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Arts Council provides update to Communities Committee on impact of Covid-19

Thursday 17th December 2020 at 3pm 0 Comments

Ryan McMullan and the Ulster Orchestra Image: Ryan McMullan and the Ulster Orchestra

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland was invited to attend the Communities Committee today to provide an update on how a share of the £33 million Cultural Recovery Fund announced earlier this year, has been put to use. The Arts Council put expert analysis and information in front of Committee members in order to provide them with a better understanding of what is facing Northern Ireland’s arts and creative sectors right now.

Arts Council Chief Executive Roisin McDonough said,

“We were able to convey to the committee that the arts sector in Northern Ireland is largely surviving Covid-19 thanks to emergency government funding from the Minister and the Department for Communities. It has not been easy and our theatres and venues remain closed under NI Covid-19 restrictions. In light of this, the emergency funding has been a lifeline; it has allowed the majority of the arts sector here to sustain itself during this pandemic and indeed we have expanded our remit as asked and delivered emergency support to the wider culture and creative industries sectors also.

The Arts Council Chief Executive continued, “The Arts Council has been asked to support an extended cultural footprint with emergency funding packages, many of which are non-traditional arts organisations and creatives. For example we have received requests from large commercial organisations operating in the areas of live entertainment and independent cinema who are under stress and, given the pressures on the limited budget available, it would be helpful if there could be a cross-cutting approach within the NI Executive to help determine the support it can deploy for those vital larger organisations in desperate need.

“However the loss of income evidenced, and devastation of the arts and creative sectors this year, means that the reopening and renewal of the arts in 2021 will cost more than we currently have available to spend. There are big decisions yet to be made at government level and funding priorities to agree for next year that will affect how quickly and in what manner the arts can be sustained.

“We also put on record the positive impact of emergency funding on our artists, arts organisations and other creatives. Many have been able to produce amazing creative work, often of great ingenuity, freely available online, and reaching audiences across the world and at home. The positive side of this pandemic situation is that a whole new section of online audiences have turned to the arts for creative solace and entertainment during lockdown and since, largely older in age and from a much wider international reach.

“We spoke too of the enormous effort and work rate that the staff of the Arts Council have demonstrated in order to ensure 6 emergency funding rounds for the arts sector have been completed, effectively doubling the number of funding programmes we have administered this year. We have been utterly determined to get that funding out to those most in need in the wider arts, culture and creative industries sectors as quickly as possible.”

The Arts Council remains hopeful that the Minister and her Department will continue to support the case for the arts, and the value they bring to our society and to our economy; a fact demonstrated by the Arts Council’s latest survey showing high numbers of people turning to the arts for solace and relief during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Latest research on participation and access to the arts during the Covid-19 pandemic was released by the Arts Council yesterday. Full survey can be accessed here: Public turning to the arts for comfort and welcome distraction during the Pandemic | Arts Council of Northern Ireland 

  •  Of 1,003 people surveyed, 60% had participated in or viewed online arts activity:

✓ 43% watched live social media streams/ broadcasts (e.g. of music events)
✓ 28% watched filmed performances of theatre, concerts and /or dance shows online
✓ 18% looked at art, paintings, and photographs online (e.g. from a virtual collection)
✓ 14% participated in an online arts class / group / tutorial (e.g. via zoom or Microsoft teams)
✓ 31% said the arts they took part in online or via social media were from Northern Ireland

  • Among those engaging with the Arts during lockdown, 13% did so for the first time, 25% engaged more than they used to, 32% less than they used to, 20% engaged to the same level and 9% were unsure
    • 68% engaged with the Arts for personal enjoyment and wellbeing
    • 33% did so because they were curious and wanted to try something new
    • 21% did so to engage with friends and family not in their household
    • 15% did so to engage children and young people in their care
    • 12% did so to extend their social circle
    • 5% did so to engage older people in their care
    • Of the 13% engaging with the arts for the first time were more likely to be older, be from lower down the socio-economic scale and have a disability

 

Evidence from the survey also shows that the public would be more comfortable attending arts events or activities in outdoor settings, although a majority did say they would attend an arts event in an indoor space if public health measures were in place, with social distancing being the most important. Most respondents in the survey supported the ‘free for view’ model of consuming arts with limited support for pay for view or donation based models.

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