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ACNI awards £12.9 million in grants to sustain key arts organisations during challenging times

Friday 10th April 2020 at 11am 0 Comments

The Lyric Theatre’s world premiere of the stage musical version of ‘Good Vibrations’, charting the life of Belfast punk legend Terri Hooley, adapted Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson Image: The Lyric Theatre’s world premiere of the stage musical version of ‘Good Vibrations’, charting the life of Belfast punk legend Terri Hooley, adapted Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) today (10 April 2020) announced annual funding of £12.9 million for 97 key arts organisations from its exchequer and National Lottery resources. This year, with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent quarantine, the Council has promised an upfront payment of 50% of the total grant value offered, to help stabilise the region’s key arts organisations.

The Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme (AFP) is the most significant allocation of public funding for the arts in Northern Ireland each year.  Today Northern Ireland’s key arts organisations received standstill funding, primarily covering their core costs and programming costs.

John Edmund, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Today the Arts Council is able to award £12.9 million of annual arts funding, from its exchequer and National Lottery resources, to support the valuable work of 97 key arts organisations. Each of these organisations is under enormous financial pressure, as is public expenditure generally, during this period of quarantine so we are thankful we could maintain funding to applicants at last year’s level.”

The situation for artists and arts organisations has never been as bad; venues are closed, events and festivals are cancelled and travel bans and social distancing have removed the opportunity to perform for live audiences and show new artistic work. While this is all completely understandable and very necessary in the fight against Covid-19, it has destabilised arts organisations right across Northern Ireland and threatens their very survival . We continue to work alongside Minister Hargey and the Department for Communities on funding solutions that will help our artists and arts organisations ride-out this crisis and help them continue to create inspirational work for audiences and for those most in need in our communities.”

Arts Council Chief Executive, Róisín McDonough, commented,

“We are relieved to be able to make today’s allocation of standstill funding and we are grateful to the Department for Communities in acknowledging the fragile state of the arts sector at this time and the devastating effects of Covid-19 upon our key arts organisations.

“Our Board chose to mitigate some of the immediate difficulties faced by those organisations during these unprecedented times by making upfront payments of 50% of approved annual grants to clients. Flexibility and liquidity are key to the sector’s survival right now; the Arts Council will be flexible with our clients regarding how funding is deployed and used this year while organisations strive to maintain liquidity and create the inspirational work we all need in this situation.”

“Ninety-one organisations were offered standstill funding, two were offered uplifts for clear strategic reasons including merger costs and other external financial pressures and there were two new applicants. “

“I would like to take the opportunity to commend all those who were successful in their applications and I also want to reassure our arts sector that I and my staff are doing our utmost to bring as much support as possible, as quickly as possible, to those who need it most.”

Today’s Annual Funding announcement supports the work of major arts organisations in Northern Ireland.  An Artist’s Emergency Programme is currently being designed to support individual artists and freelancers in response to the pressures of Covid-19.  Full details are expected to be announced quickly after Easter holidays, please check the website for future updates at 

Arts Council staff members are also continuing to work alongside the Department for Communities to ensure the minister’s recent announcement of £1m of aid will make a real difference and support the wider cultural sector in NI as soon as possible.  This support will include artists, arts organisations, and those working with museums, libraries and languages.

Annual Funding Programme Case Studies:

Outburst Arts
Outburst Arts is a new client to the Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme. The organisation is at a pivotal point in its development; their annual festival, Outburst Queer Arts Festival, has grown into one of the leading festivals in Northern Ireland for exciting, cutting-edge writing and performance. The organisation has produced award-winning, critically-acclaimed productions, often in partnership with other arts companies, and also showcases the best in new queer arts from around the world.  Visit

174 Trust
174 Trust (Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre) is the second new client added to the Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme. Since opening in 2014, the Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre has created a highly successful arts-based model of engagement with marginalised and disadvantaged communities in North Belfast.   The venue is a shared space community arts centre, supporting local children, young people and adults through targeted arts programming, workshops and classes.  The Duncairn also supports and develops the work of young, emerging local artists and has a regular programme of live music.


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