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Arts Council briefs Stormont Committee on impact of 14 months of pandemic on the arts

Friday 2nd July 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Key insights from the Arts Council’s survey into the Impact of Emergency Funding For Artists and Organisations Image: Key insights from the Arts Council’s survey into the Impact of Emergency Funding For Artists and Organisations

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland appeared in front of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Communities Committee today (Thursday 1 July 2021) to discuss the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector here.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was joined by other senior members of the Arts Council’s Executive to discuss the positive contribution the creative sector makes to the economy and society. Also under discussion was the pandemic’s impact, after over 14 months of lockdown,  on income and revenue generation, employment, and the need for continued investment in the arts sector, as well as additional emergency funding needed for organisations and individual artists.

During the pandemic, the Arts Council reported they awarded an additional 3,370 grants to artists and arts organisations, totalling £26million. Members of the committee heard how, thanks to funding from the Department of Communities, these vital funds had provided a critical lifeline to artists and organisations whose income and work were devastated as a result of the pandemic.

The Arts Council evidenced recent research, surveying the impact of the Emergency Funding on Artists and Organisations*. Highlighted within this evidence was the pressing need for ongoing additional funding for the sector if it is to survive the ongoing impacts of COVID.

Key findings from Emergency Funding for Artists and Organisations survey included:

  • 9 out of 10 artists said the grant they had received had protected their job in the creative industries
  • 85% of artists agreed or strongly agreed that their immediate financial stress had been relived
  • 69% of organisations said they used emergency funds to maintain engagement/keep in contact with audiences
  • 85% said their organisations scale would have reduced without funding
  • 55% organisations said that they were able to continue trading in 2021/22 but that “there is uncertainty about its longer term sustainability”
  • 95% organisations still need support to guarantee long-term financial sustainability


Communities Committee Vice Chair, Kellie Armstrong MLA, thanked the ACNI team on their excellent and detailed presentation and said the committee would be writing to the Minister seeking her proposed actions following the work of the Cultural Taskforce, as well as her plans for the distribution of £13m for the arts and culture sector from the Barnet Consequentials. 

Kellie Armstrong  also commented:

“I think it strikes me how much we have missed the arts and how much we will depend on the various pathways for the arts as we come out of COVID and how much they will help improve society’s mental health”.

Members Fra McCann and Pam Cameron, voiced their concern for the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of arts and cultural workers themselves affected by lockdown.

Following the meeting, Roisín McDonough, Arts Council Chief Executive commented:

“It was encouraging to be able to attend the Communities Committee today and to hear members voice their support for the arts sector and acknowledge the many benefits the arts bring to our lives.

“There was also great concern shown by members for the mental health and wellbeing of our artists and going forward we hope to work with a range of organisations to provide the additional help and support they need. 

“Last year was an exceptional year, presenting greater challenges than any of us could have imagined and while there is hope for better days ahead there can be no doubt that our artists and cultural sector will need continued financial assistance in 2021 and beyond if they are to survive and be sustained. We remain hopeful that the Minister and her Department will continue to support the case to the NI Executive for the arts, given the value they bring to our society and to our economy, as they plan to reopen, make the most of outdoor spaces and welcome back audiences.”

*Please note, the Arts Council’s survey into the Impact of Emergency Funding For Artists and Organisations will be published later this summer. Key insights from the report are included in the infographic included here.


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