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Arts Council awards £1.9million emergency funding for 150 arts organisations across Northern Ireland

Tuesday 18th August 2020 at 10am 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Community Arts , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Literature

AVA Festival (Photographer Credit: Tremain Gregg) Image: AVA Festival (Photographer Credit: Tremain Gregg)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (Tuesday 18th August 2020) announced funding of £1,949,113, from their Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP), to support 150 arts organisations affected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

150 small and medium sized arts organisations will benefit from funding grants of up to £25,000 each, from the Arts Council OEP fund, to enable them to continue producing creative work, assist with operational costs and to help plan for recovery.

The OEP fund provides much-needed financial support, a lifeline to arts organisations, 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 Organisations Emergency Programme is one element of the Creative Support Fund through the  Department for Communities, to support the arts and wider culture sectors during the current pandemic. 

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

“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for 150 arts organisations who will now be able to continue to programme work and prepare for recovery.  21 of these awards are going to arts organisations who have never received Arts Council support before and we are looking forward to seeing the wonderful projects that they have planned in the coming months.”

“Funding for the arts in Northern Ireland was already in a fragile state pre-Covid-19 and we estimate that since the pandemic, organisations are facing deficits of over £6m; a figure which may increase as the year progresses. These organisations are among the most creative, flexible and inventive in our society and many are already finding imaginative and innovative ways to deliver online content. However the impact of the lockdown on their earned income has been both severe and immediate.”

“The Organisations Emergency Programme will support arts organisations by helping them buy creative time to produce new ideas for programming, plan for recovery and also aid them withstand the shock to their organisation of substantial loss of income during lockdown.  We hope now with outdoor opportunities opening up, to see even more engagement with live audiences and participants in a safe and meaningful way.”

Organisations offered funding include:

Maywe, drive-in entertainment company
Maywe specialises in the ‘drive-in’ experience and offers a unique, live experience of the arts in a safe, outdoor setting.  Maywe will use their OEP funding to produce a project entitled, Lough Down, a festival weekend of music, comedy and arts, which will take place in the iconic setting of Belfast’s Titanic area.  Audiences will be invited to attend in their cars, with sound sent through car radios with on stage action fed live to a large LED screen.

The weekend will consist of 3-4 shows each day with room for 400 cars per show.  Lough Down Festival will give a platform to a variety of established and emerging talent and performances will range from open mic shows for local musicians, to bluesy lunches, concerts, comedy and theatre – all live from the comfort of your own car!

Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics
First funding award from the Arts Council

Imagine! Festival of Ideas and politics organises an inspiring, annual, week-long programme of performances, discussions and debates.  The company aims to provide a high quality showcase for new ideas on politics, culture and activism in Northern Ireland and to encourage the participation of under-represented groups in political and cultural debate and discussion.  The popular festival attracts over 25,000 audience members annually and this year adapted to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic by moving the festival online in March 2020, attracting over 12,000 people and over 1m in social media impressions.  Their OEP funding award will support the costs involved in running the organisation to enable them to plan for their next Festival.

AVA Festival and Conference
First funding award from the Arts Council

AVA is an annual audio visual arts festival and conference that takes place in Belfast every May which celebrates and develops electronic music and digital visual arts through commissioning, conferencing, programming and broadcasting of emerging and established talent.  The 2020 Festival is postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a significant loss and the organisation will now use their OEP funding to support running costs, plan for recovery and programme their next festival.

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre (DQDT)
Based in the rural south west of Northern Ireland, Fermanagh’s DQDT occupies a very special position in our arts and dance scene. Synthesising cutting edge contemporary dance practice and community participatory work, DQDT uses dance to reach across the many divisions in our society, bringing the remarkable benefits of this bodily performance mode to a huge range of people, participants and spectators alike.  During lockdown this innovative company embraced technological tools to continue their wonderful work online, and put together an inspirational and multi-disciplinary arts festival, Inside Outside Festival.

DQDT will use their OEP funding award to continue and develop their online adult participation activities, develop an online youth dance programme, support the develop of the next Inside Outside Festival and to support the ongoing development of the company’s professional dance practise.

Greater Shantallow Community Arts and Studio 2
Great Shantallow Community Arts and Studio 2, based in Derry-Londonderry, is a community arts charity dedicated to making the arts accessible for all, serving a community that is based in an area of high deprivation.  

Greater Shantallow Community Arts will use their OEP funding award towards the core costs of running the organisation, planning for recovery and long-term sustainability as-well as creating a programme of weekly arts activities to their community, developing an outreach programme, taking part in local arts festivals and developing a Social Prescribing Programme.  Greater Shantallow Community Arts also celebrates their 20th anniversary in 2020 and so will develop a programme of celebratory events in the local community.

Seacourt Print Workshop
Seacourt Print Workshop is an open access printmaking studio, based in Bangor, with fantastic resources, courses and workshops.  They plan to use their OEP funding award to run more workshops at the Print Workshop based on serving smaller groups to ensure social distancing and they also wish to develop a new series of online workshops targeted at people who cannot attend Seacourt in person due to having to shield as a result of the pandemic.

For more information on the financial impact of the Coronavirus on the NI Arts Sector visit

To read the Arts Council’s survey on financial impact of Coronavirus on NI Arts sector (April 2020) visit


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