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Arts Council announces £2.7 million recovery funding to support individuals in the Creative Economy

Friday 3rd December 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, on behalf of Department for Communities (DfC), has today (Friday 3 December) announced details of £2,711,816 of recovery funding for 1,433 individuals working in the Creative Economy across Northern Ireland.

The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme (CIRP), was designed by the Department for Communities and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and was launched by Minister Hargey in September. The programme offers grants of up to £2,000 each to help creative individuals to undertake activity linked to their practice or art form.

The objective of the programme is to help artists and individuals deal with the costs involved in maintaining and enhancing their creative trade, vocation or profession. The strategic aim however, is to prevent NI talent from leaving the creative economy, and instead, encourage individuals to stay and grow their practice while contributing to the health of our social and economic eco-system.

The CIRP fund supports one-off costs associated with their arts practice, and funding to build their professional and technical skills, particularly as so many have been negatively impacted as a result of lockdown and the pandemic restrictions.

Recent research from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland* (*New report highlights impact of Covid pandemic on arts sector | Arts Council of Northern Ireland ( shows evidence that the creative sector in NI relies heavily on self-employed and freelance individuals, and that many have already left the sector because of the pandemic. Evidence showed that for those remaining, they face unaffordable costs associated with re-establishing or developing their creative practice.

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

“The Arts Council is today offering 1,433 awards to creative individuals across Northern Ireland totalling £2,711,816. Today’s announcement is welcome news, and we thank the Minister for making this funding available. The Minister’s funding initiative was designed to help individuals to continue with a creative career in Northern Ireland, to carry on developing important skills, many of which have taken years to develop.

“Indeed research demonstrates there is currently a significant risk that the talent pool of artists and creatives we need in Northern Ireland to support our creative ecosystem, will disappear as individuals leave to find alternative work. That would take NI years to recover from, as these freelancers, artists and individuals are essential to the success of our creative industries.

“CIRP funding will help our creative individuals to positively contribute, as they did before the pandemic, to the significant cultural value of Northern Ireland as a great place to work, live and invest.”

Minister, Deirdre Hargey, Department for Communities, said,

“I am delighted that my Department, through the Arts Council, will be awarding grants to 1,433 individuals to help encourage them to remain within the creative sector here.

“This sector has been seriously impacted by Covid restrictions as it relies heavily on people’s ability to get together. We cannot afford to lose our creative talent and it is vital that we safeguard the sector for the future.”

Among those individuals offered funding are:

Sarah Carey, Costume Assistant and Textile Artist
CIRP funding award offered: £2,000
CIPR project: Training in shoemaking

Sarah Carey, based in Newtownabbey, is a freelance Costume Assistant and textile artist for film and theatre. Her work includes the creation of costumes, alterations and contributing to the back-stage operations of many productions. Sarah has worked in film too, including Dungeons and Dragons, The Northman and Ordinary Love, as well as working with live theatre shows at the Lyric Theatre Belfast (Good Vibrations, Aladdin, Sweeney Todd and Three Penny Opera among others).

Sarah returned to Northern Ireland following graduation and saw a gap in the theatrical costume industry for shoemakers, a niche aspect of costume work that is often outsourced. As a result Sarah will use her CIRP award to train with an expert in shoemaking with the aim of creating further employment opportunities through a business start-up; while keeping the role of shoemaking within the Northern Ireland Creative Industries sector.

Matthew Whiteside, Composer
CIRP funding award offered, £2,000
CIRP project: Instagram Opera

Matthew Whiteside, based in Lisburn, is a highly respected composer, collaborator, sound designer, concert promoter and artistic director whose recent career highlights include: commissions from Crash Ensemble (New Music Dublin 2020), the Institute of Physics for the 2018 NI Science Festival, and work for Scottish Opera. He also scored Michael Palin’s, Quest for Artemisia, for BBC4. In 2019 he released his second album, Entangled, to critical acclaim.

With his CIRP award Matthew will develop an Instagram Opera made up of multiple short segments for initial release on Instagram Reels, and/or TikTok. He intends to create a work of 30 minutes for solo soprano, chamber ensemble and electronics accompanied by abstract visuals for digital release and possible live performance too.

Anna O’Kane, Community Visual Artist
CIRP funding award offered: £1,955
CIRP project: Mixed mosaic community arts project

Anna O’Kane, based in Belfast, is a highly experienced community visual artist who makes a significant contribution to the arts, arts in health, and formal education sectors in Northern Ireland. She has engaged with all age groups over her career but is specializing in working with older people through the PRW Creative Ageing programme and Arts Care’s ‘Here and Now’ programme.

Anna will use her CIRP funding to work with local communities in the creation of mixed media mosaic panels that reflect their collective experience of the pandemic and their community resilience. The completed artwork will be installed permanently at a community/health venue.

For a list of all those offered funding visit

The CIRP is now closed, with all available funds allocated. Keep up to date with funding opportunities at

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