an overall increase in the number of arts activities carried out, reporting a rise in the number of festivals and participation based events. The report also revealed the positive efforts organisations were making to deliver a range of social outcomes, with 51 per cent of activities delivered in the most deprived 10 areas in Northern Ireland, as well as the targeted work taking place with children/young people and deprived communities.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented:

“The data presented today has been gathered from the 106 organisations funded through the Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme.  It is a reflection of their financial position, employment figures, the work they undertake, the services they offer, and their geographic reach.

“While there are some positives to be found in today’s report, overall the survey reflects a troubling financial climate. Our major arts organisations are facing reduced funding and rising core cost, which is impacting on their programming, their ability to deliver outreach activities and to reach new audiences through publicity and marketing.”

Statistical bulletin:
Part of the Arts Council’s research programme aims to provide data on activity funded through the Annual Funding Programme.  This helps to demonstrate the results of our significant investment in a core group of arts organisations and contributes to increasing the knowledge and understanding of the value of this investment. 

These statistics detail findings from the 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey which was completed by 106 arts organisations.  These organisations received £13m under its Annual Funding Programme.

As with last year, the data is presented in the form of an interactive dashboard to make it easier to analyse. Each of the four excel spreadsheets can be interrogated by selecting the desired criteria in the drop-down box at the top of the page. 

Some Key Findings

  • Small and medium scale arts organisations remain most vulnerable to cuts in public funding due to their reliance on Arts Council funding and limited ability to generate earned income, for example through box-office sales.
  • Arts organisations continue to operate in a challenging operational environment with increasing core costs having to be covered by funding originally allocated for programming.  This is impacting on organisations ability to deliver outreach and invest in reaching new audiences through publicity and marketing.
  • The number of volunteers working for core funded organisations fell by 12 per cent compared to 2016-17.  The time contributed by these volunteers increased by 2 per cent to over 100,000 hours.
  • Fewer people are being taken on as apprentices by core funded clients.
  • The vast majority of activity still takes place in urban areas, reflecting the geographical location of arts organisations.  A larger proportion of activity was delivered in rural areas compared to the previous year.
  • Fewer performances were delivered in 2017-18.  Despite an increase in the proportion of discounted and discretionary sales, the average ticket yield increased.  This suggests organisations are increasing the price of tickets to offset reductions in income.

Background on data
In a number of instances it has been necessary to exclude extreme responses to ensure trends displayed are an accurate reflection of the portfolio. Referred to as outliers, these figures have been removed as they tend to obscure trends.

A variety of methods are used by clients to record audiences and participant levels, some of which are more reliable than others.  To reduce associated error, organisations are asked to report data as either ‘actual’ or ‘estimated’; depending on the confidence they have in the data.  Both fields are shown in this release.

It is particularly difficult to estimate attendances at non-ticketed events such as carnivals given the nature of the work delivered.  This release includes data provided by a number of carnival organisations which together make a substantial contribution to total estimated attendances. Subsidy per attendance is calculated using actual and estimated attendances combined.

This is the fourth year this survey has been run, allowing data received to be cross-checked with responses received over the last three previous years.  In a change to the survey, organisations were asked to comment on any unexplained or large year-on-year changes in engagement levels.  This helped to validate the data received.  Any unexplained, large scale variances were checked directly with the organisations concerned.

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