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Arts Council publishes findings from its 2019/20 Annual Funding Survey

Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Anna Burns event at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in April 2019. Image: Anna Burns event at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in April 2019.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today published findings from a survey of 97 arts and culture organisations in receipt of funding through its Annual Funding Programme.

The survey collects data on organisation staffing, financial statements (income and expenditure), numbers of performances, participation based events, exhibitions and festivals. It also records details of known and estimated audiences.

The Survey is used to provide evidence of the use of funding for reporting to Government and other key stakeholders and it also helps support the Arts Council’s detailed understanding of grant recipients, informing future planning and policy development.

In addition to the report, a dashboard has been created allowing the interrogation of data by artform type and organisation size (as determined by income). This valuable resource will enable arts organisations to benchmark their activity at a sector level. 

The enforced lockdown in March 2020 came just at the end of the 2019/20 reporting period*.  It had a devastating impact on all activity levels that month as organisations were required to stop all public facing activity. Although this can be seen reflected in some of the high level data reported in the summary report and table, the true impact of the pandemic will be evident in next year’s report which will examine the 2020/21 financial period.

Key findings:

  • Income overall fell by £3.4million among the 97 organisations surveyed. Income from earned sources fell by 9% compared to the previous year.  Organisations reported that they continued to offset limited income by attempting to keep expenditure as low as possible.
  • Together, organisations in receipt of Annual Funding from the Arts Council created 6.2m individual engagement opportunities in 2019/20 via performances, participation based events, visual art exhibitions and festivals.  This represented an increase in of 3.5% compared to the previous year. Children/young people (47%) and deprived neighbourhoods (42%) remain the two most significantly targeted societal groups.
  • Almost two-thirds of activity was delivered in either Belfast (36%) or Derry and Strabane (27%) Local Government Districts. The proportion of activity delivered outside these areas fell by 8% compared to previous years. 21% of activity was delivered in rural areas, up 4% compared to the previous year.  Nine per cent of all activity was delivered outside Northern Ireland. Of this activity, over half (57%) was delivered in RoI, with a further 10% in other EU countries. 
  • There were reductions in employment across all category types, with the number of managers, employed on a contract basis, falling by over 10%.  Most of the workforce were employed on a contract basis: for every one person in a permanent role, there were 6 employed on a contract basis. Volunteer numbers fell by 20% compared to the previous year, with the number of male volunteers fell by a quarter. 


To access the report and data tables go to:

*Please note, the reporting period for this survey is 1st April 2019-31st March 2020.


Notes to editors

  • The report contains analysis on the financial, operational and artistic activities of funded organisations and is being released by the Arts Council under its capacity as a producer of Official Statistics.
  • For more information on the survey please contact Graeme Stevenson by e-mail at
  • A constant sample of organisations has been created to allow for like-for-like comparison over a four-year period.
  • Data has been aligned to allow users direct comparison between findings at the overall portfolio level and a range of useful variables, including artform.


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