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Arts Council announces £3.8m emergency funding to support 1089 individuals in the Creative Economy

Tuesday 20th October 2020 at 5pm 0 Comments


The Arts Council of Northern Ireland on behalf of DfC and in collaboration with Future Screens NI, has announced details of 1089 individuals, working in the Creative Economy, who are set to benefit from £3,852,000 of emergency funding as part of part of the Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP).

More than £3m of this funding is coming from the £29m Executive allocation that was made to the Department for Communities to support the arts, culture, heritage and language sectors which have been severely impacted by Covid-19.

The IERP is designed to support those working in the Creative Economy including freelancers, musicians, actors, artists and craft workers during the COVID-19 crisis.  The IERP, worth £3,752,000 from the Department for Communities and £100,000 from Future Screens NI, offered individuals the opportunity to apply for grants of £1,200, £3,000 or £5,000 each. 

IERP provides much-needed financial support and employment, a lifeline to individuals working within the wider Creative Economy, at a time when essential elements of the arts sector have been decimated due to venue and gallery closures, festival and event cancellations and the disappearance of live audiences.  The IERP builds on the initial, Artist Emergency Programme (AEP), a fund that was opened by the Arts Council in April 2020 and was heavily oversubscribed. 

IERP is one element of the wider £29m funding package recently announced by Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, Department for Communities, to support the arts, creative industries and cultural sector during the current pandemic. Within weeks of opening the IERP, the Arts Council received a high number of eligible applications.  In response, an additional £2,752,000 funding was recently made available from the Department for Communities to allow the maximum number of eligible awards to be made. This brings the total amount now awarded through the scheme up to £3,852,000.

Successful awards extend across all aspects of the creative industries and arts including: a blacksmith; a milliner; a wedding stationer; a transcriptionist, stage technicians; stage managers; event and venue crew; animators; costume makers; workshop facilitators; graphic designers/creative content designers; photographers; videographers; film-makers and illustrators; musicians, visual artists, actors, circus performers, designer-makers, sound/audio/AV engineers and technicians; lighting technicians; session musicians; DJs and freelance musicians (singer songwriters/live musicians/musical entertainers). 

Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, Department for Communities, commented,

“It is vital to remember that when we talk about the arts, language, culture and heritage sectors, we aren’t just talking about institutions and buildings and sites; we are talking about the people who are at the heart of all the work that goes on.  So it is vital that people are at the heart of our response to the restrictions and hardship that the pandemic has wrought.  I am delighted to have been able to ensure that the first £3 million funding from the Executive allocation will be focused on providing support for people whose creativity, effort and hard work underpin our creative economy and make such a contribution to the quality of life of all people here.”

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

“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for 1089 individuals working in the Creative Economy thanks to the Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme.  Many of these awards are going to individuals who have never received Arts Council support before and we thank the Minister for making extra funding available to enable so many applicants to receive much-needed financial support at this time.  The scale of the crisis within our fragile arts sector is unlike anything we’ve known before.  The arts are something which we all enjoy, be it through film, concerts, exhibitions or books but the behind the scenes, the work and skills which go into making those things happen are too often unseen and undervalued.”

“IERP is designed to support those artists and freelance creatives who were left struggling with serious financial hardships since their livelihoods disappeared practically overnight as a result of the pandemic. Demand on our previous Artists Emergency Programme for creative workers outstripped capacity by 3:1.  The Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme provides critically-needed support and will help to bridge the gap over the coming months until the Executive has an opportunity to consider and agree a more comprehensive, long-term government support package for arts, culture and heritage in Northern Ireland.”

Professor Paul Moore, Director Future Screens NI said,

“Future Screens NI welcomes the release of £3,852,000 to 1089 eligible applicants within the arts and the creative industries.  We commend the Minister for Communities for the additional allocation ensuring that the maximum number of awards could be made at this time.  The awards will provide freelancers, musicians, actors, artists and craft workers with a much-needed lifeline during these difficult times while investing in the future of the arts and creative industries in the region.  We are delighted to work in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities to provide this much-needed stimulus to the Creative Industries.”

“Moving forward, Future Screens NI welcome the opportunity to continue to work in collaboration with both the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities to target resources for the sector.  Since the outset of the crisis Future Screens has provided much-needed resources and support to the creative Industries to address some of the most severe implications of Covid-19.  We will continue to do so throughout the ongoing crisis.”

Individuals offered funding include:

Nandi Jola, performer, writer, singer, actor
Nandi Jola, who is originally from South Africa, has been active in the NI arts community as a writer, artist and facilitator for more than ten years where she has been engaged in cultural awareness workshops, poetry, memoir and drama.  She has been involved with the Irish Writers Centre XBorders project; Women Aloud and Terra Nova Productions, an arts organisation that creates intercultural productions with professional artists from around the world. 
Nandi’s work has been showcased at the Duncairn arts centre in North Belfast and also in Armagh alongside leading writer and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay MBE, the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics.  Her work reflects both her origins as an African artist and as someone bedded into the culture in Northern Ireland. Her work has also been showcased on the Poetry Jukebox, an on-street sound installation that celebrates poetry.   Nandi Jola project managed the ‘Home neither here nor there’ exhibition at Stormont to mark Africa Week, in May 2013, and is one of the leading artistic presences in the African community here in Northern Ireland, taking a prominent role as an arts voice and presence in the on-going Black Lives Matter campaign.  Nandi has a one-person show of monologues and dance opening at the International Literature Festival in Dublin on Thursday 22 October, directed by Jo Egan of Macha Productions. 

Rebecca Cooney, sign-language interpreter, writer and director
First award from the Arts Council

Rebecca Cooney is a freelance creative who holds a degree in D/deafness and Sign Language, and uses this training and expertise to create more inclusive work for theatre, with GCSE and A-Level students, and also with the public.  Rebecca has written, directed and produced work for D’Sign Arts, an organisation which aims to give the Deaf community in Northern Ireland access to arts, performance and media training.  With the support of her IERP award, Rebecca will explore the potential to create a new form of performance by using BSL in choreography and has set up a new company, New City Productions, which will create truly inclusive and accessible performances for all. 

Daniel Millar, recording engineer, producer, musician and music teacher
First award from the Arts Council

Daniel Millar has been working in the creative sector for the past nine years in a number of different roles whilst also studying music production to degree level.  The artist has been teaching guitar and music lessons to students through the Nerve Centre in Derry-Londonderry and to young people through various community outreach programmes. As a recording engineer and producer, he collaborates with artists to produce their own original material or to create promotional material for cover artists and entertainers.  As a result of the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the artist hasn’t been able to access studios to carry out his work.  With the support of his IERP award Daniel aims to invest in equipment to enable him to set up a professional, semi-portable studio to allow him to continue working as an artist, recording engineer and music producer.

Ryan MacFarlane, DJ, producer, music collective founder
First award from the Arts Council

Ryan MacFarlane is an electronic artist known as, Optmst, as well as a music producer, label owner, music reviewer and promoter.  His music was release on R&S Records in May 2020, receiving 6,000 combined streams across Spotify, Soundcloud and on Youtube.  Ryan has been selected for performances at key electronic industry and showcase events including, Horst Festival’s Music Lab, Belgium (Red Bull Elektropedia Festival) and Celtronic’s 20th Anniversary as part of their emerging artist showcase and also as a festival opener for the AVA Festival in Belfast.

In 2018 Ryan launched, Born Sleepy, to collaborate and give opportunities to other artists across Ireland and as a music reviewer Ryan is known for this work with Soundspace, promoting not only local but international music to an audience of over 50,000.  Ryan is a tenant of Vault Artist Studios and is current developing his latest project, Ayeland, a performance and broadcast space.  With the support of his IERP award, Ryan will develop the Ayeland space and continue his work as Optmst.

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

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

Details of the Arts Council’s SIAP (Support for the Individual Artist Programme) recipients are expected to be made later this week.



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