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Arts Council survey reveals Digital Ambitions of NI’s creative sector

Friday 22nd October 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (22nd October 2021) published the findings of its survey on the online and digital ambitions of Northern Ireland’s arts and creative sector.

The survey provides a snapshot of current use, including the impact of the pandemic on online audience engagement; and it considers the future needs of the sector and the challenges of realising the potential of the new technologies, including monetising online content.

Chief among the survey findings is that, while digital and online technologies are widely perceived to create exciting new possibilities for artists and organisations to make work, innovate, and reach wider audiences, digital is not seen as a replacement for live, in-person arts.

“The past 12 months has highlighted quite dramatically the absolute necessity of integrating digital technology into, and encouraging digital engagement with, the arts.”

“We must recognise and embrace Digital Technology as an Equality of Access requirement for future generations.”

Key findings:

Engaging with audiences:

  • Audiences, especially younger audiences, are engaging differently with the arts, with more art being consumed on digital devices. It is crucial for arts organisations to keep pace with change.
  • Social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic provided the catalyst for many arts organisations to adapt their work for online audiences. There were many notable successes, but also concerns that quality could suffer in the rush to ensure that audiences were engaged.
  • The online audience is potentially global; however, this creates new challenges for local arts organisations, attempting to compete in the online arena with worldwide organisations.
  • Online content is increasing access to the arts for marginalised communities, people with mobility issues and people living in rural locations.

Monetising Digital:

  • Organisations face a number of barriers to successfully monetising digital content, notably staff capacity and persuading audiences to pay appropriately. During the pandemic, paid-for online content generated significantly less income than would have been possible through live in-person ticketed events.
  • The two methods of monetisation that show the greatest opportunity for growth are ‘online sponsorship / donation’ and ‘paid content for streaming / online distribution.’
  • To date, these methods of monetisation have been used successfully by less than 20% of the organisations surveyed; however, 60% are keen to test this marketplace.

Funding and support:

  • Delivering digital content is human resource intensive, requiring specialist skills and additional spending commitments, which is particularly challenging for smaller arts organisations.
  • NI arts require investment support if they are to catch up producing high-quality work and competing online with other UK and European regions.
  • There is currently a skills gap in NI, with many artists and organisations ‘learning on the job’.
  • Provision of specialised training would have a significant impact on the sector’s ability to deliver high-quality digital content and propel their work to greater audiences.
  • There is strong support for the formation of digital hubs, providing shared facilities, equipment, skills, knowledge and resources.

Future ambitions:

  • 82% of survey respondents believe that digital technology will enable them to distribute their creative content more widely.
  • 81% believe that it will generate an additional source of revenue.
  • 79% believe that it will improve the quality of their services to audiences.
  • With technological changes, exacerbated by the events of 2020, the arts audience has been changing; artists and organisations need to design ahead for the evolving market.

To read the Arts Council’s ‘Digital Ambitions Survey Findings’, click here: email: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Digital-Ambitions-Survey-Findings-Report-October2021.pdf


The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org

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South African born poet to represent NI at multilingual poetry festival in Brussels

Wednesday 20th October 2021 at 8am 0 Comments

Poet, storyteller and playwright Nandi Jola is representing Northern Ireland at the 11th TRANSPOESIE festival in Brussels.

Her poem Entomology has been translated into French and Dutch and is currently on display in public spaces and parks around the Belgian capital. Nandi was selected to be a part of the international project by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels and will present her work at a special virtual event at the Listz Institute on October 21st.

Launched in 2011, TRANSPOESIE is an annual poetry festival organised by EUNIC Brussels (the local network of European Union National Institutes for Culture) and its partners. It was inspired by the successful and long-standing Poems on the Underground in London and Wiersze w Metrze in Warsaw, as well as similar projects run in various capital cities all over the world such as Paris, New York and Montreal.

The festival celebrates multilingualism by bringing poetry in as many languages as possible to Brussels.

Sonya Whitefield, Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Nandi to see her work translated into other languages and be put on public display alongside other poets from across the world. She follows in the footsteps of Stephen Sexton and Máire Zepf who have previously represented Northern Ireland at the festival and we very much look forward to seeing Nandi present her work at the virtual TRANSPOESIE event on October 21st.”

Lynsey Moore, Director of the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels added:

"The Brussels Platform continues to provide the ideal opportunity to showcase our talent on a European stage and to highlight the region's ever growing reputation as a centre of excellence in the arts.”

Born in Gqeberha, South Africa, Nandi grew up under the apartheid regime and began writing poetry at the age of fourteen. At 21 she left home to come to Northern Ireland and her work reflects both Belfast and South Africa and the many connections that the people have in common.

Speaking about TRANSPOESIE Nandi said:

“I just wanted to thank the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Queens University Belfast for opening doors to opportunities, thank my publisher Doire Press and raise a glass to ABC Council Area, my County Armagh for making the Longlist to the bid for City of Culture 2025. I will to be their first Black Poet in Residence in 2022.”

About the artist:

Nandi Jola an active member of the Northern Ireland arts community, working as a writer, cultural schools ambassador, artist and facilitator.

In 2010, she founded the ‘nandijproject’, with the intention to tackle women trafficking and sexual exploitation and has been a key figure in many significant arts projects including the Irish Writers Centre XBorders project, Same/Difference project, the Poetry Jukebox, the Sky and You Are Too Big poetry collective. Her play “The Journey” opened the prestigious International Literature Festival Dublin in October 2020 and in 2021 she was selected to take part in the BBC’s Writers Room project.

Her debut poetry collection, Home Is Neither Here Nor There will be published in Spring/Summer 2022 with Doire Press.

Entomology

Our bodies are wiretaps
Carried by a cuboid vessel
Into the viscera of sphere
Like weevils bare to illumination
Leaning on the nearest thing
The thing that is itinerant
Of two dimensions at the speed of light.
Transporting us through quotidian noise

For more information on the TRANSPOESIE Festival go to www.transpoesie.eu .

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Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich partner with Coláiste Feirste to showcase the work of Art Students

Tuesday 19th October 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

It’s out of the art room and into the gallery for the GCSE and A-Level Art students at Coláiste Feirste who make a welcome return to the annual Coláiste Feirste art exhibition hosted by Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, Belfast. The free exhibition, supported by National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, is presented in Dánlann Dillon, The Dillion Gallery and is now available to view, continuing until 25th November.


Every year the team at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich invite young, dedicated artists from Coláiste Feirste to showcase their artwork to the public. The pieces presented this year include artworks from A-Level and GCSE students across a range of mediums.

Gráinne Ní Ghilín, Director, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, commented,

“Everyone at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich is absolutely delighted to once again host this exhibition from the talented students at Coláiste Feirste. The artwork on show gives us an insight into the young people in our community and the subjects that inspire them to create their art. We are especially delighted to celebrate the fantastic artistic ability in our community this year as we celebrate thirty years since Cultúrlann first opened and was the initial home of Meánscoil Feirste. I’m so proud of the students that are taking part and I would encourage everyone to come along and experience this wonderful exhibition.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern, added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support Cultúrlann Mc Adam Ó Fiaich thanks to National Lottery players. Cultúrlann excel at engaging with the local community and we are really proud to see them partner with local secondary school, Coláiste Feirste, to present this wonderful exhibition of work from GCSE and A-Level Art students.”

For most of the students this is their first experience of having their work featured in a professionally presented public exhibition. Former Coláiste Feirste student Shakirah Ní Bhriain, who is now studying at the Belfast School of Art – Ulster University and whose A-Level work features in the exhibition commented,

“Having my A-Level piece on display is really surreal as it was such a difficult thing to do, especially during the pandemic. My ceramic piece is called, Hanging On, and deals with issues around mental health and wellbeing. With all the hard work that has gone into it, it’s just so great to see it on public display, a real reward at the end of all the hard work.”

For full details of Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich’s autumn Samhain events programme, visit www.culturlann.ie

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Second NI Writers Day Will Celebrate Contemporary Voices In Literature

Thursday 14th October 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with support from the National Lottery, are inviting booklovers and writers to join them for a series of free online events later this month.

NI Writers Day 2 will take place on Wednesday 27th October. It follows on from the first hugely successful NI Writers Day in March 2021 and is part of a drive by the Royal Society of Literature to celebrate literary talent across all regions of the UK.

The October session will feature a mix of speakers, shining a light on some of Northern Ireland’s most outstanding writers working across a range of genres today, including drama, sci-fi, crime fiction and Irish language. Award-winning writer and RSL Fellow Lucy Caldwell will return to her Northern Ireland roots to host the day.

The event will open with a lunchtime workshop led by Lucy and fellow East-Belfast author Glenn Patterson, who together will deliver a free hour-long workshop exploring the joys, possibilities and challenges of working across form. Open to all, whether you’ve recently started writing or are a master of your chosen genre, this session will encourage writers to experiment with the written word.

In the afternoon, Royal Society of Literature Chair and acclaimed poet Daljit Nagra will interview Inua Ellams, a poet playwright and artist whose work has been heavily influenced by Seamus Heaney. In this special event he will talk about his poem Wood Work for Seamus Heaney and Peter Edwards, which was commissioned by the Royal Society of Literature and written in response to a portrait of the Nobel Prize winning poet held in the National Portrait Gallery.

The event will come to a close with a panel discussion featuring some of the finest Northern Irish writers working across form and genre today. Led by RSL Fellow Lucy Caldwell, sci-fi novelist Ian McDonald, Irish language children’s writer Máire Zepf, performance poet Abby Oliveira, and crime writer Steve Cavanagh will discuss their work, routes into writing and the Northern Irish literary scene.

Director of the RSL, Molly Rosenberg, explained:

“The RSL is thrilled to be working with the Arts Council on this second Northern Ireland Writers Day collaboration of 2021. Throughout the day, we'll be celebrating the remarkable work and influence of Northern Irish writers of the past, as well as the extraordinary range, quality and significance of Northern Irish writers working today. All at the RSL are excited to be part of this special set of events, and to continue this programme of work with writers across literary forms and across Northern Ireland."

Acting Head of Literature at the Arts Council, Paul McVeigh said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership once again with the Royal Society of Literature to help raise the profile of writers from NI and showcase the wealth of talent we have here. This will be a great day of discussion, celebrating all varieties of literature, from across the genres, with three events that are sure to capture the imaginations of readers and writers.”

Tickets for NI Writers Day are free and can be booked via the RSL website. Go to www.rsliterature.org/whats-on

Please note, numbers are strictly limited for the writing workshop with Lucy Caldwell and Glenn Patterson. To apply for tickets for this event only email library@artscouncil-ni.org before 5pm on Thursday 21st October 2021. Tickets will be allocated on a discretionary basis with priority given to writers from Northern Ireland who did not attend the poetry workshop with Daljit Nagra in March at the first NI Writers Day.

Biographies

Born in Belfast in 1981, Lucy CaldwellFRSL is the award-winning author of four novels, several stage plays and radio dramas, and most recently two collections of short stories: Multitudes and Intimacies. Her latest novel These Days will be published by Faber in March 2022. She is also the editor of Being Various: New Irish Short Stories.

Ian McDonald lives in Holywood, Northern Ireland and is best known for his science fiction works. His first novel Desolation Road was published in 1988, his most recent, the final part of the Luna trilogy, came out in March 2019. He's written twenty-five novels, four novellas and four story collections and has been nominated for every major genre award. His work is translated into fifteen languages.

Máire Zepf has written 12 books for children, from picture books to a YA verse novel. Winner of the KPMG Children’s Book of the Year, the Réics Carló Award and a White Raven in 2020, her books appear in 10 languages worldwide. The Co. Down author was the first Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, based at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at QUB (2017-19). She is Artistic Director for Quotidian – Word on the Street.

Abby Oliveira is a writer, performer, lyricist, and theatre-maker based in Derry. She has been an eminent member of the Irish spoken-word scene for over a decade. She performs regularly at events and festivals throughout the UK, Ireland & abroad and has toured work in Australia, New Zealand (via support from Arts Council NI), and Singapore. She has had work commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and Foyle, RTE radio, and more.

Steve Cavanagh is the critically acclaimed, Sunday Times best-selling author of the Eddie Flynn series, and a standalone novel, Twisted. His books have sold over a million copies in the UK alone. Every novel has either won or been nominated for a major award. His third novel, The Liar, won the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the year 2018. Thirteen won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime novel of the year 2019. FIFTY FIFTY was a Richard and Judy Book club choice, and the BBC Between The Covers book club choice. His latest novel, The Devil's Advocate was an instant Sunday Times Bestseller and The Times and Telegraph crime novel of the month. His work has been translated into 26 languages. He lives in Northern Ireland with his wife and two children.

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British Council launches open-call for inaugural International Collaboration Grants

Thursday 14th October 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

The British Council has announced an open call for applications for its new International Collaboration Grants to enable Northern Ireland, UK and global organisations to collaborate on digital, face to face and hybrid artistic projects.

The £3.5M fund is designed to support artists to make and develop creative artwork with their international peers and encourage new international partnerships and innovative ways of collaborating.

Small grants of £5-20k and large grants of £20-75k are available now to UK organisations for projects which offer explicit benefit for individual artists and international partners. The grants build on the success of the British Council’s 2020 pilot Digital Collaboration Fund, which supported organisations to sustain international collaborations digitally during the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Northern Ireland, three organisations secured funding through the Digital Collaboration Fund, with music collective Bounce Culture, working with arts venue Black Box Belfast, and Outburst Arts, Northern Ireland’s annual Queer Arts Festival, awarded grants of up to £50,000.

To continue to support the sector to collaborate internationally, each International Collaboration Grant recipient must have at least one UK and one overseas partner. The British Council is particularly keen to receive applications from across the UK and from organisations they haven't worked with before.

The International Collaboration Grants are aimed at UK organisations working in partnership with counterparts from one or more of the following countries:

Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Applicants will be required to demonstrate genuine international collaboration with long-term ambition, and projects are encouraged to address significant contemporary themes, such as equality and inclusivity, and/or global challenges, such as climate change.

The grants are open to arts and culture organisations, or higher education and research organisations with an arts and culture focus. Although applications must be completed through an organisation, the grants are designed to benefit the wider artistic community and projects that show clear benefits to individual artists and practitioners will be prioritised.

Applications from organsations exploring new and innovative projects are particularly encouraged. This includes projects that demonstrate new forms or content; that work with a new partner, or in a new country; or that approach audiences in a new way.

The International Collaboration Grants continue the British Council’s mission to create global opportunities via its work across arts and culture, education and English language teaching. The grants are intended to foster new international connections and strengthen relationships between arts and culture sectors in the UK and overseas and have been made possible using funding from the UK Government and additional private sponsorship.

Grant applications will be assessed by a team of British Council staff from across its global network, alongside a pool of external assessors made up of cultural sector professionals from across all four nations of the UK. The results of applications will be made available in early 2022.

Applications to the fund close on Thursday, 4 November. To find out more and apply: www.britishcouncil.org/arts/international-collaboration-grants

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ACNI announce £750,000 Health & Safety Capital Programme to support the sector to safely reopen

Wednesday 13th October 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has today (13th October 2021) opened applications, on behalf of Department for Communities (DFC), to the Health and Safety Capital Programme. The programme, worth £750,000, aims to support organisations to reopen their creative spaces safely. Applications will close at 12noon on Friday 5th November 2021. To make an application visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/health-and-safety-capital-programme

The programme will support the purchasing of equipment and/or minor works required to address any health and safety issues created as a result of the pandemic or that have been an outstanding maintenance issue. Examples of eligible costs include but are not limited to the following:

  • Reworking of an area to allow social distancing
  • New equipment / structures to enable delivery of projects outdoors
  • IT equipment to address the new working environment
  • Software
  • Accessibility equipment and minor works
  • Works in relation to upgrading and maintaining existing systems
  • Transport

The Arts Council welcomes applications from the widest possible range of organisations and in particular, from those whose projects benefit individuals categorised under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Applicants do not have to be primarily an arts organisation, (for example, community groups may apply to the scheme), however the purpose of the requested equipment or minor works must be clearly focused on the arts.

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

“The Arts Council welcomes this funding for the arts and culture sector. This vital funding announced today will enable venues and cultural spaces to reopen safely. Theatres as well as cultural and live performance venues, all play a vital economic and social role in Northern Ireland; it is here where many artists and creative practitioners develop their skills and their craft and most importantly, it’s where they collaborate, creating great art that inspires us, improves our wellbeing and supports our local economy. The Health and Safety Capital Programme funding will ensure that organisations have proper measures in place to welcome the return of their staff, artists and audiences.”

Online application are now open and will close at 12noon on Friday 5th November. For full guidance notes and to make an online application visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/health-and-safety-capital-programme. Decisions are expected in mid-January 2022.

Guidance Notes are available on request in large print format and disk, and also on the Arts Council’s website here: http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/health-and-safety-capital-programme

If you have any queries about the programme or need any help or advice completing the application, please contact the Arts Council. A list of staff can be accessed at http://artscouncil-ni.org/contact-us.

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TRAVELLING OR RETURNING TO NI FOR WORK AS A PERFORMING ARTS PROFESSIONAL DURING COVID-19

Tuesday 12th October 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

This Guidance should be read in conjunction with Northern Ireland Executive guidance on how to self-isolate when travelling to Northern Ireland:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): travelling to Northern Ireland from a red list country | nidirect
Coronavirus (COVID-19): travelling to Northern Ireland from a non-red list country | nidirect

Who can apply:

An application for self-isolation exemption can be submitted by a well-established and recognised producing venue or organisation in Northern Ireland, such as a theatre or theatre company, a concert hall, grassroots music venue or orchestra, a recording studio, dance studio or dance company, on behalf of a domestic or international artist or cultural professional who is coming into Northern Ireland to work on a specific professional performing arts activity with that producer.

Who a producing venue or organisation can apply on behalf of:

  • Individual domestic artists and cultural professionals (e.g. non-performers essential to an activity such as crew, production or technical team members, tour managers, directors, executive producers, artist managers or record label executives) returning to Northern Ireland from professional activity abroad (i.e. not holidays), to work on a specific professional performing arts activity within the following 10-day period, and whose work schedule would not enable them to self-isolate without impacting the production or activity.
  • Individual international artists and cultural professionals (e.g. non-performers essential to the making or an activity such as crew, production or technical team members, tour managers, directors, executive producers, artist managers or record label executives) coming to work in Northern Ireland on a specific professional performing arts activity within the following 10-day period, and whose work schedule would not enable them to self-isolate without impacting the production or activity.

In all cases, the exemption only applies when the individual has a professional paid commitment with the producing venue or organisation - other than for this purpose, they must self-isolate.

All domestic and international professionals must derive a living from performing arts or other performance-related cultural activities.

No family members are permitted to use the exemption. Any family members or other dependents travelling with artists and cultural professionals will need to follow relevant travel requirements.

This exemption is not available for those entering Northern Ireland from red list countries.

Disciplines covered by this exemption include:

  • Combined Arts - including multi-artform/inter-disciplinary activities
  • Dance
  • Music - including recording and music video production
  • Theatre
  • Live Literature
  • Live art (performance)

Types of activity can include:

  • a dramatic production, such as a performance of a play, opera, musical or other dramatic piece
  • a reading or recitation
  • a performance of live music
  • a recording of a performance of live music which is broadcast, at the time of the performance or later, to the general public, or released, at the time of the performance or later, to the paying public (by digital or other means)
  • a music video production,
  • a performance of dance, or
  • an event that combines more than one of the above activities

Eligibility criteria that artists and cultural professionals must meet:

  • Must be attending a professional performing arts event in Northern Ireland, for which they are being paid, that would be delayed or affected by having to self-isolate; or the individual's work schedule would be critically delayed or affected by having to self-isolate
  • Must provide details of engagements in the next three months
  • Must provide evidence of at least one of the following:
    • media recognition for their work
    • having won recognised awards
    • evidence of working professionally in a least two countries other than the UK
  • Must provide a URL of their public profile – e.g. Personal website/Social Media profiles/Spotify/Wikipedia etc
  • Must sign a consent form confirming they accept personal responsibility for, and agree to, reduce transmission risk as far as possible, including by following Covid secure protocols. It is the responsibility of the applicant (i.e. the producing venue or organisation) to produce the form and secure a signature of the individual and submit this with the application.

All applicants (i.e. the producing venue or organisation) must submit to Arts Council England, who are managing this process in consultation with Arts Council of Northern Ireland, an application letter with the supporting evidence at the time of application:

  • The letter must be from a well-established and recognised Northern Ireland producing venue or organisation, such as a theatre or theatre company, a concert hall, grassroots music venue or orchestra, a recording studio, dance studio or dance company
  • The letter must show the organisation's logo and registered address and be dated and signed by the author, who must be a senior member of the organisation (e.g. Chief Executive, Artistic Director, Principal or Chair);
  • The letter must include full contact details for the author, including personal email address and direct telephone number
  • The letter must include details of the author's credentials (for example, a CV/resume/bio) and how they know the individual (personal relationship or reputation)
  • The letter must show full details of the booking – activity dates and location
  • The letter must show the country that the individual is travelling to Northern Ireland from, and their nationality
  • The letter must detail how integral the individual is to the production – i.e., without the individual, the production could not take place, or the production would be made impossible by a delay due to self-isolation of the individual
  • Confirmation that the activity is being done in line with COVID-secure guidance, and a full risk assessment has been completed
  • Confirmation from the producing venue/organisation that workplace testing is in place, and that the recipient of the exemption is to be considered as an employee for testing and Covid secure protocols
  • Confirmation that the individual has been made aware that they will be required to remain within a 'bubble' for 10 days (unless leaving the country before the end of the self-isolation period). The 'bubble' only includes their place of accommodation and COVID-secure work locations, with necessary travel between them
  • Agreement they accept personal responsibility for, and agree to, reduce transmission risk as far as possible, including by following Covid secure protocols. It is the responsibility of the applicant (i.e. the producing venue or organisation) to produce the form and secure a signature of the individual, and submit this with the application
  • Confirmation that both the individual and the event organisers are aware of the guidelines on self-isolation. Guidance on self-isolation is available at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating | nidirect. Further information can be found at Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

This is particularly important should COVID-19 Test and Trace protocols need to be engaged. Confirmation of such accreditation may be requested at various points of the relevant person's journey.

Any such individuals will be required to remain within a 'bubble' for 10 days (unless leaving the country before the end of the self-isolation period). The 'bubble' only includes their place of accommodation and COVID-secure performance and rehearsal locations, with necessary travel between them.

As per the legislation, the individual must hold a certificate in accordance with this Document, which has been published by Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This means that the individual will be certified as a performing arts professional by Arts Council England, confirmed via a letter from Arts Council England.

The producing venue or organisation must also provide the individual with a letter they must carry, if approved. This letter must show:

  • Name
  • date of birth
  • passport number
  • address where staying during Quarantine Exempt period
  • activity dates and location
  • contact phone number for the relevant organisation
  • confirmation that the activity that will be carried out is being done in line with COVID-secure guidance and a full risk assessment has been completed
  • confirmation that the producing venue/organisation has testing in place and that the recipient of the exemption will be considered as an employee for testing and covid secure protocols
  • confirmation that the individual has been made aware that they will be required to remain for up to 10 days (unless leaving the country before the end of the self isolation period) within a 'bubble' that includes only their place of accommodation and COVID-secure work locations, with necessary travel between them
  • confirmation that the individual is aware of the guidelines on self-isolation as part of the Test and Protect protocols.

The individual must also carry an accreditation letter from Arts Council England to confirm their eligibility for the self-isolation exemption, which will be provided by Arts Council England in advance of the individual entering the UK. This letter will confirm that Arts Council England have, using their recognised expertise and where ppropriate, in consultation with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, assessed the request from the producing venue or organisation alongside the professional's supporting evidence and agreed that the exemption is appropriate.

Summary of what the individual must obtain before entering the UK:

  • A letter from producing venue or organisation
  • A letter from Arts Council England

Application process:

  • The applicant (the activity producer) applies via email to Arts Council England at exemptions@artscouncil.org.uk with their application letter as set out above, along with the professional's supporting evidence.
  • Arts Council England's Global Talent team will assess the application within ten working days maximum.
  • The recommendation by the Global Talent team will be signed off by the relevant director or senior manager and a letter confirming the decision will be returned to the applicant via email as a PDF attachment on Arts Council England headed paper. The individual must carry this accreditation letter with them when not isolating.
  • If an application is unsuccessful and an applicant feels that a mistake has been made, they can submit an appeal via email to Arts Council England on behalf of the professional. This appeal can only be used if it is felt that Arts Council England have not followed the published process. It cannot be used to submit additional information or evidence. Arts Council England will return their decision to the applicant via email within ten working days.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Performers and cultural professionals' exemption

NOTE: This guidance only applies to Northern Ireland. See separate advice for quarantine measures in England, Wales and Scotland.

Eligible professional performers and cultural workers (e.g. non performers essential to an activity such as crew, production or technical team members, tour managers, directors, executive producers, artist managers or record label executives) are able to engage in specific work activity whilst continuing to isolate in a 'bubble' for 10 days when not engaging in that work activity, unless leaving the country before the end of the self-isolation period. Anyone who qualifies, or is employing someone who does, should follow the guidance on self-isolation.

Exempt individuals must still complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form prior to, or as soon as reasonably practicable upon, arriving in Northern Ireland.

NOTE: All usual immigration requirements for entering and working in the UK still apply.

Data Protection – Arts Council England

Arts Council England is committed to using any personal information (or personal data) they collect on a lawful, fair and transparent basis, respecting your legal rights as an individual in accordance with the UK General Data Protection Regulation, the UK Data Protection Act 2018 and other applicable laws that regulate the use and privacy of personal data (Data Protection Law).

As part of meeting this requirement, they have published a Privacy Notice for the Self Isolation Exemption scheme for you to refer to. This tells you more about the personal data the Arts Council England collects through this scheme, the different purposes they use it for and on what legal basis, who they may share that personal data with, how long they keep it; and your legal rights, including your right to contact them and receive information regarding the personal data about you that they may hold from time to time.

For further information about how the Arts Council England collects and uses personal data, please refer to their General Privacy Notice. For further information about the Arts Council England’s obligations and your rights under Data Protection Law, as well as how to report a concern if you believe that your personal data is being collected or used illegally, please see the Information Commissioner’s Office website at www.ico.org.uk.

Data Protection – Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Arts Council England will provide Arts Council of Northern Ireland with your personal information when notifying Arts Council of Northern Ireland of successful applications from applicants based in Northern Ireland. For information on how Arts Council of Northern Ireland processes your personal information, please read our Privacy Notice. This is available online at http://artscouncil-ni.org/site/page/privacy

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WOMEX World Music Expo 2021 - Arts Council bursaries now available

Monday 11th October 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

WOMEX World Music Expo will take place in in Porto, Portugal from 27th to 31st October 2021. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is now welcoming applications from artists for bursaries to attend. Four bursaries of up to £400 each are available and online applications are now open and will close at 12noon Monday 18th October. Apply now at http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/womex-2021-bursaries

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will offer a maximum of four bursary awards for WOMEX 2021. The award of £400 per delegate is to be used towards the costs of return flights, registration and a contribution towards accommodation and subsistence.

Those eligible to apply for the delegate bursaries includes musicians, managers and agents working in Northern Ireland. In particular, bursaries are aimed at those artists and promoters who have a track record of touring internationally, have excellent promotional material available (CD’s, website etc) and who would benefit from attending the event to promote their work at this important music industry marketplace.

This will be the seventh occasion of the Arts Council’s support for attendance at WOMEX which has fast become the most important international professional market for world music including folk, roots, ethnic and traditional music. The five-day event attracts over 2,250 delegates from over 90 countries, including hundreds of concert and festival bookers, labels, publishers, distributors, managers and the world's media.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music and Opera, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to make four bursaries available to artists from Northern Ireland to attend WOMEX. Attendance at WOMEX offers artists the vital opportunity to network and promote their work to music industry professionals and promoters from across the world. Successful delegates will also receive the full backing of Horizons who will be attending WOMEX to promote artists from across Ireland and the UK. I would encourage those interested to apply soon.”

This year, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will host a combined stand located within the Horizons section of WOMEX. Horizons is an initiative which aims to collectively promote the music of nations of the UK & Ireland at WOMEX. The Horizons partners include, Arts Council England, British Underground, Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Culture Ireland, Creative Scotland, Scottish Music Industry Association, Arts Council of Wales, Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales and Wales Arts International, UK Trade & Investment. Selected delegates will participate in the national stand to promote their work to international arts industry presenters and promoters.

Online applications open on Monday 11th October and will close at 12noon Monday 18th October. To view the guidance notes and make an application visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/womex-2021-bursaries

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CCA celebrate being shortlisted for Art Fund Museum of the Year

Friday 8th October 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Last month the team at the Centre for Contemporary Art / CCA Derry-Londonderry, visited the Science Museum in London where they were one of five venues from across the UK who were shortlisted for the 2021 Art Fund Museum of the Year. The Art Fund Museum of the Year is the world's largest museum prize and celebrates the UK’s museums and galleries. This year the prize reflected the resilience and imagination of museums throughout the pandemic.

The overall winner was announced as Firstsite from Colchester, and whilst CCA missed out on the overall title, they remain an official ‘Shortlisted Organisation’ until the 2022 prize shortlist is announced.

CCA Derry-Londonderry opened in 1992 and has been exhibiting emerging artists from Northern Ireland alongside international peers ever since. It moved in 2012 to its current space in Artillery Street where it neighbours the historic Derry Walls. CCA is supported with The National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, its Principal Funder.

CCA creates opportunities for audiences to experience ambitious, experimental and engaging contemporary art, and for emerging artists to develop successful careers. It commissions new artworks, presents solo and group exhibitions, public programmes and artist residencies and has its own publishing programme. It is located in an interface area within the city walls and also provides a library/workshop and offsite and online activities.

Catherine Hemelryk, Director of CCA Derry-Londonderry, commented, “It was an honour to have been on such an incredible shortlist of brilliant peers whom were a joy to get to know over the past two months Experience Barnsely, Thackery Museum of Medicine, Timespan and our huge congratulations to the winners, Firstsite.

Being on the shortlist for this prize has been a remarkable experience and we have tried to use the spotlight to highlight issues affecting our whole sector - particularly the chronic underfunding of the arts in Northern Ireland, the consequences of Brexit and the mental health problems disproportionately affecting our sector. We also used the platform to highlight the talent around us, including all of the artists and arts organisations here that we are proud to call our colleagues and friends! The judges talked about the resilience shown by the applications this year, something all arts organisations in NI have had to be to survive in so many ways.”

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “The Arts Council sends our warmest congratulations to CCA in being shortlisted for this prestigious prize which shines a light on the tremendous work of CCA and recognises their strength and resilience shown throughout the pandemic. Well done to the whole team.”

CCA Derry-Londonderry’s current exhibition is entitled, Tilt (At Windows). Curated by Mirjami Schuppert, Tilt (At Windows) features newly produced work by Jarkko Räsänen, with Fionnuala Doran, Paul Moore and Robin Price. The works in the exhibition examine and respond to the UTV archive, which is currently digitised by Northern Ireland’s Screen Digital Film Archive. The exhibition continues until 18 December 2021. For more information visit https://www.ccadld.org/exhibitions/tilt-at-windmills

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UK City of Culture 2025 longlist revealed

Friday 8th October 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is one of the eight places to have been longlisted for the prestigious UK City of Culture 2025 title

The winner will be announced next year and will be at the centre of the UK’s cultural spotlight in 2025.

For the first time, each longlisted bidder will receive £40,000 to develop a full application.

The winner will be announced next year and will be at the centre of the UK’s cultural spotlight in 2025.

Eight areas longlisted for UK City of Culture 2025 were today unveiled by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

Following a record 20 bids, the eight longlisted locations are Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Bradford, Cornwall, County Durham, Derby, Southampton, Stirling and Wrexham County Borough.

Winning the prestigious title has enormous benefits with previous hosts attracting millions of pounds in additional investment, creating jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to their local area.

The places will now work with a panel of experts and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to finalise their bids before the shortlist is announced early next year.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: Winning the UK City of Culture competition has a hugely positive impact on an area, driving investment, creating jobs, and highlighting that culture is for everyone, regardless of their background.

This year’s focus is on levelling up access to culture across the country and making sure there is a legacy that continues for generations to come. I look forward to seeing what this brilliant longlist has in store as they continue in the competition.

Sir Phil Redmond, Chair of the City of Culture Expert Advisory Panel, said: The Expressions of Interest stage was introduced as an opportunity to encourage many more places to experience the benefit of coming together to define and share a cultural vision for their areas, and what the longlist demonstrates is the range and depth of cultural ambition across the whole of the UK.

Also for the first time, each longlisted city will receive financial support to help them develop their vision. Each is different. Each has its own story to tell. All share a common aim: to demonstrate how culture can act as the creative catalyst for change. I am really looking forward to seeing how each story develops.

The competition, delivered by DCMS in collaboration with the Offices for Scotland and Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive, uses culture as a tool for levelling up towns and cities across the country. The longlist was recommended by an independent advisory panel which brings together a wide range of expertise from across the UK.

All bids were asked to explain how they would use culture to grow and strengthen their local area, as well as how they would use culture to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time, this year each longlisted place will receive £40,000 to support the development of their promising proposals.

The winner will be announced in spring 2022 and will follow Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture 2021 to take the lead on culture in the UK in 2025.

Previous winners Hull and Derry-Londonderry have shown how the competition can deliver greater and long-lasting cultural participation, economic regeneration and local pride, whilst Coventry City of Culture 2021 is already providing a blueprint for how culture can be at the heart of social and economic recovery.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries will also be hosting a roundtable with all unsuccessful bidders to discuss how best they can be supported.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

I’m particularly pleased that Stirling is in the running for this prestigious award. With its fascinating history and vibrant creative scene, it’s a strong contender for the title. The list of cities announced today is testament to the outstanding creativity and culture across the UK. I look forward to seeing proposals develop as Stirling strives to bring the UK City of Culture to Scotland for the first time.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said:

I am delighted that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, and Northern Ireland, continues to be represented in the longlist for the prestigious UK City of Culture 2025 title.

Northern Ireland has a wonderful heritage in this competition, with Derry-Londonderry being a previous winner in 2013. I have no doubt that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon will showcase the very best of what Northern Ireland has to offer the UK.

I wish the bid every success ahead of the final decision next year.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said:

In a fantastic field of UK City of Culture bids, Wrexham has done extremely well to fly the flag for Wales by reaching the longlist.

I wish them every success as they seek to become the first Welsh holder of the UK City of Culture title with all the opportunities it will bring to an area of huge cultural pedigree which contains the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the world’s oldest football clubs in Wrexham FC and the Stiwt Theatre.

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#SupportLocal - Enjoy music, theatre and great art this Autumn

Thursday 7th October 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

Northern Ireland’s arts and cultural sector is opening back up, with galleries, arts venues, theatres, festivals and music events welcoming back audiences once more.

With support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, artists, writers, actors, technicians and venues across the country have been working behind the scenes to develop new work and a host of fresh shows to look forward to.

The Northern Ireland High Street Voucher Scheme is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with the arts and enjoy quality time out with family and friends. Treat yourself to tickets to see a show, or why not browse the latest collections of locally made jewellery, craft and art at local galleries and arts studios.

Theatre highlights this season include family favourite ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Millennium Forum, new drama ‘The Border Game’ at the Lyric Theatre, plus the West End and Broadway hit musical School of Rock, at the newly refurbished Grand Opera House.

At local artisan shops and galleries like Belfast Print Workshop and Craft NI you will find a stunning array of work from top designers and makers, including ceramics, prints, photography and textiles. While music lovers should explore the latest programming from the Ulster Orchestra and Waterside Theatre, upcoming gigs at Portico of Ards and the ‘City of Derry International Choir Festival’.

In October, ‘Belfast International Arts Festival’ returns for its 59th edition with a mix of in person and online events. Featuring the very best contemporary arts from home and across the world, this year’s programme features a packed programme of drama, dance, visual arts, talks, music and more. And don’t forget to watch out for events happening this November as part of the 15th ‘Outburst Queer Arts Festival’.

Find out more about what’s happening in your area via the Arts Council’s weekly What’s On guide. Visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/ for details. #SupportLocal

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New cross-government and National Lottery funding will boost creative learning in the classroom

Thursday 30th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative have come together to announce a two year funding programme to promote creative learning in the classroom.


The Creative Schools Partnership Programme takes a pioneering approach to learning, bringing professional artists into educational settings to teach students new skills, in a bid to improve educational outcomes across all subjects and allow their individual talents to shine.

The Creative Schools Partnership programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning. These include better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increasing confidence and self-motivation, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

Today’s announcement confirms the continuation of the programme which will be open to 13 schools, offering grants of up to £15,000 each to develop one or two year projects. The initiative was originally launched in 2018 as part of the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy, designed to improve good relations outcomes and develop thriving places where there has been a history of deprivation and community tension.

The schools invited to take part in the programme are: Lisneal College, Belfast Boys’ Model School, St Joseph’s Boy’s School, Blessed Trinity College, Ashfield Boy’s High School, Ashfield Girls’ High School, St Cecilia’s College, St Genevieve’s High School, Mercy College Belfast, St Vincent’s Centre, Belfast Model School for Girls, Malone Integrated College, and St Colm’s High School.

The schools have the opportunity to develop their own projects and work with artists on a range of creative skills including, music production, journalism, photography, film making, animation, and script writing.

First Minister Paul Givan said:

“I am delighted to welcome the continuation of the Creative Schools Programme with the commitment of funding this year.

“This successful partnership has already seen hundreds of children having engaged with the programme within post-primary schools serving Urban Villages areas in Belfast and Londonderry.

“These young people have benefitted from this innovative arts-based approach, supporting curriculum learning and improving the educational outcomes.

“I want to thank the programme partners the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Education Authority, and of course the Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative.

“The feedback collected from evaluation of this programme, has been overwhelming positive and I wish the programme every success in its continued roll-out.”

The deputy First Minster, Michelle O’Neill commented.

“The Creative Schools Partnership programme was founded on the partners’ shared creative ambition to improve community cohesion and reduce educational inequalities. We know that the arts can have a really positive impact on self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as improving mental-health and wellbeing. It has been so heartening to see how this programme has benefitted participants and strengthened connections between young people, schools and the community.

“I would like to thank the schools who have committed staff and resources to making the Creative Schools Partnership programme such a success. And, I congratulate the students who have worked closely with professional artists to learn new skills and create fantastic projects. I really look forward to seeing more of this creative approach bringing new and different opportunities to young people in our schools.”

The Arts Council is investing £100,000 from its National Lottery funds to support the scheme.

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

“The Creative Schools Programme is a landmark arts and education project. It brings professional artists into the classroom to deliver practical and creative lessons that broaden learning opportunities for our young people and opens up future career paths.

“The feedback from students and teachers who have already engaged with this programme has been incredible and, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, we are delighted to be working with the Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative once again to offer a new batch of pupils the opportunity to take part in this very special initiative.”

Education Authority Chairperson Barry Mulholland said:

“Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Creative Schools Partnership has continued to produce hugely positive outcomes for our young people. It is delivered with great skill and dedication and the Education Authority welcomes its continued support. We remain totally committed to its delivery across the schools and their communities. Creativity is an essential component of education, contributing to the mental health, wellbeing and the development of our young people.”

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UK Arts Councils & Agencies to pilot new fund for international collaboration

Thursday 30th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

New funding to support individuals and organisations towards international partnership development and co-creation projects, will open for applications on Thursday 21 October 2021.

With co-investment from Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Wales/Wales Arts International, the small pilot Four Nations International Fund is being designed to support those working in the arts and creative industries in the four nations across the UK and together with counterparts in Europe and beyond. Applications will require partners in least two of the 4 UK nations and at least one international partner.

During this pilot phase, grants of between £1,000 - £5,000 will be available from a total budget of £100,000 for in-person, digital or hybrid activity including exchanges, residencies, partnership development, co-creation and networking, with priority given to applications experimenting with innovative models of international collaboration.

Creative Scotland is managing the fund’s application process for the 4 nations’ arts councils. On the partnership’s behalf, Joan Parr, Interim Director of Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland said:

“The development of art and culture thrives on international collaboration and exchange. Artists and creative practitioners derive inspiration, opportunities to grow and develop practice through the sharing of ideas and explore new ways of working, as well as reaching new audiences.

“In the wake of the impacts of COVID-19, the UK’s departure from the European Union and the ever-growing climate emergency, working together with our fellow arts councils and agencies, we can more effectively help address challenges for those based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales wishing to connect with their international counterparts.”

Roisín Mc Donough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to partner with arts funding colleagues across these islands, all of us aiming to find solutions to the current challenges of international touring. The Four Nations International Fund is a lifeline and offers a platform for our artists to engage with their counterparts in the UK and Europe, and in particular for artists based in NI, touring within the Republic of Ireland.”

Today’s announcement represents one of a series of collaborations between the 4 UK nations’ arts councils and agencies including the pilot, Arts Infopoint UK initiative offering advice on practical issues relating to artist mobility led by Wales Arts International, as well as an exploration of mutual and more sustainable approaches to bilateral initiatives with several European countries, such as the German Fonds SozioKultur.

For further information visit www.creativescotland.com

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Arts Council publishes Annual Report on Public Authority Statutory Equality & Good Relations Duties

Wednesday 29th September 2021 at 6pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (29th September 2021) published its Annual Progress Report for 2020/21 on fulfilling its statutory equality and good relations duties, and implementing Equality Scheme commitments and Disability Action Plans.

Annual Progress Reports:

Public Authority Statutory Equality and Good Relations Duties Annual Progress Report (April 2020-March 2021)

Public Authority Statutory Equality and Good Relations Duties Annual Progress Report (April 2019-March 2020)

Related documents:

Arts Council of Northern Ireland Equality Scheme and Action Plan 2019-2024

Arts Council of Northern Ireland Disability Action Plan 2019-24

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org

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Arts Council announces £207,000 for creative projects benefitting older people across NI

Wednesday 29th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced £207,000 to enable 27 arts organisations across Northern Ireland to deliver a series of community-based arts projects benefitting older people. The funding is part of the Arts and Older People Programme, a pioneering initiative supported by National Lottery, Public Health Agency and Baring Foundation, which aims to tackle loneliness as-well as promote positive mental health and well-being among older people through engagement with the arts.


The Arts and Older People Programme was established by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2010 and is now a cross-governmental partnership with funding from the Public Health Agency and The Baring Foundation. The programme has been designed to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person. To date the programme has provided just under £2m funding to community organisations and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland in the delivery of 223 arts projects to older people.

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how the Arts and Older People’s Programme is making a difference to the lives of older people across the region:

"Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress. The Arts and Older People Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. As we emerge from the extra challenges faced by older people as a result of the pandemic, participating in the arts is now more important than ever before.

The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice thus promoting positive physical and mental health. Thanks to The National Lottery, the Arts Council is hugely proud to have supported 223 projects since the programme began and we’re delighted today to announce that a further 27 arts organisations will be supported to deliver projects with funding of £207,000.”

In this exceptional time of the pandemic, the Art and Older People Programme particularly focused on supporting projects that will be delivered to vulnerable older people living with dementia and their carers. Among the successful applicants offered Arts and Older People Programme funding are:

Strand Arts Centre (Belfast) - amount awarded: £8,675
Strand Arts Centre will deliver their project entitled, , Silver Screenings, to older people from across Belfast, including those with dementia, their carers and family members. Working with residents and staff members in care homes, this project plans to deliver 24 classic film screenings at the Strand Arts Centre, seven additional screenings with art performances, two intergenerational screenings, four screenings at nursing homes using their state of the art mobile cinema and four screenings with themes. The project will culminate in a showcase event. Each screening has discussion time before and after which allows participants to interact and engage with one another.

Spark Opera (Antrim) – amount awarded: £8,000
Spark Opera will deliver their project entitled, , It’s Never too Late,, in partnership with Women’s Aid and will deliver the project to ten older women in Antrim. The participants will have the opportunity to learn new skills and create short films about their lives in a safe environment. This will be supported with three months of community arts workshops and a further three months of film production. The films will be showcased to highlight the importance of World Elder Abuse Day.

Erne East Community Partnership (Lisnaskea, Fermanagh) – amount awarded: £8,725

The Erne East Community Partnership will deliver their project entitled, Living WELL with Dementia. The project will be delivered in Oak Healthy Living Centre in Lisnaskea, Fermanagh. The proposed activities will be delivered twice weekly over ten weeks and aimed at engaging thirty people living with mild to moderate dementia. The art form areas include dance, song and creative writing. The project will end with a showcase event with the participants.

Action Mental Health (Antrim Downpatrick Fermanagh) – amount awarded: £7,737
Action Mental Health will deliver their project entitled, , Connecting After Covid,, with the aim of the bringing isolated older men together to develop their skills in a range of arts based activities. The project will work with 30 men at three Action Mental Health Men’s Shed projects in Antrim, Downpatrick and Fermanagh.

An Gaelaras (Derry - Londonderry) – amount awarded: £8,960
An Gaelaras will deliver their project entitled, , Meadows of Song & Dance,, to older people in care homes. The project will deliver a series of sessions in care homes which will include music, movement, storytelling and sharing memories. The project aims to work with 120+ older people living with dementia and An Gaelaras has identified seven care homes in Derry-Londonderry who all have been integral in developing the project. Participants will work with three professional artists and there will also be a showcase event for the wider public to attend.

To view the full list of organisations offered Arts & Older People’s Programme funding visit http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-AOPP-Awardees-2021.pdf

Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for details on all funding opportunities

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Arts Council opens funding scheme to help bands purchase new instruments

Monday 27th September 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today announced funding to support musicians under its Musical Instruments for Bands (MIB) Programme.

Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, the Programme is designed to help bands across Northern Ireland upgrade worn out instruments and purchase new ones.

The Programme provides grants of up to £10,000 for the purchase of instruments for bands who have not received a grant from the fund in the previous five years. It is open to bands based in Northern Ireland, which are formally constituted, including marching, accordion, brass, concert, flute, pipe and wind bands.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Northern Ireland has a fine history of musicianship, one which is celebrated all over the world and bands provide a fantastic training ground for musicians wanting to learn new instruments and develop their skills.

“Music has a powerful capacity to enrich lives, to bring people together and break down barriers to communication. This funding will go a long way in supporting this important sector, helping to improve opportunities for participation and the quality of music-making across all communities.”

The deadline for applications to the Musical Instruments Scheme is 12 Noon, Monday 18th October.

Please note: It is anticipated that demand for this fund is likely to be high. The Arts Council aims to distribute funds as widely as possible in order to provide maximum benefit.

Applications to the Musical Instruments for Bands Programme are now open and can be made online. Guidance notes and the application form are available from http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/musical-instruments-for-bands-2021

Please note, all eligible expenditure must be incurred before 25th February 2022. Decisions will be made week commencing 22nd November.

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Arts Council surveys reveal true impact of pandemic on NI’s creative sector

Thursday 23rd September 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (23rd September 2021) published the findings of surveys conducted with artists and arts organisations in Northern Ireland who received Emergency Funding support during the pandemic.

The surveys reveal the devastating impact of the pandemic on Northern Ireland’s creative sector and the lifeline provided by public funding.

Between April 2020 and February 2021, the Arts Council co-designed and administered eight emergency programmes, with funding from the Department of Communities, stabilising the sector, protecting jobs and skills, and increasing opportunities for people to access the arts during lockdown.

£11.3 million was distributed through 2,869 grants to creative practitioners and £14.7 million through 501 grants to arts organisations.

Key findings:

Artists and Creative Practitioners:

  • 97% sustained significant loss of earnings as result of the pandemic; 74% lost more than half their income.
  • £12,960 was the average loss of earnings.
  • Artists experienced a high level of hardship and social disadvantage, with 74% forced to curtail all non-essential spending; 22% struggled to meet basic food costs.
  • 36% said they would have ceased trading without emergency funding.
  • 84% reported that their grant had alleviated immediate stress; however, 50% were less optimistic about their longer-term financial security.
  • 77% were able to create new artistic content for use in the future, thanks to their grant.
  • 83% used their grant to develop new skills that will help them adapt to the new operating environment.

Arts Organisations:

  • 74% confirmed that, without the Emergency funding, they would have had to remove their creative programming entirely; 85% would have had to reduce their scale of activity.
  • 80% reported that their grant had alleviated their immediate financial stress.
  • 58% used the funding to cover deficit or loss of income.
  • 67% have been able to protect jobs and retain skills through the pandemic, thanks to the funding.
  • Over two-thirds used their grant to maintain engagement with audiences; 48% enhanced their services online.
  • 94% stated that more support was still required to guarantee long-term financial stability, with only 31% confident their organisation would remain financially stable to the end of the 2020/21 financial year.

The Arts Council and the Department for Communities continue to provide support to the sector through these exceptional times, with the opening in September 2021 of a new £5 million recovery fund for individuals working in the arts and creative sectors.

Emergency Grant Programme: Survey of Individual Artists is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Emergency-Grant-Programme-Artists.pdf

Emergency Grant Programme: Survey of Organisations is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Emergency-Grant-Programme-Organisations.pdf

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org

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Leading international choir festival scales up with launch of global Virtual Choral Trail

Monday 20th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

City of Derry International Choir Festival gets warmed up for 20 October launch with call for choirs around the world to join its showstopping virtual choral event

Ahead of its launch on 20 October, the City of Derry International Choir Festival (CoDICF) in Northern Ireland is calling out to local, national and international choirs to join its 2021 Virtual Choral Trail and secure their spot in the Festival’s unrivalled event line-up.

CoDICF is one of the leading choir festivals globally and the only event of its kind in the United Kingdom. Introduced in 2020, the Virtual Choral Trail was part of the hugely successful entirely digital programme of musical and choral events at the festival, featuring 40 choirs from 12 countries over six continents. A smash success, the event was enjoyed online by over 20,000 viewers from around the globe who were treated to a varied and eclectic mix of music from sacred and spiritual to pop, jazz and funk.

As part of this year’s line-up of digital and live, in-person events, the Virtual Choral Trail makes a welcome return, providing a prestigious platform to showcase the brilliant sound of choirs across the world as part of a wider programme boasting incredible performances from internationally renowned artists such as Grammy Award-winning American a cappella ensemble Chanticleer and award-winning choir Tenebrae.

CoDICF Artistic Director, Dónal Doherty, said:

“We are delighted to host our second Virtual Choral Trail this year, which will celebrate the abundance of singing talent worldwide. The Virtual Choral Trail is open to all choirs of any size, musical style and make-up from anywhere in the world and provides a unique opportunity to be a part of our sensational Festival.

Last year we welcomed choirs from as far away as Colombia, Nigeria and Australia and this year we hope to have even more choirs involved from all corners of the globe. It’s a fantastic opportunity to share and celebrate culture and diversity whilst showcasing the power of song to unite us all.

This also presents a great opportunity for choirs to get creative with their performances and try something new. Whether you are part of a professional choir, a workplace choir or community choir anywhere in the world, we encourage you to get involved and to share a performance that will be enjoyed by a global audience.”

Choirs interested in taking part in this year’s CoDICF Virtual Choral Trail should submit a video of their best performance of 3-5 minutes in length by 30 September through the Festival’s website - derrychoirfest.com. All submitted videos will be shared online throughout Festival week, 20-24 October, for audiences to enjoy from the comfort of their home.

With a magnificent line-up of performances including Grammy award-winners and exclusive global premier performances, this year’s Festival promises to be a showstopper with an exciting mix of in-person and virtual events across the City of Derry.

This special festival runs live and virtually from Wednesday 20 October until Sunday 24 October. Headline acts include the internationally acclaimed all-male chorus Chanticleer and award-winning vocal ensemble Tenebrae. It will also mark the return of the award-winning Derry chamber choir Codetta as they perform The Road Home in Long Tower Church with Derry cellist Kim Vaughan.

The 2021 Festival kicks off with the Opening Gala Concert on Wednesday 20 October featuring members of the Ulster Orchestra with local choirs and singers performing The Voyage, composed and conducted by world-famous choral director Bob Chilcott.

School performances will also return with a non-competitive format for primary years encouraging children and teachers to take part in the fun and community-spirited Primary Big Sing event in the Millennium Forum.

The Festival is also hopeful that choirs throughout the island of Ireland will return for a day of competitions in various categories including mixed voice, equal voice, youth, sacred, pop, jazz and gospel, culminating in the brand-new Choir of the Festival competition.

“It’s so important to us to get local communities involved in the Festival”, added Dónal. “Music is for everyone and it brings people together. We want to make the events as accessible as possible to those who cannot make it to the city, so we’re urging choirs and ensembles to get involved online and become part of the amazing variety and spectacle that the Festival is renowned for.”

The 2021 Festival is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities, Derry & Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, Community Foundation Northern Ireland, Inner City Trust, the Irish American Partnership and Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors.

To submit a video for the 2021 Virtual Choral Trail visit: https://www.derrychoirfest.com/2021-festival/take-part.php

For more details on this year’s programme and events visit www.derrychoirfest.com

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Northern Ireland Opera returns to perform Puccini’s La Bohème live at iconic Belfast venue

Friday 17th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

Leading arts organisation, Northern Ireland Opera, returns to live, safe performances this month with Puccini’s opera classic, La Bohème, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. After 19 long months of lockdown, the company and cast will present a bold new interpretation of Puccini’s work to audiences, brought to life inside the iconic Carlisle Memorial Church. La Bohème by NI Opera will run across four evenings Sept 18th to 25th in Belfast.

A historic focal point in the city, the aged Carlisle Memorial Church provides the perfect atmospheric backdrop to tell the story about a group of Bohemians who are all searching and desperately trying to find their way in life and love. La Bohème is the first major production presented by the company to a live, socially-distanced audience as the arts sector safely re-opens from the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Conductor, Rebecca Lang, said,

"I love bringing theatre to audiences in unexpected spaces – it gives us all the opportunity to experience pieces in ways other than those which we anticipate or expect. La Bohème is the perfect choice for us as artists to be part of the collective emerging from the rubble we have all had to endure."

Artistic Director, Cameron Menzies added,

“This production gives us the opportunity to work with and employ a vast array of truly exceptional talents in all areas including 32 freelance instrumentalists in our La Bohème Orchestra, 16 chorus singers, numerous small local businesses, and a large number of freelance artists. This production will also be the first chance for NI Opera to integrate new creative roles from our NI Opera Studio group into a main-stage work like this, providing members with rich training opportunities and experience.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council is hugely proud to be Principal Funder of Northern Ireland Opera. After 19 long months, it’s truly wonderful to see our leading opera company paving the way as they make a welcome return to the city of Belfast, with live opera in a stunning new venue. Congratulations to all involved in staging this exciting production of the much-loved opera, La Bohème.”

La Bohème is part of a surprising and varied launch programme selected by Cameron for 2021/22 and will lead Northern Ireland Opera into an exciting new era under his artistic direction. Cameron’s award-winning career spans the worlds of opera, theatre, music theatre, cabaret and film-making.

Northern Ireland Opera is an award-winning national opera company, and widely acclaimed as one of the most exciting operatic start-ups in UK and Irish history, with a philosophy of artistic excellence and risk-taking, underpinned by a bold and imaginative approach to programming and productions.

Keep up to date at www.niopera.com

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New £5 million recovery fund opens to support individuals working in the arts and creative sectors

Wednesday 15th September 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) and the Department for Communities (DfC), have today (Wednesday 15 September) opened a new recovery funding programme, co-designed to support individuals in the Arts and Creative sectors retain valuable skills.

The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme (CIRP), worth £5 million from the Department for Communities, offers individuals the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £2,000 each. The programme is now open for online applications and will close at 12noon on Wednesday 6 October 2021.

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

“The opening of the Creative Individuals Recovery Programme (CIRP) is welcome news, and we hope to allocate this funding as quickly as possible on behalf of the Department for Communities.

“The Minister’s funding initiative is designed to help individuals to continue with a creative career in Northern Ireland, to carry on developing important skills, many of which have taken years to develop.

“Indeed research demonstrates there is currently a significant risk that the talent pool of artists and creatives in Northern Ireland, needed to support our creative ecosystem, will disappear as individuals leave to find alternative work. That would take NI years to recover from, as these freelancers, artists and individuals are essential to the success of our creative industries.

“CIRP funding can help our creative individuals to positively contribute, as they did before the pandemic, to the significant cultural value of Northern Ireland as a great place to work, live and invest."

CIRP funding aims to support one-off costs that are incurred by individuals working within the creative economy, helping them to re-engage with, or maintain their creative practice. Funding should help individuals and artists sustain and build the professional and technical skills, which are so important to the entire creative ecosystem.

This new programme will not replace loss of income for creatives as a result of the pandemic, nor will it support creative purpose relating to heritage or indigenous languages. CIRP will require applicants to undertake activity linked to their practice or art form.

Those eligible to apply include self-employed and freelance individuals working in the creative sector such as; artists, venue support staff, singer songwriters, session musicians, set designers, artists, DJs, actors, dancers, choreographers, musicians, rappers, writers, poets, editors, proof readers, crafts people, comedians, open mike performers, tutors, facilitators, creators, photographers, film-makers, touring crew, artist managers, promotors, lighting and sound technicians/engineers, other technical crew and support staff plus other creative practitioners who work in the creative industries.

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, said,

“I have listened to the recommendations of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce and today I am launching a support scheme to provide grants to individuals to encourage them to remain in the creative arts sector.” (see the Minister’s full release here)

The CIRP is open for online applications from 12noon on Wednesday 15 September and will close at 12noon on Wednesday 6 October for grants up to £2,000. For full information on eligibility, guidance notes and to apply visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/creative-individuals-recovery-programme

The Department for Communities is developing separate support funds for arts and culture organisations, including those whose purpose relates to heritage and indigenous languages, and further announcements for separate awards for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists will be made soon.

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CNB presents The Ogham Grove, an immersive audio-visual installation, supported by National Lottery

Tuesday 14th September 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The team behind Culture Night Belfast presents, The Ogham Grove, an impressive lighting and sound installation taking place at Writer’s Square Belfast from Friday 17 September until Sunday 19 September, supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The sensory installation and accompanying digital trail takes inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Alphabet, nature and the environment. The 2021 edition of Culture Night Belfast will have a completely new format and will focus on one central cultural experience designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment.

Describing The Ogham Grove, artist Gawain Morrison said,

“Two monumental sculptures will be built in Writers’ Square, with themes drawn from our ancestral heritage and culture here on the island of Ireland. The Tree Alphabet will act as the primer for learning about the Ogham characters, their meanings, and their tree associations while the Celtic Ogham Year Wheel signifies the links with our natural environment, living in harmony with it, and the awareness of our place in the universe, the lunar and solar cycles that drive the life on this planet of ours, and all of how life lives–in balance and together.

The Ogham Grove offers a window into an alternative interpretation of the world around us, highlighting the importance that nature played in the societies of our ancestors, enabling us to reconnect with this heritage in a playful, thought provoking and visually stunning way, at a time when the natural environment and spending time outdoors has never been so important.”

He added: “The actual scale of the structure itself will be impressive. The fact that at night-time the lighting will come alive will give it a very different feel from the daytime and allow people to experience it in different ways.”

Susan Picken, Director of Culture Night Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said,

“The Ogham Grove promises to be spectacular and offer a very unique experience to each person who visits throughout this weekend. Gawain and his team of artists will transform Writer’s Square with a totally innovative and unique audio-visual artwork that will invite visitors to explore the relationship with our native woodlands and the environment. The Ogham Grove really tapped into our concern for the environment and the devastating impact of climate change. It also restates our commitment to support and work with our incredible cultural and creative sectors here in Northern Ireland.”

Susan continued, “This is a significant moment for Culture Night Belfast, not only is this our first large-scale artists’ commission but it also signals an exciting new format for the event as we move forward. Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and people can drop in and experience the installation over the course of the entire weekend – this different format enables us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Thanks to National Lottery players the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this innovative art installation presented by Culture Night Belfast. It’s truly heartening to see the arts and cultural sector re-open and welcome audiences back to enjoy live art. I would encourage everyone to go along to Writer’s Square this weekend and spend some time in The Ogham Grove which will inspire and enchant all who experience it.”

The Ogham Grove is open daily from 17-19 September, 10am-10pm. Visit culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media for further details.

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Arts Council partners with Creative & Cultural Skills to help strengthen workforce

Friday 10th September 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Creative and cultural businesses throughout Northern Ireland are to be offered free expert advice and support to help a wider range of talent into the creative workforce. The investment comes at a crucial time for the sector, which was hit harder than most by Covid-19.

Creative and cultural businesses throughout Northern Ireland are to be offered free expert advice and support to help a wider range of talent into the creative workforce. The investment comes at a crucial time for the sector, which was hit harder than most by Covid-19.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) is supporting a range of sessions and workshops which will be provided by Creative & Cultural Skills - the UK-wide agency tasked to support a skilled, accessible, and fair cultural sector.

Nearly two-thirds of jobs in museums, galleries and libraries, and almost half of the jobs in music, theatre and visual arts, were considered vulnerable at the height of the pandemic. This investment from ACNI, supported by National Lottery funding, will pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse recovery and help ensure the creative and cultural industries in Northern Ireland can ‘build back fairer’.

The training will address legal issues, and diverse, fair recruitment practices -- including specific guidance on working with the self-employed, who represented approximately 80% of the workforce pre-pandemic.

The programme will also outline potential benefits and practicalities of creative apprenticeships, a tool to develop much-needed occupational competence that can play a vital role in widening entry routes and ensuring there are opportunities for local talent to develop and grow within Northern Ireland’s creative and cultural sector.

Creative & Cultural Skills Chief Executive, Jane Ide OBE said:

“We are absolutely delighted that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has given us the opportunity to work with creative and cultural businesses throughout the country. Flourishing creative industries are crucial to economic and social well-being, and a vital part of the visitor experience here. After the toughest of times, our mission is to help Northern Ireland’s renowned cultural sector develop the workforce it needs to thrive far into the future – removing barriers to entry, bringing in new generations of talent, and creating fair and sustainable career opportunities for those who are currently furthest from the workplace.”

The Arts Council is investing £37,000 of National Lottery funding into the scheme.

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

“Working with Creative and Cultural skills, we are very pleased to announce today these new training and professional development opportunities for cultural businesses. The impact of the pandemic is still being felt right across the creative sector and it’s vital that we do everything we can to help cultural businesses as they return to build a strong, fair and inclusive workforce. This programme will provide practical help and training, skilling up creative businesses and helping to carve out new and inclusive career pathways.”

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Report published on the impact of the Arts in residential care in NI during the Covid-19 pandemic

Thursday 9th September 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (9th September 2021) published a study it has commissioned about the role of the arts in supporting the residential care sector as it begins the process of recovery and reopening after the pandemic.

Based on the experience of the past year within residential care, the study reveals how people with dementia have been affected and how the arts have been used to alleviate isolation and loneliness, and promote dignity.

Drawing on interviews with 12 participants, Stories from the Inside: Isolation, loneliness and the Arts in residential care during the COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on the reality of life for the men and women living and working in our residential care settings during lockdown. The study identifies how the arts provide the ideal vehicle to explore and document the personal experiences of residents, their families and residential care workers, all of whom have experienced trauma and loss throughout the pandemic. It makes a strong case for integrating arts-based interventions into individual care plans for residents, and identifies how the Arts Council’s pioneering Arts and Older People Programme might now contribute to the overall recovery of the residential care sector.

The Executive Summary is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Stories-from-the-Inside-Final-Report-Executive-Summary.pdf

The Full Report by Sonrisa Solutions Ltd is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Stories-from-the-Inside-Final-Full-Report.pdf

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org

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New work created by D/deaf, neurodivergent & disabled artists in NI celebrated in lockdown films

Thursday 9th September 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

Twelve D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists based in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland have produced new film and audio works as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative. Three of the twelve artists are from Northern Ireland and includes, playwright, Shannon Yee, animator, Joel Simon and poet/comedian, Alice McCullough. These new works have just been released and are now being shared and celebrated, available to view, on BBC I-Player at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09ttsqk

The artists were commissioned to deliver strand 2 of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative, which has succeeded in bringing exciting, new, digital arts content into people’s homes during lockdown. The new work champions the creativity of D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists, who produced outstanding projects, many during periods of isolation in lockdown, and which provide a rich source of material which explores their experiences of living through Covid-19.

The programme was launched in 2020 in a partnership between BBC Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England and Creative Scotland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing into law of the Disability Discrimination Act, forming part of wider disability programming across the BBC.

The film and audio works commissioned, with the support of digital arts agency The Space, Unlimited and the UK Disability Arts Alliance, include performance dramas, dance, comedy, spoken word poetry and animation.

Lamia Dabboussy, BBC Head of Arts said:

“This batch of commissions from artists across the country showcases the breadth of inspiring work we’ve all missed experiencing over this past lockdown year. I’m thrilled that, as part of Culture in Quarantine, these pieces are being brought to life across BBC platforms. It’s imperative that D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists are supported to carry on making brilliant work, as the constraints and continuing effects of this pandemic threaten to silence their vital creative voice.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this important initiative with funding to work with our partners, BBC Arts and The Space, to offer three D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists based in Northern Ireland, the opportunity to create new work. BBC Arts’ Culture In Quarantine initiative has been a life line to many artists; Alice McCullough, Shannon Yee and Joel Simon are hugely talented voices in the arts sector here and we’re delighted that their work will be celebrated on a UK-wide platform through the BBC and reaching new audiences.

The Arts Council is fully committed in supporting our D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled artists to develop professionally and create new work that can be showcased locally, nationally and internationally, helping to put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons. I would encourage everyone to tune into BBC I-Player and enjoy the works from all twelve artists across the UK. ”

The three new works from artists in Northern Ireland include:

  • Earth To Alice, a film adapted from poet and comedian Alice McCullough’s one-woman show, written and performed by Alice, about navigating the twists and turns of bipolar disorder during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium, a dance theatre film by Irish playwright Shannon Yee, exploring the unique challenges for parents of newly born and young children during lockdown
  • The Cat, The Mouse and The Sausage, an animation of a Grimm’s Brothers fairy tale by award-winning filmmaker Joel Simon

Through BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative, each of the commissioned artists was assigned an Executive Producer from digital arts support agency, The Space, in partnership with Unlimited, an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences. The Executive Producer mentored and supported the artists throughout production and delivery of their work to BBC platforms.

These commissions build on the success of strand one of the BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine commissioning programme, launched in April 2020, by BBC Arts; the Lyric Theatre Belfast successfully produced a series of 6 short films called Splendid Isolation, during strand one to great acclaim, and achieved audiences in the millions across BBC TV and BBC iplayer platforms.

To view all the new works visit BBC iPlayer at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09ttsqk

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Report published on the needs of freelance artists working in NI’s theatre and dance sectors

Wednesday 8th September 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has commissioned survey-based research to identify the needs of freelance artists in theatre and dance. These are artists who are developing, creating and producing small to mid-scale work on an independent basis. The Freelance Practitioner Research Report, published today (8th September 2021) highlights the vulnerability of freelancers working in Northern Ireland, which has been exposed and brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key findings:

  • Many freelance artists from the theatre and dance sectors feel they need to leave Northern Ireland to find the training and funding they need – 86% of respondents have considered relocating from NI.
  • The research reveals a clear need from theatre and dance freelance artists for access to funding to support the independent development of their projects.
  • A Project Funding programme designed specifically for freelancers in theatre and dance would result in more varied and experimental work, which would in turn broaden and diversify audiences.
  • Any future Project Funding programme would need to balance the needs of freelancers, enabling them to move beyond the existing structure of venues and companies, but also strengthening their status within these organisations.
  • The programme would need to work within, and help to develop, the rest of the performing arts ecosystem.
  • The challenges faced by freelancers are not only about the lack of Project Funding, but are the result of years of chronic underfunding of the arts in Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council is working closely with funders and sector bodies to develop a responsive and realistic programme of support that meets the range of needs identified in the report and will publish further details later in the year.

The Executive Summary is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Freelance-Practitioner-Research-Report-Executive-Summary.pdf

The Full Report by Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Freelance-Practitioner-Research-Report.pdf

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org

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Leading NI composer and musician, Hannah Peel, sets her sights on the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize

Wednesday 8th September 2021 at 8am 0 Comments

Composer, artist and musician, Hannah Peel, based in Bangor, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize ‘Album of the Year’ for her album, Fir Wave. Hannah, a previous Emmy nominee for her composition work on Game of Thrones, is also set to perform at this year’s awards event, with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council. The awards show will take place this Thursday 9 September 2021 and the evening will culminate in the announcement of the overall winner of the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize for ‘Album of the Year’.

The Prize’s broadcast partner, BBC Music, will provide live television and radio coverage of the event on BBC Four and on BBC Radio 6 Music. BBC Four will broadcast Hyundai Mercury Prize 2021 Live: and 1-:15pm) Album of the Year (9pm and The Mercury Prize on BBC Radio 6 Music will be hosted by Tom Ravenscroft (8pm-12am). Both programmes will feature live performances from the shortlisted artists as they lead up to the live announcement of this year’s winner.

The 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize ‘Albums of the Year’ are:

Arlo Parks ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’
BERWYN ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’
Black Country, New Road ‘For the Frist Time’
Celeste ‘Not Your Muse’
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra ‘Promises’
Ghetts ‘Conflict of Interest’
Hannah Peel ‘Fir Wave’
Laura Mvula ‘Pink Noise’
Mogwai ‘As the Love Continues’
Nubya Garcia ‘SOURCE’
SAULT ‘Untitled (Rise)’
Wolf Alive ‘Blue Weekend’

Jo Wright, Acting Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“Huge congratulations to Hannah Peel on receiving this prestigious nomination for her stunning album, Fir Wave. Hannah will be joining the likes of Van Morrison, Therapy?, Snow Patrol and Soak who have previously been nominees. The Arts Council is hugely proud of this tremendously talented musician and also to support Hannah’s performance at this year’s awards.

“The Mercury Prize celebrates work of excellence from artists around the UK and Ireland and is an enormous platform for showcasing exceptional musicians and their work internationally. We wish Hannah every success ahead of the announcement this Thursday and look forward to seeing what the future holds for this incredible artist.”

Congratulating Hannah on her nomination, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said:

“Hannah is such an amazing ambassador for our local music scene and this nomination for one of music’s most prestigious awards is testament to her incredible talent. The nomination is particularly significant given our current bid for UNESCO City of Music, for which Hannah has been a great support. As a music city, we take great pride in our home grown music talent and we wish Hannah all the very best.”

For further details visit www.mercuryprize.com and to discover more about Hannah Peel visit www.hannahpeel.com

Arts Council opens first mentoring and residency programme for minority ethnic artists

Monday 6th September 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today announced a new funding programme to support the work of minority ethnic artists and creative practitioners living in Northern Ireland. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, £50,000 will be made available by the Arts Council this autumn to support the pilot scheme.

Through this new programme the Arts Council aims to create opportunities for specialized training, research, cultural exchange, networking and learning for individual artists, creative practitioners and arts administrators. Applicants may be eligible for awards of up to £5,000 each.

The Minority Ethnic Artists Mentoring and Residency Programme aims to help individuals at every stage of their career; supporting skills development and career pathways, inspiring excellence and increasing opportunities for young and emerging minority ethnic artists and creatives. The creation of the programme has been informed by the Arts Council’s Intercultural Arts Strategy and framed within its current business plan.

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

“The Arts Council is pleased to announce this new funding programme which will provide vital support to our growing community of minority ethnic artists and creative practitioners. In working to create the conditions for the widest variety of art and creativity for both artists and audiences, we are seeking to address the numerous and complex barriers to access, progression and representation in the arts encountered by minority ethnic artists.

“National Lottery players raise £30 million every week for good causes in the UK and thanks to that funding, this important programme has been developed. In addition to this funding, the Arts Council is currently in the process of establishing a new Minority Ethnic Deliberative Forum to generate an improved understanding of needs in this area and to inform future decision making. It is our hope that this funding and the work undertaken by the Deliberative Forum will help to strengthen diversity within the arts sector and lead to the development of many new and exciting projects.”

Applications to the Minority Ethnic Artists Mentoring and Residency Programme are now open and can be made online. Guidance notes and the application form are available on our website and they can be requested in large print or other accessible formats. Please contact us at artgrants@artscouncil-ni.org if you need further help, including alternative language versions.

Please note, this programme will only fund proposals that will take place between 12 November 2021 and 31 October 2022. All eligible expenditure must be incurred within these dates. The application process will close at 12 noon on 4th October, with decisions made on 12th November. For application forms and guidance notes visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/minority-ethnic-artists-mentoring-and-residency-programme

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Sensational City of Derry International Choir Festival launches on 20 October

Thursday 26th August 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

Derry City is warming up for the sensational return of the City of Derry International Choir Festival (CoDICF) in October when an unrivalled programme of events – including Grammy award-winners and exclusive global premier performances – will fill halls, churches and homes with world class, choral entertainment.

This special festival runs live and virtually from Wednesday 20 October until Sunday 24 October. Headline acts include the internationally acclaimed all-male chorus Chanticleer and award-winning vocal ensemble Tenebrae.

Celebrating its ninth successful year, the Festival has been carefully planned to include a synchronised mix of in-person and virtual events throughout the city as part of an immersive programme of live and digital concerts, performances, workshops, podcasts, and other events.

Over five full days, audiences will experience the elation of live music once again with a variety of exciting performances in various venues across the city, including the historic St Columb’s Cathedral, and the inspiring surroundings of the centuries-old St Columba’s Church, Long Tower.

This year’s Festival kicks off with the Opening Gala Concert on Wednesday 20 October featuring members of the Ulster Orchestra with local choirs and singers performing The Voyage. Composed and conducted by world-famous choral director Bob Chilcott, The Voyage is a deeply emotive orchestral and vocal composition depicting the voyage through life and how we come to terms with the challenges it brings.

The gala concert also introduces a brand-new Festival commission for chorus and orchestra by Northern Ireland creative production company, Dumbworld.

Thursday 21 October marks the return of the award-winning Derry chamber choir Codetta, promising to be a major highlight for the 2021 programme as they perform The Road Home in Long Tower Church with Derry cellist Kim Vaughan.

The concert includes a world premiere of newly commissioned work by Irish composer Eoghan Desmond chosen in partnership with The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland, as part of the year-long Colmcille 1500 celebratory programme, coordinated by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council.

School performances will be back with a non-competitive format for primary years encouraging children and teachers to take part in the fun and community-spirited Primary Big Sing event in Millennium Forum on Thursday 21 October.

This day of singing will include a workshop led by music education expert Lucinda Geoghegan featuring songs, games and rhymes, and a specially composed piece for young voices by leading Catalan composer and conductor, Josep Vila i Casañas. Post-primary schools will return for a day of competitions and a senior Big Sing on Friday 22 October.

The Festival is also hopeful that choirs throughout the island of Ireland will return for a day of competitions in various categories including mixed voice, equal voice, youth, sacred, pop, jazz and gospel, culminating in the brand-new Choir of the Festival competition.

Friday 22 October the Festival welcomes a return visit from the UK vocal ensemble Tenebrae for a live performance in St Columb’s Cathedral. The critically acclaimed, award-winning choir is one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles famous for its passion and precision, led by its musical director and founder, Nigel Short.

The Festival’s online programme features this year’s headline virtual act, the Grammy award-winning all-male a cappella ensemble Chanticleer from San Francisco, California. They will be making their virtual debut at the Festival on Thursday 21 October with a live Zoom workshop and a bespoke recorded concert.

Renowned internationally as ‘the orchestra of voices,’ Chanticleer was founded in 1978 and remain as the ‘world’s reigning male chorus,’ performing stunning concerts to every corner of the world.

The Virtual Choral Trail returns with the inclusion of local, national and international choirs. Following a hugely successful online-only festival last year, which generated an unprecedented 250,000 views from 50 countries worldwide, choirs and ensembles can take part by submitting their best performance through the Festival website to secure their place in the 2021 online programme.

Online audiences will also enjoy the sounds of previous international winners of the Festival in a special virtual concert, as well as a series of podcasts with guest artists and a virtual symposium on the theme of words, music and composition.

Welcoming this year’s programme of events, the festival’s Artistic Director, Dónal Doherty, said:

“There is a real sense of hope among singers everywhere that we will soon be able to return to regular rehearsals and performances. Singing together is our life-blood and this shared experience has been sorely missed over the past 18 months. We cannot wait to perform together again, or to enjoy the performance of other groups, whether outdoors or in one of the beautiful indoor venues that we'll be using for this year's festival.”

Dónal shares how in-person and virtual events has created a new dynamic to the festival’s programme:

“The extraordinary success of last year's virtual festival has given us the confidence to present an exciting and varied programme for Festival 2021. Derry is a very welcoming city and we look forward to an even bigger global audience, either in person or online, being able to share in and enjoy this year's five-day celebration of song.”

The 2021 Festival is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities, Derry & Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council, Tourism Northern Ireland, Community Foundation Northern Ireland, Inner City Trust, the Irish American Partnership and Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors.

For more details on this year’s programme and events visit www.derrychoirfest.com

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Poetry as Commemoration - an all island project

Thursday 26th August 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive at UCD Library has been awarded €370,000 by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media for an all island project entitled Poetry as Commemoration.

Poetry can address the effect of significant events on the lives of ordinary people, while simultaneously promoting a shared understanding of events. This project, part of the Creative Imagination strand of the Decade of Centenaries, will use poetry as a means to deepen our collective understanding of Ireland's past and to explore a challenging period of our history, relating to the Struggle for Independence and Civil War, in a spirit of openness and inclusivity.

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive will work in partnership with Poetry Ireland and will collaborate with a diverse range of poets, institutions, groups, and individuals across the island of Ireland. A core component of this project is to commission a selection of poems - in English and in Irish - on topics, themes and events inspired by primary source materials relating to the War of Independence and Civil War that are held in archives across the island.

The project will also deliver an innovative programme of events, including an extensive programme of creative writing workshops for adults and children across the island of Ireland. Opportunities will be provided for communities to work with and learn from original documents held in local archives and to draw inspiration for new creative works. Poetry readings, online exhibitions, a symposium, a ‘poetry in public spaces’ initiative, and a dedicated website hosting a virtual poetry wall are among a range of anticipated opportunities for engagement with poetry as a form of commemoration, created by this initiative. Materials from this project will be preserved in the Irish Poetry Reading Archive for future generations.

Minister Martin said:

“This is an exciting new partnership between UCD Library's Poetry Reading Archive and my Department. ‘Poetry as Commemoration’ is a really important opportunity for us all to consider and explore, in a creative way, some of the significant themes and events associated with the emerging Irish State, grounded in engagement with the collections from national and local archives, relating to the War of Independence and the Civil War.

‘Poetry as Commemoration’ is a multifaceted project which will provide rich and varied opportunities for meaningful engagement with people of all ages across the island of Ireland. I welcome, too, the project’s collaborative approach and I wish all of the participating partners every success”.

Evelyn Flanagan and Ursula Byrne of UCD Library and Associate Professor Lucy Collins of the UCD School of English, Drama and Film the co-founders of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive said:

"We are delighted with the Government’s support for this two-year creative project. This is a great opportunity for the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, working in collaboration with Poetry Ireland, to facilitate a journey of discovery that will engage writers of all ages and levels of experience, encouraging them to draw inspiration from archival material relating to the War of Independence and Civil War. Poetry plays an important role in our collective understanding of Ireland's past and will help us to explore this challenging period of our history in new and inclusive ways. It is a great honour for UCD Library’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive to lead this project".

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The Festival of Voice returns to celebrate voice and song with a competition finale this weekend

Wednesday 25th August 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

Northern Ireland Opera is bringing The Festival of Voice their much-loved annual celebration of singing to Belfast this weekend, in partnership with BBC Radio 3. All events will be performed live in the First Church Belfast on August 27-29th: BBC Radio 3 will record this weekend and broadcast the recitals in the early Autumn while the culmination of the festival, the Competition Finale is open to audiences this year and takes place on Sunday 29th August at 7pm: booking is essential and is available via niopera.com

For the first time this year, there is also a Song Prize, sponsored by The Priests Charitable Trust which will be presented by Father Eugene O’Hagan to the singer whose song is judged the best performance of the night. The Priests are an international singing sensation, and studied classical voice in Belfast with the legendary coach Frank Caper.

Usually this celebration of the best young opera voices from the island of Ireland takes place in the beautiful coastal village of Glenarm. While we cannot be there this year due to COVID 19, we are delighted to still be able to bring live performance to Belfast across three days of recitals.

For the competition element of the Festival, six finalists have the opportunity to work with prestigious vocal coaches across the weekend in the build-up to our annual finale where they compete by performing arias, duets and Irish songs in front of a judging panel of opera experts, hosted by our Patron, Sean Rafferty. These events will all take place in the historic First Church Belfast, home to our annual Summer Recital series and Christmas Concert. The winner of the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize will become the Northern Ireland Opera Voice of 2020 and the audience will also vote for their winner.

This year’s finalists are Amy Conneely (mezzo-soprano), Caroline Behan (soprano), Cerys MacAllister (soprano), Ellen Mawhinney (soprano) Katie Richardson McCrea (mezzo-soprano) and Matthew Mannion (baritone). The Peter Rankin Piano Intern is Brendan Kennedy.

The Glenarm Festival of Voice also features three BBC Radio 3 Recitals. This year we will welcome soprano Elizabeth Watts, mezzo-soprano Kathyrn Rudge and Ben McAteer, with pianist Simon Lepper. These performances are not open to audiences this year due to COVID restrictions but will be recorded in the First Church, Belfast and broadcast in the autumn on BBC Radio 3.

The Festival of Voice is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and the Esmé Mitchell Trust.

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Belfast International Arts Festival returns centre stage this autumn

Tuesday 24th August 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The 59th Belfast International Arts Festival (BIAF) has been launched with an imaginative and inspirational programme that seeks to positively contribute to the post Covid social, economic and cultural revival of the city, and more widely its artistic communities and audiences.

From October 6 to November 7, over 200 uplifting, joyous and thought-provoking events featuring dance, music, theatre, film, visual arts and discussion will be hosted across Belfast as the festival welcomes the return of live, in-person arts events for 2021. In addition, there will be a number of special digital events to enjoy from home.

After a fully online offering in 2020, this year Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary multi-artform festival presents an impressive programme that connects NI, its artists and audiences with artistic practice from across the world, exploring matters such as identity, race, gender stereotypes, legacy, social justice issues and, of course, lockdown.

BIAF21 will open with the premiere of The Border Game a co-production by local theatre company Prime Cut Productions and The Lyric. From the award-winning writers Michael Patrick & Oisín Kearney (My Left Nut and The Alternative) and Irish Times Theatre Award-winning director Emma Jordan (Red and A Streetcar Named Desire), The Border Game is a timely and powerful reflection on 100 years of the border and how it has impacted those who live along it. Running until 23rd October, the tale has been inspired by 100 testimonies collected by the writers from real people living all over the 300-miles of the border.

The theatre segment of the programme continues with the Irish Premiere of Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell, award-winning Canadian science journalist whose acclaimed production on climate change and the state of the global ocean makes a timely appearance ahead of COP26. Another Lover’s Discourse by Riham Isaac, one of Palestine’s most exciting contemporary artists, is a solo theatre show, co-commissioned by BIAF, which encourages a more open conversation about how we understand romantic relationships and invites us to think differently about love.

Dance aficionados are in for a treat with Uncle Ray, a touching new dance duet by David Bolger, and the reflective and emotive Epilogue, a stunning film that will be projected onto the façade of The MAC. Online audiences can access two recent dance for screen works by Oona Doherty, Hunter Filmed and The Devil.

There are also two world premiere theatre events from local greats Cahoots NI and Big Telly. Returning to the festival with interactive experiences, Cahoots NI’s The Grimm Hotel is an immersive spin on Grimms’ Fairy Tales featuring close-up magic and high-tech illusions, while Big Telly smash together flash theatre and physical fiction in Department Story – a hybrid event where an online audience can collude with a physical one to shape what happens live.

The first in a triple bill of festival headlining concerts at the Grand Opera House is The Great Irish Songbook, a celebratory gala evening showcasing some of the best-loved songs in the Irish tradition. On Thursday 21 October, Dervish, one of the world's most renowned and imaginative interpreters of Irish folk music, will be joined by very special guests Eddi Reader, Cara Dillon, Brian Kennedy, Karen Matheson, The Open Arts Community Choir and more. The following night, an already sold-out Glen Hansard returns for one night only. On Saturday 23 October, in a special event for Belfast International Arts Festival, festival favourites the Ulster Orchestra and ‘the Irish Queen of Game Music’, conductor Eímear Noone, join forces to take video game music to a symphonic level with Electric Arcade.

Other spectacular music events at BIAF21 include Billy Bragg’s first Belfast solo headline show for a decade, English indie folk trio The Staves, Belfast Music Society’s Northern Lights Mini Festival and an exploration of Belfast’s unique place in the history of harp music by Laoise Kelly and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, narrated by Stephen Rea. In addition, three free BBC invitation concerts will take place at St Mark’s Dundela as part of the festival’s annual partnership with BBC Radio 3.

A collaboration with Queen’s Film Theatre, BIAF will celebrate the influence of Hong Kong cinema as the venue becomes host to a season of films by renowned director Wong Kar Wai. With special thanks to Janus Films, works screening include the director’s scintillating debut As Tears Go By, breakthrough Days of Being Wild and the whiplash Chunking Express, one of the defining works of 1990s cinema that made Wong Kar Wai an icon. Screenings will also take place of Irish language film The Queen vs. Patrick O’Donnell and an Irish language version of the BAFTA and Oscar-nominated Wolfwalkers.

The BIAF21 Talks & Ideas strand brings together established names and newer faces to explore love, grief, modern life, exile and new beginnings across their fiction and non-fiction works. Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle paints a collective portrait of these strange times, living under lockdown; Northern Ireland’s Lucy Caldwell and Jan Carson explore their latest collections of critically-acclaimed short stories; Nikesh Shukla and Musa Okwonga come together to discuss their powerful memoirs exploring race, racism, class, identity, and immigration; and Derek Scally and Susan McKay consider identity, religion, legacy and the potential futures of the North and South of Ireland going forward.

As part of UK Australia Season of Culture, and in association with the British Council, BIAF21 will present two fantastic writers in Laura Jean McKay and Meg Mason beamed directly from the land down under straight to your home to chat about their novels, The Animals in that Country and Sorrow and Bliss respectively.

The festival continues partnerships such as the cross-border relationship with Westival, an annual festival of arts and culture based in Westport, County Mayo, with a number of shared events as part of the Talks & Ideas portfolio, including nationally renowned journalists Séamas O’Reilly and Lucy Mangan coming together to discuss their latest books and a very special in conversation with acclaimed writers Colm Tóibín and Damon Galgut. This partnership is supported by the Government of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs. In addition, an ongoing partnership with Institut Français sees Dominique Barbéris and Gaëlle Josse, two of France’s most revered writers, join the festival to talk about their work and inspirations.

Festival Artistic Director and CEO, Richard Wakely, issued this invitation,

“Join us this autumn for the ultimate gathering of world class artists from home and abroad and audiences seeking new voices and fresh perspectives. We are currently working with our partners across the city to deliver a safe and accessible festival where our audiences and artists can come together to celebrate and discover new work, and each other. Whether you want to see work in person or from the comfort of your own homes, there is plenty on offer in this year’s programme”.

BIAF’s principal funder is the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is also supported by Belfast City Council, British Council, the Government of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Tourism Northern Ireland and a range of project funders and sponsors.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival. Throughout the pandemic, the arts have been one of our brightest lights, shining out as they entertained, inspired and lifted our spirits, when we needed it most. Our appetite for arts, culture and entertainment has never felt stronger. With this year’s brilliant festival line-up, we have a fantastic opportunity to satisfy that hunger, in the company of some of the best local and international creative talent.

“Our special thanks to the organisers at Belfast International Arts Festival – we recognise how difficult it is to plan a programme of this scale and this ambition in these uncertain times. The Arts Council is proud to be the festival’s long-term principal funder and to have supported it throughout the challenges of the past year. We know you, too, will want to give this remarkable festival your full support.”

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl, said,

“It’s exciting to see the return of culture in our city venues and spaces as restrictions continue to ease and this festival promises some fantastic live, in-person events plus a range of unique digital events to enjoy from home.

“The festival team have put together an inspiring programme showcasing brilliant new work from local and international artists. Belfast is rightly very proud of its quality arts and culture scene and festivals like this play a vital role in achieving the aims of our 10 year cultural strategy, A City Imagining; and Belfast City Council is delighted to be supporting Belfast International Arts Festival through our Cultural Multi-Annual investment programme.”

Tourism NI’s Chief Executive, John McGrillen said,

“We are delighted to support Belfast International Arts Festival this year. Events and festivals generate significant economic benefit and help boost the profile of tourism in Northern Ireland. Best wishes to the organisers, sponsors and all the participants and attendees for a successful event.”

Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council Northern Ireland, said,

“We are delighted to once again be supporting Belfast International Arts Festival, which brings the best of local and international artists and work to Belfast. We’re especially excited this year to support diverse work from the Middle East and North Africa – enabling local audiences to enjoy leading performance art from the region, while strengthening new and existing international connections.

“Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for our events sector, so it’s wonderful that in this 59th year, there will be an opportunity for both performers and audiences to once again enjoy and experience elements of Northern Ireland’s most vibrant and iconic arts festival.”

For more information about BIAF21 and to book tickets, visit belfastinternationalartsfestival.com

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CNB21 Presents The Ogham Grove At Writer’s Square

Thursday 19th August 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments

The creative team behind this year’s Culture Night Belfast installation have revealed ambitious plans to create a vast structural, lighting and sound show that will fill the Cathedral Quarter’s Writer’s Square next month.

Belfast artist Gawain Morrison and his team will turn Writer’s Square into The Ogham Grove, a monumental, immersive sculpture and accompanying digital trail which will create a whole new experience for Belfast.

Susan Picken, director of Culture Night Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said the plans Gawain has presented are “spectacular” and will “provide a very unique experience to each person who visits throughout the weekend”.

She added: “Gawain and his team of artists will transform Writer’s Square with a totally innovative and spectacular artwork that will invite visitors to explore the relationship with our native woodlands and the environment.

The Ogham Grove really tapped into our concern for the environment and the devastating impact of climate change. It also restates our commitment to support and work with our incredible cultural and creative sectors here in NI.

This is a significant moment for CNB, not only is this our first large-scale artists’ commission but it also signals an exciting new format for the event as we move forward.”

The concept for The Ogham Grove takes inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Alphabet.

“Two monumental sculptures will be built in Writers’ Square, with themes drawn from our ancestral heritage and culture here on the island of Ireland” explained Gawain.

“The Tree Alphabet will act as the primer for learning about the Ogham characters, their meanings, and their tree associations while the Celtic Ogham Year Wheel signifies the links with our natural environment, living in harmony with it, and the awareness of our place in the universe, the lunar and solar cycles that drive the life on this planet of ours, and all of how life lives–in balance and together.

“The Ogham Grove offers a window into an alternative interpretation of the world around us, highlighting the importance that nature played in the societies of our ancestors, enabling us to reconnect with this heritage in a playful, thought provoking and visually stunning way, at a time when the natural environment and spending time outdoors has never been so important.”

Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.

Susan added: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

Gawain alongside his team, including artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer, artist and engineer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills said the installation they are planing will leave visitors with “a monumental audio-visual experience that will be overwhelming both day and night.”

He added: “The actual scale of the structure itself will be impressive. The fact that at night-time the lighting will come alive will give it a very different feel from the daytime and allow people to experience it in different ways.”

The 2021 edition of Culture Night will have a completely new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A major difference this year is the decision to suspend the previous open submission programme and instead focus on creating one central experience working directly with artists.

“One of the biggest changes this year will be that we haven’t run an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan.

Susan continued “There won’t be the usual on-street activity or pop-ups that people are used to. Instead, Writer’s Square will be transformed with an exciting monumental installation, The Ogham Grove, running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. This extended running time will allow more time and space to visit and experience over the weekend.”

"This will be a unique and sensory experience for anyone attending and will make for great photo opportunities" added Gawain.

This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.

To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media.

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Clandeboye Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary and makes a welcome return to live audiences

Tuesday 17th August 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments

The Clandeboye Festival returns from 18th -21st August offering an exceptional programme of classical music, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This year’s Festival will be presented both in person to live audiences and to those at home who can enjoy live-streamed concerts.


The annual Clandeboye Festival is presented by Camerata Ireland, an organisation established by the internationally renowned pianist, Barry Douglas CBE, which celebrates and champions the incredible musical talents from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Festival is famed for bringing some of the world’s leading classical musicians to Northern Ireland and also offering valuable opportunities for exceptional young musicians from here to be mentored via masterclasses at the Camerata Ireland Academy.

Due to travelling restrictions, many of their international artists will not be able to come to the 2021 festival however this year the programme will feature an impressive selection of classical musicians from Northern Ireland who have a history with the Festival and have hugely successful music careers. Highlights this year include leading Northern Ireland classical musicians, pianist, Barry Douglas, flautist, Eimear McGeown and pianist, Michael McHale. Some of the young artists performing include clarinettist, William Curran and pianist, Justine Gormley, both recent recipients of the prestigious BBC NI and Arts Council of Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform Award.

Returning artists include soprano, Ailish Tynan and French Horn player, Richard Watkins. The programme this year will also celebrate those young musicians that have taken part in the Camerata Ireland Academy over the years including, Peter Regan (piano), Richard Thomas, (violin), Fiachra D’hOra (viola) and Callum Owens (cello).

The Camerata Ireland Academy will be online again this year and a streamed concert of highlights is planned for release in spring 2022.

Barry Douglas, Artistic Director of the Clandeboye Festival and Camerata Ireland, said,

“We can’t wait to see our audiences come back and enjoy great music at Clandeboye again. The Festival this year welcomes fabulous musicians from N Ireland, Rep of Ireland and England. (Our international artists will be returning next year). All our world class musicians have been providing great entertainment for audiences over several years, and more than 260 young musicians have benefited from their time at Clandeboye since 2002. The majority of our young musicians go on to successful solo careers and have played with Camerata Ireland on tour. We are immensely grateful to our principal funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and for the support of our Global Sponsor, Randox. Please come and enjoy great music in a unique setting".

Jo Wright, Acting Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is hugely proud to support the Clandeboye Festival who are celebrating their very special 20th anniversary this year! Despite the significant hurdles in programming a festival during a pandemic, Barry Douglas and his team have risen to the challenge and have gathered together the most wonderful collection of world-class musicians for audiences to enjoy. I would encourage all music lovers to go along and support this terrific celebration of classical music this August.”

For programme details and to purchase tickets visit https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/clandeboye-festival-2021

The Festival concerts will also be streamed live. Details are available at Camerata Ireland’s website www.camerata-ireland.com and on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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Jazz organisation seeks talent for new youth scheme

Monday 16th August 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

Jazzlife Alliance, an Arts Council funded not-for-profit talent organisation, is seeking young musicians for its prestigious new youth programme, Jazz Juniors.

Following a nationwide application process this month, a small ensemble will be formed and begin monthly training at The MAC,Belfast, with world-renowned jazz musicians and begin performing concerts in 2022. Participants of the scheme can remain with Jazz Juniors until the age of 18 and an additional group will be added each year. Since formation in 2018, Jazzlife Alliance has worked with some of Northern Ireland's most promising young talent, from twin jazz prodigies the Murray Brothers to gifted young singer/songwriters such as Dara McNicholl and Conor Marcus, both finalists on the Voice Kids.

Under the artistic direction of homegrown music legend David Lyttle, a MOBO Award and Urban MusicAward nominated drummer, composer and producer performing around 200 dates a year worldwide pre-Covid, Jazzlife Alliance hopes to offer another direction to gifted children and young people and grow the jazz scene in NI. Lyttle is no stranger to young talent: his most famous student is the former child prodigy guitarist Andreas Varady,who after Lyttle's four-year mentorship signed to Universal and spent five years under the management of Quincy Jones. Lyttle has worked with some of the arts world's elite and his most recent collaborations include homegrown talents Liam Neeson and on-the-rise singer/songwriter Gemma Bradley, who is now a presenter on BBC Radio1.

Lyttle says,

“There has never been a dedicated educational jazz scheme in Northern Ireland. We've had occasional workshops, festival outreach programmes and youth bands but no specialist programmes that challenge and grow talent in the area of jazz. Without opportunities like this it's close to impossible to grow a jazz scene. Though it's a long time coming, we are very proud to have taken the steps required to establish Jazz Juniors and we are very grateful to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for investing in us.”

Applications to Jazz Juniors are open to all under 18s until the close of August and no experience in jazz is required. Instead the organisation is looking for “hardworking and passionate young people who will benefit from the special and challenging music that is jazz.”

Saxophonist Micheal Murray, 24, who has taken part in several of Jazzlife Alliance's mentorship programmes says,

“Jazz is an amazing style of music because it allows a group of people from anywhere in the world to come together and express their personalities not only as individuals, but also through a group collective.”

Jo Wright, Acting Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council ofNorthern Ireland is thrilled to support Jazz Juniors thanks to National Lottery players. This impressive initiative offers valuable opportunities for young musicians to learn from exceptional, professional jazz musicians as well as gain experience in performing to live audiences. I wish all involved every success.”

More information on Jazz Juniors can be found at jazzlifealliance.org

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Arts Council welcomes new Board Member

Thursday 12th August 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to learn of the appointment of Ray Hall to their Board, announced (11/08/2021) by the Department for Communities.

Liam Hannaway, Chair of The Arts Council said,

“I want to take this opportunity to welcome Ray Hall to our Board. He brings with him skills and experiences that are valued by all working in the public sector. I am looking forward to him helping the Arts Council of Northern Ireland advocate for the entire arts sector here as we seek to support its recovery in still challenging times.”

The Chief Executive Roisin McDonough also added,

“Ray’s talents and impressive dedication to his interests in the traditional music sector will be warmly received by me and all of the staff at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland”.

Read the full announcement here: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/appointment-new-member-board-arts-council-ni and the summary below:

Mr Ray Hall

Mr Hall held the post as Head of Audit, Risk and Governance service in Cookstown District Council up to Local Government Reform in 2015 and had direct responsibility for health and safety, internal audit, and risk management. In 2015 on the formation of Mid Ulster District Council he was appointed as Corporate Risk and Safety Manager. Since 2018 he has been employed as the Southern Emergency Preparedness Group Resilience Manager. He has a long-standing interest in traditional music of all genres and has been the Chairman of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (Northern Ireland Branch) since 2012. He does not hold any other public appointments and has not undertaken any political activity in the last five years.

This appointment is with effect from 1 Sept 2021 to 31 Aug 2025.

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Arts Council opens new £80,000 Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards scheme

Tuesday 10th August 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in collaboration with Future Screens NI, today (Tuesday 10th August) opened a new funding programme which aims to provide individual artists from Northern Ireland with skills in the use of digital technology to support sustainability in the context of Covid-19.

Individual artists across all disciplines will receive a stimulus and technical guidance with the aim of producing high-quality Digital Art*. The Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards, worth £80,000, from The National Lottery and Future Screens NI, offers individuals the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £10,000 and is open to artists across all art forms.

To support prospective applicants to the programme, the Arts Council together with Future Screens NI, will host an online webinar on Wednesday 18th August at 10am to enable applicants to explore their ideas with industry experts. Registration in advance is essential and you can find details of how to attend on the Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards funding page on the Arts Council website.

The Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards aims to support those artists who are making digital art for the first time or are working with digital or immersive technology which they have not used previously. Collaborative applications from individual artists working together in cross-discipline projects and activities are also encouraged. Examples of the types of project that this scheme will support includes:

  • Creation of a virtual environment or augmented reality environment; such as augmented reality visual arts or sound overlay on venues or geographical spaces
  • Using technology, such as 3D rendering and printing, to create artwork digitally which can either exist digitally or be manufactured into 3D physical objects
  • Using technology to translate data into artistic content; for example algorithms that create music or visual content from data input
  • App development for the delivery of artistic content; this could include gamification or making an artistic experience for consumption on digital devises. (note: this does not include streaming of filmed/recorded performances)

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

“The opening of the Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards today is welcome news and we are delighted to partner with Future Screens NI on this exciting programme. The programme will support artists in the creation of art using digital and immersive technologies, and will also help artists develop skills in the use of these new technologies. This programme reflects the Arts Council’s commitment to encouraging innovative practices that cross artform boundaries and build digital capabilities within the Northern Ireland arts sector.”

Professor Paul Moore, Director Future Screens NI, said,

“As we continue to experience transitions associated with Covid-19 it is essential that we support artists to develop the skills required to benefit fully from new, emerging and immersive technologies. Future Screens NI is privileged to partner with Arts Council NI to deliver the Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards which will enhance the ability of artists to develop ambitious creative projects employing new technologies and to develop specialist skills required to sustain the future of the creative industries”

The Individual Artists Digital Evolution Awards scheme is open for online applications from Tuesday 10th August and will close at 12noon on Tuesday 31st August for grants up to a maximum of £10,000. For information on the webinar, eligibility, guidance notes and to apply visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/individual-artists-digital-evolution-awards Please note guidance notes are also available on request in large print format and disk.

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Arts Council presents 241 year old Italian violin to new UYO Leader, Jasmine Morris

Monday 9th August 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Exceptional young violinist, Jasmine Morris, aged 19, from Coleraine, has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO), and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the Milton Violin, an exquisite 241 year-old instrument made by renowned Neapolitan violin maker, Joseph Gagliano, to be played throughout her tenure as leader.

The precious violin, which is 241 years old, was generously donated to the Arts Council by Professor Alan Milton in 1980 and in the past has been used by the Leader and principal players of the Ulster Orchestra. In 2013 the Arts Council decided to loan the precious instrument to the Ulster Youth Orchestra to be used by exceptionally gifted musicians in their role as Leader.

Jasmine, who faced rigorous auditions to become the Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, is currently studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Established in 1993, The UYO is the National Youth Orchestra of Northern Ireland and is supported by public funding and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council and offers the highest level of orchestral training in the region. Through its annual summer residential courses and concerts and outreach projects, it provides young gifted musicians with the opportunity to develop their musical skills further.

Joanne Wright, Acting Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “Congratulations to Jasmine on becoming Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra. The Orchestra has become a vibrant and creative force in the musical life of Northern Ireland, bringing top quality orchestral playing to a wide audience, and providing gifted young musicians with access to the very best professional players, tutors and conductors. Thanks to the generosity of Professor Milton, we are able to provide this exceptional instrument to generations of our best young violinists. We are delighted by the appointment of Jasmine Morris as Leader and have no doubt she will put this very special opportunity to great use.”

Paula Klein, General Manager, Ulster Youth Orchestra said, “The Board and I are delighted that Jasmine has been awarded the position of leader in 2021 and that she has the privilege of being able to enjoy and benefit from playing this beautifully rare and delicate instrument. We are incredibly grateful to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their generous loan.”

Membership to the Ulster Youth Orchestra is gained through a highly competitive audition process. All members value the opportunity to come together to perform with the very best young musicians from all over Northern Ireland. Its members work together harmoniously in the pursuit of artistic excellence. The Orchestra’s artistic programmes encourage individuals to develop practical and social skills, boost their confidence, enhance their well-being and empower them to achieve excellence.

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/D1_rerhacnk

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Arts Council’s report highlights implications for NI arts sector following UK withdrawal from EU

Monday 9th August 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (9th August 2021) published a report setting out the key changes in legislation affecting creative workers and arts organisations travelling or trading with EU counterparts.

‘EU Withdrawal: Key Changes and Implications for Northern Ireland-based Arts Organisations’considers the impact of new rules and the steps that are currently being taken at a local and national level to support the continued mobility of artists internationally.

On 31 December 2020, freedom of movement between the United Kingdom and the European Union ended with Brexit. The implications for the arts sector in Northern Ireland are complex, multi-dimensional, and evolving. This new report by the Arts Council outlines the legislative requirements regarding:

• Visas and working in the EU for NI creatives

• EU creatives travelling to the UK

• EU creatives working in the UK

• Movement of goods (Carnets and Cabotage)

• Social Security protocols.

Key issues for the arts are identified and include:

• loss of major sources of funding and income

• additional costs of taking work to the EU

• fewer performing opportunities for emerging and existing artists

• loss of trans-national partnerships

• shortening of tours

• difficulties sourcing materials

• Northern Ireland becoming attractive to visiting artists.

The Arts Council report details support and information that is available to the arts sector, to help artists and organisations navigate the continuing uncertainty that surrounds the international mobility of artists. One of those key resources is:

Arts Infopoint UK, established by the four national arts development agencies, including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, works with EU partners to provide UK artists with practical advice on such issues as visas, work permits and residencies. It hosts country-specific webinars, signposts resources and researches the challenges to artist mobility (http://artsinfopointuk.com/)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will continue to work closely with national and international partners to promote and support international creative exchange and dialogue.

Click here to view EU Withdrawal: Key Changes and Implications for Northern Ireland-based Arts Organisations.

http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI_EU_Withdrawal.pdf

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Arts Council NI is Recruiting

Friday 6th August 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Ref: 21/02 - Assistant Arts Development Officer

The post holder will be responsible for the grants payment and monitoring processes within the Arts Council and will support the maintenance of positive client relationships by managing a client portfolio.

Arts Council of Northern Ireland – Assistant Arts Development Officer

The Arts Council is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland and now has the following vacancy:

Ref: 21/02 - Assistant Arts Development Officer

Permanent - 37 hours per week

EOI grade - £27,845 - £28,730 per annum (Aug 19 rate)

The post holder will be responsible for the grants payment and monitoring processes within the Arts Council and will support the maintenance of positive client relationships by managing a client portfolio.

For more information about the role and full job description, please visit our website and download an application form at www.artscouncil-ni.org or email the HR department at hr@artscouncil-ni.org

Closing date: 12.00noon on Friday 27th August 2021.

Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Linen Hill House, 23 Linenhall Street, Lisburn, BT28 1FJ

We are an equal opportunities employer and we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons.

Download: AADO Particulars: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/21_02_AADO_Particulars.docx

Download: Application Form: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI_21_02_Application_Form_1.docx

Download: Monitoring Form: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/21_02_Monitoring_Form.docx

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Portrait of Northern Ireland Centenary exhibition announced

Thursday 5th August 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has announced a major art exhibition to showcase Northern Ireland’s creative talent as part of the Northern Ireland Office’s Centenary programme.

The Portrait of Northern Ireland: Neither an Elegy nor a Manifesto exhibition, which will be staged in Belfast from 9 October - 3 November, will feature over 100 artists who have explored perspectives of Northern Ireland’s people and landscapes from the 1920s until the present day.

In addition to established artists such as Paul Henry, William Scott and Turner Prize nominees, the exhibition will shine a light on the work of up-and-coming artists who have recently graduated from Ulster University Belfast School of Art. As well as nurturing young talent and enhancing local artists’ profiles, it is hoped that the exhibition will provide a boost to the local arts sector as it deals with the impact of Covid-19.

Curated by Shan McAnena, the exhibition is a collaboration between the Northern Ireland Office, the Government Art Collection, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Ulster University Belfast School of Art as part of the wider cultural programme of the Northern Ireland Centenary. An expert panel of representatives from these organisations and many of the leading Northern Ireland galleries, has ensured that the exhibition features an inclusive and varied range of artwork and exhibits.

Making the announcement, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis MP said:

“The Portrait of Northern Ireland art exhibition is a superb cultural initiative which will shine a spotlight on the creativity of Northern Ireland’s artists.

“I’m particularly pleased that we have such a range of emerging and established talent and a variety of artistic mediums which really highlight what local Northern Ireland talent can achieve.

“I would encourage everyone from right across Northern Ireland to take advantage of this important collection of art work and exhibits from highly acclaimed local artists.”

Curator Shan McAnena said: “It is a privilege to be able to bring together these beautiful and profound works and acknowledge the contribution of many of the key artists who have emerged from this part of the world over the past 100 years.

“This survey aims to capture artists’ responses to the landscape and experience, both particular and universal, of the people who have lived here and continue to make Northern Ireland their home.”

Head of Belfast School of Art Louise O’Boyle said: “The inclusion of a selection of our current students and recent graduates in this exhibition is both welcomed and so important.

“It recognises their voices as an integral part of this collective portrait of art in Northern Ireland.

“Their work highlights some of the evolving themes and diverse practices that are emerging, at this moment, from Belfast School of Art.

“Practices that also contribute to wider national and global dialogues regarding art, culture, creativity and their role within society.”

The exhibition will open at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast from 9th October to 3rd November 2021.

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Arts Council’s Report provides evidence of immediate need for a support fund for individual artists

Wednesday 4th August 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

A Statement from the Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Liam Hannaway

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) was asked by the Department for Communities (DfC) to collate evidence demonstrating the impact of Covid-19 emergency funding for individual artists in 2020/21, and to evidence the need for sectoral support funding right now.

The Arts Council worked with DfC and with the ministerial Cultural Recovery Task Force group and produced the 'Evidencing Need' report which we published today (Aug 4th 2021).

This body of evidence demonstrates that there is immediate financial insecurity for those working in the creative industries and that career and skills development have been negatively affected. There is the significant risk that the talent pool of artists and creatives, necessary for the overall creative ecosystem, will leave Northern Ireland to find alternative work; this will take the sector years to recover from.

The £13m additional support from the UK Government will meet only some of the need, and should be released through grant programmes to the sector as a matter of urgency.

High level findings of this survey are included in the executive summary which I urge you to read. I am confident this report will help the Minister and the Department for Communities make the case for further sectoral support for those working in and around the arts and culture sectors in Northern Ireland.

On behalf of the Arts Council I would like to personally express the gratitude we have for each and every individual who took part in these valuable studies during one of the worst years of hardship the sector has experienced. This report could not have been completed without you.

Thank you.

Liam Hannaway

Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

View the 'Evidencing Need' report here: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/Evidencing_Need_Individuals.pdf

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe Connect showcases theatre & dance from NI to global industry leaders

Wednesday 4th August 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Ten major works, created by some of Northern Ireland’s leading creators of theatre, dance makers and arts organisations, are due to be showcased as part of an event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Connect, a new online event and networking platform for arts industry and Fringe artists.

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/fVViunYzDZ4

The Spotlight on Northern Ireland Theatre and Dance event is delivered in collaboration with Belfast International Arts Festival and Theatre and Dance NI and shines a light on the world-class work created by artists and arts organisations from here. The event, which will take place at 11:00am on 25 August 2021, is also supported by British Council Northern Ireland, and will be presented in BSL with additional closed captioning.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts marketplace in the world and taking part in the Fringe Connect is an unparalleled opportunity for Northern Irish artists to connect and network with international arts industry figures with a view to having their work tour internationally. Work from the showcase will also be featured on Marketplace – the online platform dedicated to showcasing professional tour-ready work from across the Fringe to international programmers and commissioners, including for 2021 a ‘ones to watch’ category to support those unable to present this year due to Covid-19.

Spotlight on Northern Ireland Theatre and Dance will include a pre-recorded film featuring interviews with artists plus an online live, interactive Q&A with artists, theatre and dance makers from the region. The live Q&A will be hosted by Richard Wakely, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Belfast International Arts Festival.

The showcase includes:

Body Politics by Jo Egan. Produced by Macha Productions.

The Shedding of Skin by Vittoria Cafolla. Produced by Kabosh Theatre Company.

Epilogue: A Dancer Dies Twice by Eileen McClory and collaborators Conan McIvor, Sandy Cuthbert, Jane Mooney, and Maria McManus. Commissioned and produced by Maiden Voyage Dance.

Sadie by David Ireland, a Lyric Theatre Production in association with Field Day Theatre Company, broadcast for BBC Arts’ Lights Up festival as part of Culture in Quarantine.

Immaculate written and performed by Louise Mathews. Produced by Tinderbox Theatre Company.

Inside the Speaker by Helen Hall.

Within the Spotlight showcase, is a reference to several new productions that are currently being created for presentation later in the autumn, either live or on various digital platforms. “On Our Radar” productions include;

The Grimm Hotel by Cahoots NI.

Department Story by Jack Hardiker and Zoë Seaton. Produced by Big Telly Theatre Company.

The Border Game by Michael Patrick and Oisín Kearney. Produced by Prime Cut Productions and Lyric Theatre.

Distortion by Amanda Verlaque. Directed by Rhiann Jeffrey. Produced by the MAC, Belfast.

Three further productions have separately been invited by Edinburgh arts venues to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe and as such are to be featured on the Fringe Marketplace, a dedicated platform showcasing professional tour-ready work to registered programmers.

East Belfast Boy by Fintan Brady. Produced by Prime Cut Productions.

My Left Nut by Michael Patrick and Oisín Kearney. A Pan Narrans Theatre Production.

Two Fingers Up by Gina Donnelly & Seón Simpson. Produced by SkelpieLimmer. Supported by Tinderbox Theatre Company, Culture Ireland, and The MAC Belfast. Filmed at The MAC Belfast.

Details of these three shows can be found at https:// https://tickets.edfringe.com

Richard Wakely, Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Belfast International Arts Festival, commented, “International exposure for our performance artists and ensembles at the Edinburgh Fringe brings with it valuable opportunities to extend the life of new stage and digital works as well as offering increased media and public profile, artistic development and the possibility of future collaborations with overseas partners. BIAF is delighted to support the 2021 edition of Spotlight on Northern Ireland Theatre and Dance which seeks to continue the success that NI-based artists have deservedly found in Edinburgh in recent years.”

Niamh Flanagan, Executive Director, Theatre and Dance NI said, “We are very proud of our theatre and dance creators and makers and are delighted to continue supporting them through the delivery of this, the third NI ‘Spotlight’ event. We value the partnership with BIAF and support from ACNI and BCNI and colleagues at the Edinburgh Fringe which has helped this project to develop and be delivered. We know it is an important initiative for the sector and for our artists and are delighted that it helps increase the profile and opportunities for local work to be presented globally. We wish all involved continued success and best wishes from TDNI.”

Colette Norwood, British Council Northern Ireland Arts Manager, said, “British Council Northern Ireland is delighted to again support the Spotlight on Theatre & Dance from Northern Ireland showcase at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe featuring just a selection of some of the most exciting current and upcoming productions available for touring from Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh Fringe continues to provide an important industry pathway for Covid recovery of the UK and international theatre and dance sectors. It’s important that the investment we make in the arts and creative sectors at home is not kept under wraps and opportunities for international connection are developed furthering the creative life and economic potential of the productions beyond Northern Ireland. Working together with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Theatre & Dance NI and Belfast International Arts Festival, British Council looks forward to continuing to connect Northern Ireland’s exceptional performing arts sector to other parts of the world and deepen market-place opportunities for both physical and digital productions from our local companies and artists.”

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Acting Head of Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “The Arts Council is delighted to help spotlight the remarkable theatre and dance work being made in Northern Ireland today. It’s a testament to the creativity, tenacity and forward-looking focus of our artists that they have created such high quality and resonant works during lockdown. It is vital that these important works are seen – and important too for audiences to get to see them – and so it is particularly exciting that a vast potential market is opened up to them through the Edinburgh Fringe’s digital platforms.”

How to attend

For those wishing to attend Spotlight on Theatre and Dance in Northern Ireland you must register for Fringe Connect at https://edfringeartsind2.online.red61.co.uk/login/?redirect_to=/sso

Fill in your relevant details under New Customer if you do not yet have an account with Fringe Connect.

Under ‘Participant Type(s)’ please ensure to include in your selection ‘2021 industry registered member’.

Once you have completed your profile on Fringe Connect go to events and scroll down to ‘Spotlight on Theatre and Dance from Northern Ireland’. Click on the link and you will see a red ‘Register for this event’ button on the right hand side of the screen. You will receive an email confirmation once registered.

If you have any trouble registering please email Molly at projects@theatreanddanceni.org who will be happy to walk you through the process.

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Lonely Passions: Brian Moore Centenary Festival

Tuesday 3rd August 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments

Paradosso Theatre celebrates the 100th anniversary of Brian Moore’s birth year through Lonely Passions: The Brian Moore Centenary Festival which takes place from Thursday 19th – Wednesday 25th August 2021, ending on the centenary of his birth.

The festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities through the Organisations Emergency Programme, a funding scheme created in response to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic with the aim of supporting arts organisations to create new work.

Born in Belfast on 25 August 1921, Brian Moore was one of the most prolific authors to come out of Belfast. A prizewinning and three times Booker Prize nominee, he wrote over 20 novels, including The Emperor Of Ice Cream, The Luck Of Ginger Coffey, The Feast Of Lupercal, I Am Mary Dunne, The Doctor’s Wife, and The Colour Of Blood amongst others.

Paradosso Theatre has planned a week-long series of events and are hoping people will learn something new about this greatly under-appreciated writer.

Eileen Branagh Chair of Paradosso Theatre, said, “We are delighted to be able to bring people together in person and online to celebrate one of Belfast and Northern Ireland’s most successful writers, Brain Moore. We feel it is important to mark the centenary of Brian Moore and highlight the importance of his work through a variety of events. We hope that people will be reminded of his great work as well as attract a new audience.”

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Acting Head of Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “I am delighted that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been able to support this exciting and extremely important festival through our Organisations Emergency Programme. Brian Moore was an exceptional talent, and one who has not had the enduring recognition from his homeplace that he deserves. Paradosso sets to right this with a wonderful programme, one rich in variety and texture. It offers something for all: for devotees of Moore’s work, right through to those who have never encountered him before. I can think of no better way to start a relationship with Moore’s radical, beautiful, often testing writing, than through this celebration which enlists such a roll call of Northern Irish artistic talent from street art to theatre, music to film. I wish the whole team the very best for the festival, and I can’t wait to find something new here and encounter old favourites in new ways!”

Brian Moore’s Belfast Walking Tour, led by Hugh Odling Smee, will include stops at childhood locations, as well as featured locations from his novels, with a chance to stop for a pint and refreshments along the way.

Documentaries include Writers and Places: A View from Across the Water, (1980) followed by a Q&A with Patricia Craig, Moore’s Biographer and BBC Broadcaster William Crawley and Writing Home Introduced by Dan Gordon at the Strand Cinema, as well as films based on his novels: Catholics, the BBC production The Temptation Of Eileen Hughes, and the star studded 2003 film, The Statement.

Paradosso will explore his work in more depth through a series of panels: the opening night panel hosts Irish literary greats Colm Toibin, Bernard McLaverty and American novelist and screenwriter, Tara Ison in conversation with Hugh Odling Smee discussing the legacy of his work.

Writers Jan Carson, Wendy Erskine , along with ex- Doctor Who’s scriptwriter and author, Andrew Cartmel & novelist Tara Ison will discuss Moore’s strong female characters. Broadcaster and academic Joanna Braniff will interview Brian Busby, Canadian literary historian and anthologist about Moore’s pulp novels and writing under a pseudeonym.

Paradosso has also secured funds from the Northern Ireland Office and Belfast City Council to commission a mural to celebrate his work. Renowned street artist Fitz will complete the mural in early September after consultation with the public during the festival.

The directors are extremely excited to have a discussion with the University of Calgary’s Annie Murray, as she takes the audience through a fascinating collection of Moore’s archival fonds (gifted to them by Moore).

Live events include Brian Moore’s Book Busk. In celebration of Turnpike Books publishing new editions of three Brian Moore novels: The Emperor Of Ice Cream, The Revolution Script and The Feast Of Lupercal, actors Stephen Beggs and Louise Parker will recite from popular Brian Moore novels at various locations throughout the city centre.

The festival will close on the 100th anniversary of Brian Moore’s birth with a relaxed evening in The American Bar enjoying a pint and extracts from some of his best loved works. The evening will be hosted by actor/writer/comedian Tim McGarry, who will be joined by actors: Maggie Cronin, Louise Matthews and Cillian Lenaghan.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit https://paradossotheatre.com/

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Arts Council of Northern Ireland statement on the re-opening of theatres and concert venues

Tuesday 27th July 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments

Arts Council Chief Executive, Roisín McDonough, welcomes the news that theatres and concert venues in Northern Ireland can reopen from 27th July 2021.

“The announcement yesterday by the Executive in relation to the reopening of theatres and arts venues is to be welcomed as an important step forward for the arts sector to begin to return to some sort of normality.

We hope as many venues as possible will be in a position to do just that though we recognise for some it won’t be economically viable with social distancing measures in place. In turn, it also means that the creative practitioners and freelancers, which are the beating heart of the arts sector, will continue to face a precarious and uncertain future and will need continued support.

The Arts Council is pleased to play a role in the work of the Ministerial Task Force and looks forward to its important forthcoming recommendations which Minister Hargey will consider.”

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John Hewitt International Summer School opens in Armagh with online and in-person events

Tuesday 27th July 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

I should have made it plain I stake my future
on birds flying in and out of the schoolroom window…
Because I Paced My Thought

John Hewitt, Poet (1907-1987)

The 34th John Hewitt International Summer School programme opened yesterday with a mix of online and in person events. This year’s Festival will address the Environment Crisis, under the theme, ‘Staking the Future: Politics, People & Planet’.

Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the annual festival of literature, arts and culture is based at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh and will run for five days until Friday 30th July.

With a diverse creative programme considering environmental issues and our reaction to them, this year’s festival will host the usual mix of readings, talks, discussion, debate, creativity, and art, reflecting on our present state, old identities and allegiances, past and present differences, and future hopes for people and the planet.

Yesterday’s opening address was presented by Professor Pramod K. Nayar, the Chair of Climate Change and Precarity at the University of Hyderabad, India, followed by short fiction writer Billy O’Callaghan in conversation with Paul McVeigh.

The evening drew to a close with a special event ‘Celebrating Brian Moore at 100: A Favourite Novel’. To mark the centenary of North Belfast born Moore’s birth, three northern writers, Malachi O'Doherty, Jan Carson and Sharon Dempsey, each argued the case for their favourite work from Moore's eclectic output. The session was chaired by Sinéad Moynihan, co-investigator of Brian Moore at 100, a project generously funded through a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant.

Other speakers this week will include Prof. John Fitzgerald, recent Chair of the Irish Republic’s Climate Change Advisory Council, (in association with The Irish Association), journalist Sam Mc Bride of The News Letter, and a Jane Robinson talk on, ‘Poetry in an Age of Ecological Crisis’. Other Poetic highlights include a special Salmon Poetry Publisher reading to celebrate their 40th anniversary, Gallery Press poets, along with Stephen Sexton, Kathleen McCracken, Raquel McKee and others.

Lunchtime fiction highlights feature authors Joseph O’Connor, Nuala O’Connor, Billy O’Callaghan, while a unique gathering of Armagh Writers will talk about their work. The foremost artist Rita Duffy will present the Arts Talk.

Each day with conclude with a panel discussion, including a crime fiction special; screen writing; and the now familiar Slugger O’Toole panel, with Steven Agnew, Dawn Purvis, Joanne Stuart and Alan Meban. Following on from the success of last year’s online workshops, in person and online creative writing classes will run simultaneously.

Tony Kennedy, Chair of The John Hewitt Society, said:

“I would like to thank all those who have supported the Society in the last challenging year. As we adapt to the new norm most of our events this year will be both in person and live-streamed. This will allow us to reach a wider audience while preserving the friendly and informal atmosphere of getting together in Armagh. We look forward to welcoming back our loyal supporters to Armagh and to connecting to a new global online audience.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“John Hewitt’s own contribution to the cultural life of Ireland has been well-documented and his work and spirit lives on through this annual, landmark festival. Despite the huge challenges presented by the on-going pandemic restrictions, the team at the John Hewitt Society has curated an impressive programme featuring a number of exceptional artists and events to look forward to. We wish the John Hewitt Society all the very best with this year’s Festival.”

A number of artists featured within this year’s programme have previously been supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Support for Individual Artists Programme. They include Jan Carson, Rita Duffy, Stephen Sexton, Malachi O’Doherty and Sharon Dempsey. The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994 and since them more than £43 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community. Thanks to National Lottery players £36 million is contributed to good causes every week.

The John Hewitt Society is supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Armagh City, Banbridge, and Craigavon Borough Council, The Community Relations Council, The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and The Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

For more information and to plan your visit in person and online, view the full programme at www.johnhewittsociety.org or, http://visitarmagh.com/marketplacetheatre

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Singer, Conleth Kane, releases anthemic song, Proud, remixed by leading pop music producers

Monday 26th July 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

Singer-songwriter, actor and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Conleth Kane, has released a new remix of his 2019 hit song, Proud, supported by Individual Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP) funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Department for Communities. His 2019 track has been remixed by world leading pop music producers, 7th Heaven, and an accompanying video was recently revealed to mark this year’s Belfast Pride celebrations.

The Arts Council’s IERP was designed to provide much-needed financial support to those working in the Creative Economy at a time when essential elements of the arts, cultural and creative sectors had been decimated due to venue closures, festival and event cancellations and the disappearance of live audiences. This emergency funding enabled Conleth to develop and create a video to accompany the new remix.

Originally hailing from Northern Ireland, Conleth Kane trained at the prestigious Arts Educational Schools in London and went on to perform roles on screen as well as starring in musicals in the West End and all over the UK and Ireland before becoming a singer-songwriter.

Conleth Kane said,

“I’m so grateful to the Arts Council for the emergency funding during the Covid pandemic. I watched the majority of my creative work evaporate leaving me in a very restricted place as an independent artist. It impacted massively on my mental health. The funds enabled me to invest in myself and my work and I felt a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m very ‘proud’ of this project and the reaction it has received so far. I couldn’t have done it without this support - so thank you!”

Jo Wright, Acting Head of Music and Opera, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“Conleth is an immense talent and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support his work through our Individual Emergency Resilience Programme, a vital funding scheme designed to help artists respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work. Congratulations to Conleth on this fantastic, uplifting new remix.”

The new track is available now on all major online music platforms at https://ditto.fm/proud-7th-heaven-remixes and you can watch the IERP supported video at https://youtu.be/c6gJnvUEWx0

Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org for information on all funding opportunities.

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Northern Ireland craft makers to embrace spirit of renewal

Friday 23rd July 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

Summer 2021 will mark the 15th annual August Craft Month as makers across Northern Ireland seek to put the difficulties of the past 16 months behind them and embrace a time of 'renewal'.

Last year's craft month showcased the work of local artisans on the global stage as the vast majority of events took place online due to the pandemic.

This year, Craft NI is partnering with www.augustcraftmonth.ie to promote jointly for the first time and to celebrate craft and craft events across the island of Ireland. The programme is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and will feature a combination of both virtual and live in-person events.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The Arts Council is delighted to support this wonderful celebration of craft, which offers an important platform to showcase the talent of our local craft makers, bringing great art to all.

"It has been an extremely challenging time for our craft industry and events like August Craft Month help raise awareness of the situation and help drive engagement with our makers."

As we emerge from the pandemic, the theme for the August Craft Month Annual Exhibition at Craft NI's gallery in Belfast is 'Re-New'.

Makers in the exhibition were asked to reflect on the theme directly or show work which highlights how the maker's craft practice has been taken in a new direction.

To ensure the exhibition reaches the widest possible audience, Craft NI has confirmed that all work chosen will also be viewable on its website's exhibitions section. All the pieces will be photographed and available digitally as a series of 360’ rotational images.

Craft NI Director, Katherine McDonald said:

"This is our 15th annual August Craft Month and quite possibly our most important yet as our makers really need support to help them emerge from the challenges of the last 16 months.

"In research commissioned by Craft NI we found that our makers suffered on average a 48% reduction in profits in 2020/21 as retailers were closed and markets and fairs postponed. Over half of makers also reported significant reduction in income from teaching and workshops too.”

With the pandemic driving a surge in interest in craft making, Katherine is confident this year's August Craft Month can showcase the world class talent we have in Northern Ireland.

With the pandemic encouraging consumers online, Katherine also believes this has benefitted local makers pivoting towards online sales as well as over the counter, as it has never been easier to buy local craft.

"Around half of makers we surveyed reported an increase in online sales during the pandemic and we know there has been an explosion in the number of people participating in craft during the pandemic.

“I am sure our programme of events will have something to interest everyone with opportunities to take part online. As well as outdoor events and markets, we are delighted that the programme also offers a number of in-person events this year. We know people are keen to return to galleries and exhibition spaces as it helps them feel inspired and uplifted.

Some highlights of the 15th August Craft Month include:

  • Belfast Potters' Market: Belfast Potters’ Market at Writer's Square will be attended each day by 20 talented local potters and ceramicists. The ceramics industry in Northern Ireland is brimming with exciting new ideas and contemporary craft, come down and see it for yourself! 7th August
  • Behind the scenes at some of NI’s master jewellers: The Steensons are delighted to welcome visitors to their workshop and gallery in Glenarm. The goldsmiths can be observed using a variety of techniques to cut, shape and manipulate the metals, before detailing with textured finishes and stones. Browsing the jewellery collections, you may just find the perfect gift or memento of your causeway coast adventure. Thomas Goldsmiths in Derry/Londonderry will also be opening their doors to visitors for sneak previews. Booking essential.
  • Make it at Home: Craft Kits are an innovative way to get hands on with the guidance of an expert. Andrea McCullough-Alderdice has over 25 years’ experience in ceramics and will guide you through the process of making an impressive and embellished ceramic wall planter with her step-by-step recorded workshop with all the materials you’ll need in your Clay Crate which you can collect. Top Floor Art in Saintfield are also running a Great Kit Challenge where 17 NI makers created craft kits based on their work. The Great Kit Challenge Exhibition allows you to see the artists finished kits and find out about their work and inspiration. You can meet the artists on our Meet the Maker Demo Days, ask questions, buy a kit and get hints and tips direct from the makers!

August Craft Month also provides a network for makers and the public to meet, share and collaborate. Each event showcases the excellence and diversity of craft in Northern Ireland. The programme provides a fantastic opportunity for everyone to make, see, learn about and buy craft.

With a focus on direct sales from the makers this year, organisers are hopeful that August Craft Month will help inspire more people to visit makers' and craft retailers’ websites.

For more information on the events across Northern Ireland, visit www.craftni.org/augustcraftmonth or follow Craft NI on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can share your own craft stories with #augcraft #Isupportnicraft.

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New film series re-imagines Belfast streets as a performance space

Wednesday 21st July 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Inspired by the empty streets and ‘stay home’ message during the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, choreographer Aisling McCormick's latest work reimagines Belfast as an outdoor performance space for her latest project, 'In Situ Solos'.

The six short films, captured by Elspeth Visher (Vish Films), each follow a female dancer, as they move through different parts of the city, exploring the familiar streets in the town centre and pathways around the docklands. Based on unique movement scores, the miniature solo dances explore the idea of becoming hypersensitive to the space around us, when told to stay and not go.

Back in October, Aisling was one of 242 artists to receive National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Support for Individual Artists Programme (SIAP). The funding package worth almost £475,000 provided grants of between £1,000-£2,500 to artists working across all disciplines including visual arts, literature, music and community arts to develop new projects and develop their skills.

Speaking about her project Aisling said:

“The idea stemmed from my curiosity about visiting different public spaces in the city after the experience of lockdown. I was also curious about finding ‘new theatres’, spaces outdoors where COVID restrictions are not a problem. So I wandered the streets and hills of Belfast, from Black Mountain, to the Falls Road, all the way through the city centre to the Docklands dancing, writing and filming as I went.

“This project allowed me to grow as an artist, to explore new territory and new ways of working and to imagine the city I live in through a fresh lens. Being a dance artist in a global pandemic where we could not work indoors, touch other bodies, could not work much at all, has been extremely challenging. This project has allowed me to dance, explore and make new and meaningful work in a safe way. It was a relief! A literal breath of fresh air and a very fulfilling and liberating project for me.”

The funding also allowed Aisling to work with dance collaborators, Janie Doherty, Mayte Segura, Paula O’Reilly, Sandy Cuthburt, Vasiliki Stasinaki, as well as Elspeth Vischer of Vish Films.

Aisling explained:

“Each dancer brought a different approach or style as they interpreted my scores. We were all so genuinely excited to be moving and performing in the year that we’ve had. We are all very proud of the final films.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Support for Individual Artists Programme Is designed to help artists develop their practice and embark on new creative projects. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on an already fragile arts sector here but we hope interventions like this will help to bolster the sector, enabling individual artists to develop new ideas, to adapt their practice and find new and engaging ways to present their art.

“Thanks to National Lottery players 36 million pounds is raised for good causes every week. That means that we are able to support artists like Aisling to keep working, to stay creative and continue on with their careers.”

To watch ‘In Situ Solos’ visit the Accidental Theatre website at www.accidentaltheatre.com. Tickets cost £6.

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34th John Hewitt International Summer School

Monday 19th July 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

The John Hewitt Society are thrilled to announce the launch of the 34th John Hewitt International Summer School programme and their new promotional video, which this year will take place at the Festival base in the Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre Armagh from 26 - 31 July, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Announcing the Summer School Tony Kennedy, Chair of The John Hewitt Society said,

‘I would like to thank all those who have supported the Society in the last challenging year. As we adapt to the new norm most of our events this year will be both in person and live-streamed. This will allow us to reach a wider audience while preserving the friendly and informal atmosphere of getting together in Armagh. We look forward to welcoming back our loyal supporters to Armagh and to connecting to a new global online audience’.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

‘John Hewitt’s own contribution to the cultural life of Ireland has been well-documented and his work and spirit lives on through this annual, landmark festival. Despite the huge challenges presented by the on-going pandemic restrictions, the team at the John Hewitt Society has curated an impressive programme featuring a number of exceptional artists and events to look forward to. We wish the John Hewitt Society all the very best with this year’s Festival.’

The 2021 theme will address the Environmental Crisis,

‘Staking the Future: Politics, People & Planet’. I should have made it plain I stake my future on birds flying in and out of the schoolroom window… From Because I Paced My Thought. John Hewitt, Poet (1907-1987)

Writing 75 years ago, the poet John Hewitt, found himself alone in his interest in 'the natural world, /the earth organic … rather than the city falling ruinous’.

With a diverse creative programme considering environmental issues and our reaction to them, this year’s festival will host the usual mix of readings, talks, discussion, debate, creativity, and art, reflecting on our present state, old identities and allegiances, past and present differences, and our future hopes for people and planet.

These high-quality, thought-provoking and entertaining events will allow you to explore the connections between people, landscapes, nature and places and will help to promote positive environmental attitudes and values through the power of Literature and the Arts. Starting with the opening address by Professor Pramod K Nayar, Professor of English at the University of Hyderabad, India, and the author of Ecoprecarity: Vulnerable Lives in Literature and Culture (2019). Other speakers include Professor John Fitzgerald, recent Chair of the Irish Republic’s Climate Change Advisory Council, (in association with The Irish Association), journalist Sam Mc Bride of The Newsletter, and a Jane Robinson talk on, ‘Poetry in an Age of Ecological Crisis’. Other Poetic highlights include a special Salmon Poetry Publisher reading to celebrate their 40th anniversary, Gallery Press poets, along with Stephen Sexton, Kathleen McCracken, Raquel McKee and others.

Lunch time fiction highlights feature authors - Joseph O’Connor, Nuala O’Connor, Billy O’Callaghan, while a unique gathering of Armagh writers will talk about their work. The foremost artist Rita Duffy will present the Arts Talk.

Each day with conclude with a panel discussion, including – a Crime Fiction Special; Screen Writing; Brian Moore at 100; and the now familiar Slugger O’Toole panel, with Steven Agnew, Dawn Purvis, Joanne Stuart, hosted by Alan Meban. Following on from the success of our online workshops last year, in person and online creative writing classes will run simultaneously with a total of nine facilitators, all published authors, offering different workshops over three days of the Summer School.

Bearing in mind current and likely future restrictions, the festival will be subject to and compliant with public health guidelines at the Market Place Theatre. The programme consists of a hybrid of in-person and online events, streamed on-line to ensure the safety of contributors and participants alike. Social distancing requirements will mean numbers attending in person events at the Theatre will be limited, so early booking is advised.

The Society is also delighted to present their new promotional video with thanks to funding from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The Department for Communities Northern Ireland. Filmed and produced by www.corish.tv, with voice over by the actor Ciarán Hinds and original soundtrack by the composer and musician Garth McConaghie.

The John Hewitt Society would like to thank their funders, sponsors and partners who are named in the programme. Particular thanks are due to The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Armagh City, Banbridge, and Craigavon Borough Council, The Community Relations Council, The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and The Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Get all the information you need, and plan your visit in person and online, by viewing the full programme at www.johnhewittsociety.org or, http://visitarmagh.com/marketplacetheatre for the Theatre Box Office.

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Arts Council awards over £1.9m of National Lottery funding to support arts projects across NI

Thursday 15th July 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Eighty-eight arts organisations are set to receive over £1.9 million of Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding to deliver a series of high-quality arts projects and events across the region.

The funding will be used to support the development and creation of year round arts activities and events through literature, drama, visual arts, music and community programming. Many of the projects planned for this year have been created in direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Among those set to benefit from the fund for the first time are: Mid Armagh Community Network, Benedetti Foundation (delivering sessions in Antrim), Grow NI (North Belfast) and Jazz Life Alliance (delivering work in Draperstown, Enniskillen, Armagh). While Beam Creative Network (Mid-Ulster), Stendhal Festival (Limavady) and Newry Chamber Music are returning applicants to the scheme.

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

“Thanks to National Lottery players, £1.9 million of funding raised for good causes will directly benefit communities across Northern Ireland through quality arts programming. This vital source of funding will reach out to the hearts of towns and cities across Northern Ireland, providing arts experiences for all.

“In what has been a year like no other, many of us have missed the experiences of attending an arts event or taking part in a workshop or performance. This funding will go a long way to supporting arts and cultural experiences, some outdoors, some online and live, and all welcoming communities back to the arts safely.”

CASE STUDIES:

Mid Armagh Community Network, Music, Dance and Drama, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient
Mid Armagh Community Network (MACN) plan to create a community based project to teach music, dance and drama within an Ulster Scots context in a safe and central location. The funding from the Arts Council is to develop a program to offer to the community low cost music and dance lessons in Scottish traditional fiddle, Scottish Highland and theatre dance, drama, accordion and guitar/banjo and encourage participation in these traditional artforms.

Benedetti Foundation, Sessions, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient
Founded by the inspirational Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti in 2019, the Benedetti Foundation aims to inspire music-making from those with no skills & beginners right up to conservatoire level and their instrumental and class-teachers and ensure equal access to high-quality instrumental participation for all, targeting those who might otherwise be excluded. This project is in partnership with Education Authority and the EA Music Services reaching across the Antrim area and targeting under-represented groups including ethnic minority communities.

Grow NI, Dreamer’s Space, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient
This is the first time that Grow-NI has applied to the Arts Council for funding. This funding will help them to create an illustrated interactive art trail and play space. The project will take place outdoors in the Waterworks in North Belfast. Grow NI will work with vulnerable groups using garden spaces and arts activities as a way to communicate with participants from a range of backgrounds and circumstances.

Action for Children’s Arts (ACA), The Arts Backpack NI, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient
Working with Young at Art, Action for Children’s Art will deliver their successful Arts Backpack experience to Northern Ireland, a model which proved successful in countries across Europe. Working with schools, children will engage with 5 or more arts, cultural or heritages activities each year, collecting their experiences online in their virtual backpack. Among the aims of the project are to help children to develop an awareness and appreciation for creativity in their lives, help the recovery process arising from the trauma of Covid-19 and to remove barriers to accessing the arts from under-represented groups. It is estimated that 210 pupils and 30 teachers will be engaged in the project and that up to 60 artists will be involved

Creative and Cultural Industries Limited (Creative and Cultural Skills), Fair Access Sector Support Programme, £37,260
1st time Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding recipient
Creative and Cultural Skills are an experienced organisation working across all UK regions. With this funding support from the Arts Council they will develop and encourage employment in the creative and cultural sectors, and support a talent pipeline to meet the staffing demands of the creative sector. This will be done through seminars and one to one mentoring opportunities to develop inclusive recruitment policies to ensure that the cultural workforce is representative of the diversity of NI culture.

Jazzlife Alliance, £10,001
1st time Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding recipient
Jazzlife Alliance (JLA) was formed in 2018 to encourage and facilitate the artistic growth of jazz artists through live performance, collaboration, composition and film composition; its mission is to inspire, nurture and develop future performers of jazz; and bring jazz to small and underprivileged communities. Under the guidance of Artistic Director David Lyttle, Ireland's only MOBO and UMA nominated artist, JLA aims will continue their mentoring support, offer jazz training to children and delivering activities in a number of locations including Drapersown, Enniskillen and Armagh.

Stendhal Festival, August 2021 £34,570
Now in its 10th year, the award-winning Stendhal Festival is a highlight of the cultural calendar and takes place in rural Limavady every summer. Arts Council’s Lottery Project Funding will support Stendhal’s 2021 August Festival, which will this year be split over two separate weekends in response to Covid-19 restrictions and safety guidelines. Arts Council funding will specifically help support the cost of Northern Ireland musicians featured within this year’s line-up.

Stage Beyond, The Great Dictator, £25,000
Derry/Londonderry based Stage Beyond is a theatre company for adults with learning difficulties and the only company of its kind in Northern Ireland. The company host workshops on a weekly basis, throughout the year, as well as monthly masterclass workshop led by professional arts practitioners. National Lottery Project Funding will help support their production of ‘The Great Dictator’, under the direction of Kate Guelke and musician Ruth McGinley.

BEAM Creative Network, Beyond Limits, £10,001
BEAM Creative Network has been awarded National Lottery funding to support its Beyond Limits Programme in Mid-Ulster. The programme engages mixed abilities and combines, drama, music, dance and pre-production skills (set build/paint, costumes). The funding will help deliver a 12 week programme from January 2022 to end-March 2022.

Newry Chamber Music, 2021 Season, £30,000
Over the last 18 years, Newry Chamber has made a significant contribution to the arts and specifically chamber music making in the Newry and Mourne area of Northern Ireland. Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding will support Newry Chamber Music to deliver its 2021 programme of concerts and performances featuring an exciting range of players and composers.

View the full list of awards here.

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Foyle O-bon, bringing communities closer together with music

Thursday 15th July 2021 at 11am 0 Comments

Foyle O-Bon, an organisation that uses Japanese arts and culture as a way of improving community engagement, breaking down barriers and using the arts to improve wellbeing, has released a new film celebrating their recent work in Claudy. Using the art of taiko drumming, Japanese dance, arts, crafts and games, Foyle O-Bon deliver outreach projects in the community throughout the year and also host the annual O-Bon Festival at the Playtrail site.

The film celebrates their cross-community project, YuJo Taiko, which has been running in Claudy, Derry-Londonderry, since 2013. The project uses the power of Taiko drumming to bring young people together to make friends and explore Japanese culture and musicology. The YuJo project initially began during the 2013 City of Culture year and since then, Foyle O-bon has worked with hundreds of young people from St Colmcille's Primary School and Cumber Claudy Primary School.

Fiona Umetsu, Foyle O-bon said,

“We use taiko drumming as a way of bringing these young people together, teaching them not only the skill of drumming but also teaching them about the history and culture of Japan to help broaden their horizons. This project builds confidence, it builds friendships and it builds the feeling that you are powerful.”

Lizzie Devlin, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is hugely proud to support Foyle O-Bon and the YuJo Taiko project which really demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities closer together. It’s heartening to see that this is one of the legacies from the wonderful City of Culture year in Derry-Londonderry, 2013 and that hundreds of young people are benefitting from Foyle O-Bon’s impressive cross-community work. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

Watch the film about the project here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89fN652_ufw&t=1s

Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for details on all funding opportunities.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

Friday 9th July 2021 at 10am 0 Comments

Image:

This page contains the latest guidance for the arts sector on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We will update this page as the situation develops.

 

Updated: 12 October 2021

Self-isolation exemptions

Self-isolation exemptions guidance for travelling or returning to Northern Ireland for work as a performing arts professional during COVID-19.

Read more here: http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/travelling-or-returning-to-ni-for-work-as-a-performing-arts-professional


Updated: 1 October 2021

New relaxations on social distancing came into effect on 30 September. While these changes removed the requirement for social distancing in indoor visitor attractions, the Executive reminds sectors of the regulations remaining in law and recommending additional mitigations that should be put in place to limit the risk of transmission.

Your responsibility

It is your responsibility as an employer, business owner or manager of a premise to ensure that you are complying with the current regulations and guidance in place.

The current regulations are available on the Department of Health website at https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-regulations-northern-ireland-2021

Keep in mind that some of the restrictions are in law through regulation, while others are guidance. These remain in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and we ask that you continue to protect your customers and your employees by following public health advice.

If you fail to comply with the regulations without reasonable excuse, you are committing an offence. For some offences you may be given a fixed penalty or a fine on summary prosecution.

Current COVID-19 regulations and guidance:what they mean for indoor seated venues

Indoor seated venues must:

  • Require wearing of face coverings;
  • Record visitor and attendee information; and
  • Perform a risk assessment and produce it if requested

Audiences for indoor events must be seated and guests must remain seated, (unless using facilities). Dancing is not permitted for audience members.

Face coverings must be worn when seated and when moving about the venue.

Live music events (indoor and outdoor), without restriction to volume levels, must be effectively controlled and managed.

Venues are required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme. Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16; and
  • date and time of their visit

Recommended mitigations

Indoor attractions and venues must take reasonable measures to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, this includes:

  • limiting entry to those either fully vaccinated or with a negative LFT or a positive PCR in previous 30-180 days
  • hand sanitiser stations
  • use of protective screens
  • good ventilation
  • use of one way systems (if possible)
  • minimising close face to face contact
  • regular cleaning especially for high contact areas like card machines

Current regulations do not require social distancing in indoor seated venues or outdoor venues. However, social distancing remains strongly advised where possible, and should be considered alongside other risk mitigations to limit the risk of transmission.

Areas of indoor seated venues where food or drink is sold or provided come under hospitality regulations. In these areas social distancing of 1m continues to be a legal requirement.

Risk mitigations should be detailed in your risk assessments.

Proof of COVID status

Premises are advised to limit entry to those either fully vaccinated or with a negative LFT or a positive PCR in previous 30-180 days.

While the Executive is currently considering options on the use of domestic certification there are ways to check COVID Status as outlined below.

Fully vaccinated

Photographic identification for example a drivers licence or passport to verify identity and match evidence of vaccination; AND
COVID-19 Immunisation record card – should include name of vaccine, batch number and date given; OR
COVID-19 Certificate for those who have travelled or plan to travel in the next 3 months; OR
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination confirmation – letter showing participation in Vaccine trial and being fully vaccinated

Negative Lateral Flow Test

Photographic identification for example a drivers licence or passport to verify identity and match evidence of test result; AND
Text proof of a negative result being reported to the NHS – date and result should be clearly visible and within 24 hours prior to attendance at the venue.

Positive PCR in previous 30-180 days

Photographic identification for example a drivers licence or passport to verify identity and match evidence of vaccination; AND
Email or text proof of a positive test result – date and test result should be clearly visible and should be at least 30 days prior to entry to the venue but no more than 180 days prior

Find out more about COVID-19 Testing, including how to get tested on nidirect at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-testing

Workforce testing for COVID-19 https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-covid-19-testing

Current COVID-19 regulations and guidance:what they mean for indoor visitor attractions

Indoor visitor attractions must:

  • Require wearing of face coverings;
  • Record visitor and attendee information; and
  • Perform a risk assessment and produce it if requested

Venues are required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme. Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16; and
  • date and time of their visit

Recommended mitigations

Indoor attractions and venues must take reasonable measures to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, this includes:

  • hand sanitiser stations
  • use of protective screens
  • good ventilation
  • use of one way systems (if possible)
  • minimising close face to face contact
  • regular cleaning especially for high contact areas like card machines

Current regulations do not require social distancing in indoor visitor attractions or outdoor venues. However, social distancing remains strongly advised where possible, and should be considered alongside other risk mitigations to limit the risk of transmission.

Areas of indoor visitor attractions which sell or provide food or drink come under the hospitality regulations. In these areas social distancing of 1m continues to be a legal requirement.

Risk mitigations should be detailed in your risk assessments.

Useful links



Updated: 28 September 2021

Statement on Executive decisions - social distancing

The Executive has considered the existing regulations and has agreed to remove the legal requirement to socially distance in retail and indoor visitor attractions.

The Executive has also decided to remove the requirement to socially distance in indoor seated venues such as theatres, concert halls and cinemas. They advise that additional mitigating measures are utilised, including proof of being fully vaccinated, or proof of a negative lateral flow rapid test, or proof of natural immunity from a positive PCR test undertaken in the previous 30-180 days.

Find out more: https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/news/statement-executive-decisions-social-distancing

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has welcomed the NI Executive's decision to remove the legal requirement to socially distance in indoor visitor attractions.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council said,

"The Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcomes the announcement that social distancing restrictions are to be lifted. This is such an important step forward and will enable our arts organisations and arts venues to operate at full capacity again. This really is a very positive sign that the wider arts and culture sectors in Northern Ireland are now on the journey to recovery at last. Indeed I know all those working in and around the arts sector will continue to enact every safety measure needed to welcome back audiences, they have been much missed."



Updated: 2nd August 2021

Letter from Deirdre Hargey MLA, Minister for Communities:

Social Distancing at Outdoor Events and Gatherings

The Executive announced a number of changes to the current Covid-19 restrictions on 29 July. These included a number of changes to the guidance on social distancing at outdoor gatherings which will have implications for those planning outdoor arts events and festivals.

The Executive has therefore decided that:

For outdoor venues, the guidance will continue to note the health benefits of 2 metres social distancing;

The guidance will further advise that social distancing requirements are strongly advised but are not a requirement; and

Where possible, those organising events and venue operators, should maintain a minimum of 1 metre social distancing and ideally 2 metres.

It is important to note that the Executive remains concerned about the spread of the virus and its transmissibility.

Event organisers and venue operators should continue to consider appropriate mitigations that will help reduce the risk of the virus spreading at large gatherings as part of the risk assessment process.

The Executive has also announced a number of changes to the arrangements relating to international travel. Again given the fluid situation, it is essential that those involved in planning events that require inbound or outbound international travel keep up to date with the travel regulations.

In recent days, my Department has received a number of travel exemption requests in respect of the current Covid regulations for upcoming events and I fully expect that other exemption requests will materialise over the next period. I would ask that event organisers submit any requests for travel exemption well in advance of when travel arrangements need to be confirmed.

I can confirm that officials are committed to providing assistance where they can but the onus remains on those involved in organising events to keep themselves fully informed of the current guidance and to have contingency plans in place given that the situation remains fluid and uncertain.

The latest public health advice and updated regulations continue to be available on NI Direct.

I trust this information is helpful.

Is mise le meas,

Deirdre Hargey MLA

Minister for Communities

Updated: 26 July 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

The Northern Ireland Executive agreed on 26th July that theatres and indoor concert settings can reopen to audiences from 6pm on Tuesday 27th July. Live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances with no restriction to background ambient levels of volume. Audience members must purchase tickets in advance, must have allocated seating and social distancing of 1m will be required.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

 

 

Updated: 23July 2021

Risk assessment template

The NI Executive has published updated guidance and a risk assessment template for events and gatherings. Under current coronavirus restrictions, if you're organising or operating an indoor gathering of more than 15 people or outdoor gathering of more than 30 people you must carry out a risk assessment. You must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Find out more visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-risk-assessments-gatherings-and-events-guidance

 

 

Updated: 9 July 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

An indicative date of 26 July has been set for the reopening of theatres and indoor seated venues for performances, the return of conferences and exhibitions and the return of live music indoors with no restrictions on sound levels.

Entry to theatre, concerts and other types of performances will be by ticket only, bought in advance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and guests must stay seated (unless using facilities). Social distancing of one metre required.

Dancing is not permitted for audience members.

The indicative date of 26 July is subject to review on 22 July.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

 

 

Updated: 2 July 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (theatres and concert halls are not included) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time

 

An indoor attraction including an amusement arcade, a bingo hall, a museum, a gallery or a cinema must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

From 5 July
From 5 July live music will be permitted at outdoor events, without restriction to volume.

Social distancing is advised for all outdoor events and COVID-19 testing should be considered in advance of large events.

Live music will also be permitted in licensed and unlicensed premises. Music must be at ambient levels that permit normal conversation and with suitable mitigations in place.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

 

 

Updated: 18 June 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions

Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (theatres and concert halls are not included) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time

 

An indoor attraction including an amusement arcade, a bingo hall, a museum, a gallery or a cinema must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Indicative date
An indicative date of 5 July has been set for the return of audiences in theatres, concert halls and other venues, as well as the return of conferences and exhibitions.
Live music will be permitted, without restriction to volume, for rehearsal, recording or performance purposes in concert venues, theatres and other indoor venues which, for the duration of the rehearsal, recording or performance are set aside for that purpose.

Live music events must be effectively controlled and managed. If the event is taking place in a venue that is part of larger premises (such as a hotel) it must be sufficiently isolated to ensure the volume of music in the venue does not breach ambient levels in other parts of the premises. Dancing is not permitted for audience members.
Entry to performances will be by ticket only, purchased in advance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and guests must remain seated, (unless using facilities).

A maximum of six people can be seated together. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

An indicative date of 5 July has also been set to allow live music and dancing at outdoor events, without restriction to volume.

Social distancing at a minimum of one metre will be required for live music-related activity in indoor seated venues and will be advised for all outdoor events.

The indicative date of 5 July is subject to review on 1 July.

 

 

Updated: 14 June 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (theatres and concert halls are not included) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

An indoor attraction including an amusement arcade, a bingo hall, a museum, a gallery or a cinema must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Indicative date
An indicative date of 21 June has been set for the return of audiences in theatres, concert halls and other venues, as well as the return of conferences and exhibitions.
Live music will be permitted, without restriction to volume, for rehearsal, recording or performance purposes in concert venues, theatres and other indoor venues which, for the duration of the rehearsal, recording or performance are set aside for that purpose.

Live music events must be effectively controlled and managed. If the event is taking place in a venue that is part of larger premises (such as a hotel) it must be sufficiently isolated to ensure the volume of music in the venue does not breach ambient levels in other parts of the premises. Dancing is not permitted for audience members.
Entry to performances will be by ticket only, purchased in advance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and guests must remain seated, (unless using facilities).

A maximum of six people can be seated together. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

An indicative date of 21 June has also been set to allow live music and dancing at outdoor events, without restriction to volume.

Social distancing at a minimum of one metre will be required for live music-related activity in indoor seated venues and will be advised for all outdoor events.
The indicative date of 21 June is subject to review on 17 June.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

 

 

Updated: 14 May 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

An indicative date of 24 May has been set for the reopening of indoor visitor and cultural attractions, such as museums, galleries and cinemas (music venues are not included). Libraries will also be permitted to fully reopen.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Venues must have carried out a risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

An indicative date of 21 June has been set for the return of audiences in theatres, concert halls and other venues, as well as the return of conferences and exhibitions.

The indicative date of 24 May is subject to review on 20 May.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

 

 

Updated: 16 April 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

Currently:

  • Leisure and entertainment venues, including theatres, concert halls, cinemas, indoor museums, galleries, visitor and other cultural attractions are not permitted to open.
  • Outdoor visitor attractions are not permitted to open.
  • Theatres and concert halls are permitted to open for rehearsals or a live recording without an audience.

 

From 23 April:

  • Outdoor visitor attractions and activity centres may reopen. This includes drive-in cinemas and performances.
  • Outdoor static band practice/rehearsal permitted

 

From 24 May (Indicative date only):

  • Indoor visitor and cultural attractions can reopen - subject to review.

 

The current regulations will be reviewed on 13 May 2021.

For more information on the regulations, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

A summary guide outlining what the coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection regulations mean for you is available to view from https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Restrictions-April-May-2021.pdf

 

Updated: 21 December 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance

Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions will be introduced for people in Northern Ireland on 26 December. These new restrictions are being put in place to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Entertainment and cultural attractions
Leisure and entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, indoor museums, galleries, visitor and other cultural attractions are not permitted to open.

Outdoor visitor attractions are not permitted to open, along with drive-in events.

Community halls are allowed to remain open, but must adhere to current guidelines.

Theatres and concert halls are permitted to open for rehearsals or a live recording without an audience.

For more information on restrictions, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you
 

 

Updated: 11 December 2020

From Friday 11th December, singing groups and bands in Northern Ireland are permitted to rehearse with others and perform outdoors.

This relaxation of restrictions by the NI Executive brings Northern Ireland into line with current practice in England.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is revising its guidance on Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (pp.29-30), as follows:

The core points when playing brass/wind would be the same as for any other instrument and would include:

  • Observing social distancing at all times whilst playing.
  • Group size would be governed by the regulations in place at the time.
  • For professionals (i.e. for work purposes) where social distancing is not possible, using fixed teams which are positioned socially distanced from any other fixed team or anyone else. Note that this fixed team approach is not recommended in non-professional environments unless all the members of the fixed team are part of the same household or support bubble. It is also unlikely that this fixed team approach will be feasible where professional performers work with more than one group or organisation simultaneously.
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Playing outdoors wherever possible.
  • If playing indoors, limiting the numbers to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to social distance.
  • Considering using screens or barriers in addition to social distancing.

 

For singing, professional and non-professional, the guidance would adopt the suggested principles of safer singing, the core points of which would be:

  • people with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, or who are known to have been in recent contact with others who have COVID-19, do not participate in singing or attend singing events.
  • Singing takes place only in larger well-ventilated spaces, or outdoors.
  • Performance or rehearsal is for limited periods of time at a reduced level of loudness, using microphones for amplification if available.
  • Maximum group size would be governed by the regulations in place at the time and limited numbers of people sing together.
  • Singers are spaced at least 2 metres apart in all directions

 

Updated: 2 December 2020

Ní Chuilín allocates further funding for individuals in the arts and creative economy

Individuals who work across the arts and wider creative economy are set to benefit from a further £3.25million of funding, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced.

Ní Chuilín allocates further funding for individuals in the arts and creative economyNí Chuilín allocates further funding for individuals in the arts and creative economy
At a meeting with the sector this afternoon, the Minister outlined a further round of the Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP) will open for applications on December 17.

Applicants experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19 will be able to apply for support of up to £5,000 - or £7,500 for disabled individuals with support costs.

This is the third emergency programme targeted directly at individuals and will be delivered by Arts Council NI on behalf of the Department. Information on eligibility and guidance is now available from http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/individuals-emergency-resilience-programme-2

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 30th November 2020

D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund 2020/21

The D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund 2020/21, which is now open for applications, is managed by the University of Atypical on behalf of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities.  The Fund aims to provide much-needed financial support to D/deaf and disabled artists at a time when their potential to generate income has been seriously impacted by the closure of art galleries, theatres, music venues and other creative outlets due to Covid-19.

Through the University of Atypical's support, disabled/deaf artists have developed unique artwork of extremely high artistic quality. Many artists have gone on to attract other types of funding, some to the level where international recognition has been achieved.

  • D/deaf and disabled Artists can apply for awards of £2,000.
  • Advice clinics available until 11th December.

 

Application deadline: Friday 18th December at 4pm.

 

Updated: 11th November 2020

Lyric Theatre, Crescent Arts Centre, Ulster Orchestra and the MAC set to receive Funding Lifeline

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has confirmed that four flagship arts organisations have been offered additional funding support totalling almost £620,000.

Money has been awarded to The Lyric Theatre, the MAC, Crescent Arts Centre and the Ulster Orchestra to help them prepare and plan for reopening, following closures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funding, which will be administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, is part of a range of measures supported by COVID emergency funding from the Department for Communities to support the arts, culture, heritage and language sectors, which have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 9th November 2020

Communities Minister announces almost £1.5million funding towards Renewal Projects

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced a further £1.465 million funding stream for arts, culture and heritage Renewal projects. This funding forms part of the £29 million Covid-19 Culture, Languages, Arts and Heritage Support Programme 2020/2021. The funding includes:

  • £15,000 to the Arts Council to develop digital skills and knowledge of artists with disabilities.
  • £500,000 to NI Screen to deliver through their Creative Learning Centres digital film archive projects, a range of skills development projects and support to the Amma Centre, Cinemagic and local film festivals.

 

Read the full news release here


Updated: 6th November 2020

Funding to help musicians purchase new instruments announced

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is offering a number of funding opportunities under its Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment of £300,000 from the Department for Communities three funding programmes have opened offering support for artists and groups to purchase instruments up until March 2021.

The scheme is good news for marching bands, non-professional and professional performing groups, community groups, professional musicians and schools that may be eligible to apply to purchase instruments and music-making equipment. The Musical Instruments Scheme is designed to increase the quality of music-making in Northern Ireland and to ensure as many groups and individuals as possible have an opportunity to purchase new instruments.

Read the full news release here

 

Arts Council awards £900,958 emergency funding to 62 cultural organisations across Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has awarded, on behalf of the Department for Communities, £900,958 emergency financial support to 62 arts and cultural organisations to help them recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through the Organisational Emergency Programme (OEP), 62 organisations are set to benefit from grants of up to £25,000 each to help them respond to the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work, assist with operational costs and to help plan for recovery in the long-term.

The OEP 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.  This is the second round of the OEP which to date has supported 212 organisations with a total of £2,850,071 emergency funding.

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 3rd November 2020

New £2m Community Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund now open

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced a new £2 million fund for community based culture, arts and heritage projects in response to Covid-19.

The Community Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund will be distributed by the Community Foundation NI and will prioritise projects which support people with disabilities and those who are vulnerable.

This forms part of the overall £29m Executive funding for the Department for Communities’ Covid-19 Culture, Languages, Arts and Heritage Support Programme.

This new £2m Community Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund is open to all community organisations which can deliver new projects as part of the programme’s renewal strand. Any constituted organisation can apply and their primary purpose need not be related to arts or heritage. Groups can apply for awards from £2,000 to £20,000 for expenditure up to 31 March 2021 for a wide range of projects related to culture, arts, creativity and heritage.

For information and application details visit https://communityfoundationni.org/grants/the-arts-culture-and-heritage-challenge-fund/
 
Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 28th October 2020

£7.75m programme to support arts and cultural organisations

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland to distribute grants on behalf of Department for Communities.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will deliver, on behalf of the Department for Communities, a £7.75m programme of support, aimed at helping arts and cultural sector recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through the Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, grants of up to £500,000 will be available to organisations working in the arts and cultural sector to help them respond to the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including help with re-opening, adapting and stabilising their organisations in the long-term

The Stability and Renewal Programme is part of the £29 million Executive allocation that was made to DfC to support the arts, culture, heritage and language sectors which have been severely impacted by Covid-19.

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 26th October 2020

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has given the green light for financial support to be released this week to support the creative and heritage sectors.

The Covid support funding will be distributed by Arts Council NI (ACNI), and partner bodies in the heritage and indigenous language sectors.

Full details of the £15.75m will be announced on Wednesday by the Department’s delivery partners:

  • £7.75m will be made available to arts organisations through the Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, administered by ACNI
  • £5.5m is being provided for a Heritage Recovery Fund
  • £2.5m will be shared among the Irish Language, Ulster Scots and Sign Language sectors

The aim is to stabilise these sectors and preserve the vibrancy and important benefits delivered by organisations and individuals working in culture, languages, arts and heritage.

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 23rd October 2020

European Investment Bank Institute 2021 Artists Development Programme

The European Investment Bank (EIB) Institute is looking for emerging European artists and collectives to join the 2020 edition of its Artists Development Programme (ADP), a 6-8 weeks long residency programme in Luxembourg, under the mentorship of renowned Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen.

The EIB launched two calls for applications targeting visual artists (EU nationals, aged less than 35) with a thematic focus on:

The deadline for applying is 10 January 2021 at midnight (GMT+1).
For more information about the programme visit https://institute.eib.org/whatwedo/arts/artists-residencies/

 

Updated: 20th October 2020

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

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.

Read the full news release here.

 

Updated: 19th October 2020

Individual artists first to benefit from £29m funding package

Arts Council Chief Executive, Roisin McDonough, welcomes today’s news of extra funding to support individuals working in the creative sectors and thanks the Minister for Communities and her Department.

Thanks to today’s announcement of an extra £3m of public funding for individuals, we are now able to provide IERP funding of £3,852,000 to all eligible applicants, reaching 1,089 people within these sectors and offer them the support to develop new skills and create new work. Offers of IERP awards will be communicated this week.

Read the full news release here

 

Under the new Health Protection Regulations approved by the NI Assembly which came into force on Friday 16th October, Businesses subject to immediate closure include:

‘museums and galleries’;
‘cinemas (but not cinemas at which visitors remain in a vehicle)’; and
‘indoor visitor attractions’. 

‘Dance’ has been specifically added to the list of activities which are restricted with immediate effect during the current restriction phase. The new regulations define a sporting event as: “Sporting event” means a gathering for the purpose of exercise, competitive sport, recreational sport or sport training, and “dance of any type shall be deemed to be a form of exercise or sport for the purposes of this schedule”.

The restrictions that now apply as a result of the regulations are set out below:

Restrictions on sporting events
(1) A person shall not organise, operate or participate in an indoor or outdoor sporting event.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) shall not prohibit or prevent a person from organising, operating or participating in—
(a) an indoor sporting event if all participants are elite athletes;
(b) an indoor sporting event if the participants are one individual and one coach or trainer and there is no contact between participants who are not members of the same household;
(c) an outdoor sporting event, provided all participants are elite athletes; or
(d) an outdoor sporting event if there is no contact between participants who are not members of the same household, provided that the gathering consists of no more than 15 persons.

For more information on restrictions, visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you 

 

Updated: 12th October 2020

New Conversations 2020

UK-Canada artistic partners are invited to apply for funding of up to £3,500 GBP / $6,000 CAD to explore how they can develop new creative ideas, exchange knowledge and practice without meeting in person. The fund is open to Canada and UK-based individual artists, collectives, independent companies and organizations of theatre and dance. Cross art form collaborations are also welcomed. Deadline: 27 November 2020. http://theatre.farnhammaltings.com/portfolio/new-conversations/

 

Open Call for Commissions for Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company is planning the next edition of its annual festival of dance and movement, which will run 20th - 27th February 2021. As part of the programme, the company will award three small commissions for works that are 'adaptable' to Covid-19 circumstances and restrictions. The work should be created on the island of Ireland and creation and performance of it should not involve any international travel which might put the project at risk should restrictions apply. https://echoechodance.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/open-call-for-commissions-for-echo-echo-festival-of-dance-and-movement-february-20th-27th-2021-derry/

Application deadline: Friday 23rd October.

 

Updated: 29th September 2020

Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund
For artists and freelancers in Northern Ireland in partnership with a-n The Artists Information Company. The Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund is supported by the Freelands Foundation, as part of a landmark commitment of £3m towards emergency funds for artists and freelance creative practitioners across the UK affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Funds will be available for Northern Ireland based practitioners. Applications opened on Friday 25th September 2020.

Who can apply: Freelance creative practitioners based in Northern Ireland who work in the visual arts and are experiencing severe financial hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
What: Grants of £1,500 – £2,500
Deadline for applications: Applications are accepted from 2:00pm on Friday 25th September 2020 and decisions will be made on a monthly basis. You can apply at any time. Applicants will be informed of decisions within approximately 5-6 weeks of submitting an application. We encourage applicants to make a submission early due to the limited funds available.

Enquiries: emergencyfund@a-n.co.uk
https://www.a-n.co.uk/about/freelands-foundation-emergency-fund-2/

 

Updated: 24th September 2020

Allocation of funding to arts and culture

The Arts Council welcomes news from the NI Executive that £29m has been allocated to help the arts and cultural sectors in Northern Ireland endure the Covid-19 pandemic.
There have been devastating financial consequences for all working in and around the arts because of venue closures, the restrictions of social distancing placed on audiences and staff, and the massive loss of earned income since lock-down began.

We are heartened to see that the majority of the funding announced today is aimed at helping our core arts and cultural organisations, as well as artists and creative practitioners, get through this crisis to year-end, in the hope we can press a reset button and open our venues, festivals and cultural activities safely to the public as quickly as possible.

Read full news release here

 

Updated: 21st September 2020

The Bank of Ireland Begin Together Arts Fund, in partnership with Arts & Business Northern Ireland, was launched today, 21 September. The Fund will distribute a total of £840,000 between 2020 and 2022, and is designed to support artists and arts projects across the island of Ireland.  Today’s announcement brings the Bank of Ireland’s Begin Together community investment to €3million. 

The Arts Fund will support or commission artists and arts organisations to develop arts projects, enhancing the wellbeing of the participants, audiences and communities involved. All art forms are eligible and the aim is for the projects to benefit a range of audiences. The Fund will also support arts projects that have been adapted due to COVID-19, or are inspired by / respond to COVID-19.

Applicants can request funds between c. £2,500 – £8,400, and average grants will be £4,200, with maximum grants of £8,400. Arts projects with larger budgets that have secured funds elsewhere are encouraged to apply. With each grant round, the Fund aims to provide funding to an arts project in each county on the island of Ireland.

Closing date for the first round of applications is Wednesday, 4 November at 5pm. The second round will open in April 2021. Go to www.businesstoarts.ie/artsfund/bank-of-ireland for information on the application process and to complete the online application form.

 

Updated: 21st September 2020

£25 million Weston Culture Fund to open on 5th October.

The Garfield Weston Foundation is finalising details of a one-off Weston Culture Fund, to launch on 5th October. This £25 million fund will support mid- to large-scale cultural organisations in the UK to restart work, re-engage with audiences, adapt to changed circumstances and generate revenue. The fund is specifically for charitable organisations with a pre-Covid regular annual income of £500,000 or greater; smaller organisations will be able to apply for the Foundation's regular grants programme via its website as usual. Closing date for applications will be 9th November and decisions will be announced by the end of January 2021.

Further details: https://garfieldweston.org/new-weston-culture-fund-coming-soon/

 

Updated: 10th September 2020

£500,000 fund to support the safe re-opening of the arts and culture sectors

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (Thursday 10th September 2020) opened the Health and Safety Capital Programme, a new fund, worth £500,000, designed to support arts and culture organisations as they prepare to re-open after the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Health & Safety Capital Programme is open for online applications and will close at 4pm on October 1st 2020. To be eligible, organisations must demonstrate the purpose of the requested equipment or minor works to be clearly focused on the arts.   For further information on eligibility, guidance notes and to apply, please visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/health-and-safety-capital-programme

Read the full news release here

 

Updated: 3rd September 2020

Arts Council re-opens Organisations Emergency Programme for applications

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has opened the Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP) in a second call to arts and cultural organisations across Northern Ireland.

The fund allows those organisations which did not receive support in the first call made in June, to apply for grants of up to £25,000 each. It is hoped this support may help alleviate the significant financial pressures they are facing as result of Covid-19, while preparing to re-open safely and contribute successfully to the economy.

The Organisations Emergency Programme is one element of the wider £5.5 m Creative Support fund supported by the Minister, the Department for Communities and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; the priority is to protect the arts and wider cultural sectors from the impact of the current pandemic.

Closing date for applications is 4pm on Thursday 17th September 2020. Further information at http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/organisations-emergency-programme

 

Updated: 2nd September 2020

Covid-19 Update on the reopening of arts venues

It was disappointing but understandable to hear on August 27th that the NI Executive could not relax Coronavirus restrictions and allow our theatres and venues to reopen.

An Executive Office spokesperson said,

“The Executive has been condition-led in its relaxations of Coronavirus restrictions. It has made relaxations when it has been right to do so and also consistently stated that it will be prepared to re-introduce restrictions if it is necessary to control the spread of the virus.

“With the increased transmission rate of the virus in the community and the R number at around 1.3, the Executive agreed that no further restrictions will be lifted at this time. The indicative date of September 1 for the opening of wet pubs, private members clubs and audiences returning to theatres has not been ratified by the Executive. Officials have engaged with the different stakeholder bodies and no new indicative dates have been set.”

Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín said in response to the NI Executive’s deferral, 

“We are working in collaboration with other Executive Departments, grassroots groups, industry organisations and others to make preparations for the future. We are listening to people from across the sectors to ensure safe re-opening of venues, when the scientific advice is that we can do so.”

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The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working Class Voices

Thursday 8th July 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured (L-R) launching The 32 is writer, Marc Gregg, with writer, Riley Johnston and writer/editor, Paul McVeigh Image: Pictured (L-R) launching The 32 is writer, Marc Gregg, with writer, Riley Johnston and writer/editor, Paul McVeigh

The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working Class Voices, is a new book that celebrates working-class voices from across the island of Ireland, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Edited by award-winning Belfast novelist, Paul McVeigh, this intimate and illuminating collection features memoir and essays from 32 established and emerging Irish voices including, Kevin Barry, Dermot Bolger, Roddy Doyle, Lisa McInerney, Lyra McKee and many more.  Released on 8th July 2021, The 32 features 16 published writers and 16 new voices who write about their experience of being working class in Ireland.

Too often, working-class writers find that the hurdles they come up against are higher and harder to leap over than those faced by writers from more affluent backgrounds. As in Common People - an anthology of working-class writers edited by Kit de Waal and the inspiration behind this collection - The 32 sees writers who have made that leap reach back to give a helping hand to those coming up behind. 

Paul McVeigh, writer and editor of The 32 commented,

The 32 brings together working-class voices from all over the island - introducing 16 new writers we hope will be helped along their journey to publication, alongside 16 established voices. There's something for everyone in here; working class stories from the young and the old, from the city and the country, the anthology shows that we have much in common but that we also have varied backgrounds and experiences.  Without these working-class voices, without the vital reflection of real lives or role models for working-class readers and writers, literature will be poorer. We will all be poorer.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support this inspiring and insightful new anthology.  The 32 not only features many well-loved established Irish writers but more importantly, it gives a boost to 16 emerging writers, offering them that vital next step in their professional writing careers. Congratulations to all involved.”

The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working Class Voices is released by Unbound on 8th July 2021.  For further information on all Arts Council of Northern Ireland funding opportunities visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding

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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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Make a connection with Eastside Arts Festival this summer

Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments Drama , Northern Ireland Music , Literature , Visual Arts

Actor John Travers, Liam Hannaway from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, musician Neil Martin actor Rachael McCabe and festival director Rachel Kennedy. Image: Actor John Travers, Liam Hannaway from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, musician Neil Martin actor Rachael McCabe and festival director Rachel Kennedy.

Everyone is invited to connect with EastSide Arts Festival, 5th-15th August, this summer.  Featuring 100+ artists across more than 80 events taking place both in-person and online, enjoy the festival from the comfort of home, outdoors in person, or at a range of east Belfast locations as part of a socially distanced audience.

Supported by Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, funders Belfast City Council and Belfast Harbour, sponsors Translink, Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park, Hewitt & Gilpin and Future Screens NI, the festival is packed full of unique, exciting, events that will allow festival goers to connect with friends and family, performers and facilitators in a safe and accessible way.

The EastSide Arts Festival is brought to you by the team at EastSide Arts, an initiative by EastSide Partnership which is celebrating 25 years of delivering regeneration projects across east Belfast this year.

With 80+ events across music, theatre, film, books & spoken word, walks & tours, circus & cabaret, comedy and events for children and families, there will be lots to do this August in east Belfast. This year the festival has introduced a Digital Festival Pass which provides access to all of the online events, to watch live or On Demand for the duration of the festival.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the many events taking place:

  • Anthony Toner new album launch: Celebrating the return of live music, the festival opens with an in-person performance by Anthony Toner. Featuring a tribute to the historic Templemore Baths and written during lockdown, Anthony’s new album Six Inches of Water commissioned by EastSide Partnership includes ten songs inspired by east Belfast. Anthony and his band will also perform a range of songs from his popular back catalogue.
  • Mixed Bill Comedy Night: Presenting comedy talent from across Northern Ireland for an evening of laughs at Vault Artist Studios.  In preparation for his sold out Ulster Hall shows, Micky Bartlett (Blame Game, Deckchair and Yumz) headlines a show with sets from rising star Robbie McShane (as heard on the General Banter Podcast) and the hilarious Sara Jade Davidson; hosted by Garden Comedy Club creator, Vittorio Angelone.
  • Greenway Celebrations: Get down to Victoria Park, part of the Connswater Community Greenway, for a host of activities including sports, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts, street performances, food stalls, music, environmental activities and much more #GreenwayCelebrations.
  • West Ocean String Quartet: With world-wide acclaim, their music is literally out of this world, as their first three albums were played aboard the International Space Station and clocked up around 40 million miles. This live special event will be held in the atmospheric surroundings of St. Patrick’s Church and will launch the new album, Atlantic Edge. It also marks the first concert by the Quartet in over 18 months, and their first concert in Belfast in over a decade.
  • Billy Boy:  Written by Rosemary Jenkinson, directed by Matt Farris, commissioned and produced by EastSide Arts. Belfast actor John Travers shines in this high energy new play by Rosemary Jenkinson, inspired by the real-life stories of young bonfire builders in east Belfast.  Think you know this story?  Come along to Strand Arts Centre and find out what you’re missing.
  • Mary Coughlan Sings Billie Holiday: Four in-person events will take place at the Stormont Hotel, the highlight of which is one of Ireland’s greatest jazz singers, Mary Coughlan, who will celebrate the life and music of Billie Holiday, in the style and period of her time.
  • Literary events: A host of well-known names from Northern Ireland and beyond  will feature across a wide range of online literature and spoken word events live streamed from Accidental Theatre. Jan Carson, Colin Hassard, Abby Oliviera, Andrea Montgomery, Susan McKay, Andrew Cunning, Sarah Moss, Louise Nealon and writers from Hedgehog Press feature – to name but a few.
  • Live at C.S. Lewis Square: For the final weekend of the festival there will be 4 nights of live outdoor music at C.S. Lewis Square; the line-up includes Gareth Dunlop and friends; Celtic Soul celebrating the 50th anniversary of Moondance by Van Morrison (rescheduled from last year); Electronica with The Night Institute DJs and a tribute to Gary Moore on the 10th anniversary of his death. This will be a highlight of the festival with limited capacity.
  • Dragtastic Wrap Party: Lady Portia D’Monte and friends will close the 2021 EastSide Arts Festival with glitz, glam and excitement in-person at Vault Artist Studios. Expect sassy banter, sketches, competitions and general mayhem as this ostentatious line-up will take festival-goers through some of their favourite movies and TV shows and get toes tapping.

 

Liam Hannaway, Chair, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support EastSide Arts Festival through The National Lottery and Emergency Funding from the Department for Communities.  The theme of the 2021 Festival couldn’t be more apt. ‘Connection’ has been at the heart of the arts this year, as artists and organisations have sought new ways to engage with audiences during lockdown.  We are delighted to see EastSide Arts putting on such a strong festival, this year of all years. Lockdown has, if anything, sharpened the public’s appetite for the arts, and I’m confident that this programme will engage audiences and give us a creative lift through these uncertain times.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said:

“We’re delighted to support the EastSide Arts Festival, one of our Cultural Multi-Annual Grant recipients. Belfast is proud of its thriving festival scene and these events play a vital role in our 10 year cultural strategy, A City Imagining.  I’m impressed at how this year’s festival is combining online activity with some in-person events as restrictions start to ease following a challenging period for our local arts sector. The EastSide Arts Festival promises to bring an incredible range of activities to celebrate and showcase local talent and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish the organisers and participating artists the best of luck.” 

Director of the EastSide Arts Festival, Rachel Kennedy added:

“We are delighted to invite everyone to join us at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival where our theme is connection. Whether you join us live in-person, or online we hope the festival gives you the much-anticipated opportunity to connect with the performers, artists and speakers that inspire you, and with each other as we celebrate the return of live events. This year’s programme is packed with unique, interesting, funny and engaging artists and events. The pandemic continues to present us with challenges, however we have created a safe, accessible festival which can be enjoyed at home or in-person, where everyone’s wellbeing is our main priority. A huge thanks to our Principal Funder, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, for their support, and the vital support of all of the festival funders and sponsors who make the festival what it is.”

For the full festival programme and ticket information visit www.eastsidearts.net. Follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ESAFest21.

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Arts Council funding available for community arts projects to benefit older people

Thursday 24th June 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments Arts and Older People

Pictured (L-R) at a recent Arts Council supported project led by Open Arts is, Sam Murphy, Abbeyfield Belfast, Conor McAuley, musician, Fionnuala Fagan, Musician, Clare Galway, Musician and Jonny McGeown, musician with Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Council. Image: Pictured (L-R) at a recent Arts Council supported project led by Open Arts is, Sam Murphy, Abbeyfield Belfast, Conor McAuley, musician, Fionnuala Fagan, Musician, Clare Galway, Musician and Jonny McGeown, musician with Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Council.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced funding to support arts organisations in Northern Ireland in delivering a series of community-based arts projects benefitting older people.  The funding is part of the Arts and Older People’s Programme, a pioneering initiative supported by The National Lottery, Public Health Agency and Baring Foundation, which aims to tackle loneliness as-well as promote positive mental health and well-being among older people through engagement with the arts.  Applications are now open and will close at 12noon, Wednesday 21st July 2021.

The Arts and Older People’s Programme was  established by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2010 and is now a cross-governmental partnership with funding from the Public Health Agency and The Baring Foundation. The programme has been designed to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person. To date the programme has provided just under £2m funding to community organisations and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland in the delivery of 196 arts projects to older people.  

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how the Arts and Older People’s Programme is making a difference to the lives of older people across the region:

"Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress, worries and also pain. The Arts and Older People’s Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better.  The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, thus promoting positive physical and mental health.  Thanks to The National Lottery players, the Arts Council has supported 196 projects since the programme began.”

A recent recipient of Arts and Older People’s Programme funding is, Open Arts, who developed a project called, Reminiscence and Song.  The project benefitted over 50 older people living in care homes in Belfast who worked with professional artists to take part in a series of music, creative writing and reminiscence workshops.  This writing material and their personal stories were then developed into two new songs by Fionnuala Fagan-Thiébot and a piece of creative writing by Natasha Cuddington.  Watch the video below to learn more about the project.

To read the guidance notes and apply to the Arts and Older People’s Programme visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/arts-older-people-programme

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Ulster Orchestra’s Crescendo project, brings music into the heart of schools

Thursday 17th June 2021 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured at Holy Evangelists’ Primary School are (L-R), Ulster Orchestra player, Jennifer Sturgeon, students, Cara Fitzsimmons and Ruby Christie Whelan, Liam Hannaway, Chair, ACNI, Ulster Orchestra player, Stephen Irvine & student, Anthony Best. Image: Pictured at Holy Evangelists’ Primary School are (L-R), Ulster Orchestra player, Jennifer Sturgeon, students, Cara Fitzsimmons and Ruby Christie Whelan, Liam Hannaway, Chair, ACNI, Ulster Orchestra player, Stephen Irvine & student, Anthony Best.

Ulster Orchestra’s Learning and Community Engagement department has been working with its community partners, The Greater Shankill Children & Young People Zone, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and The Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University, Belfast, to develop and run Crescendo, a primary school engagement project supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Crescendo is a long-term collaboration with four Belfast primary schools including, Good Shepherd, Malvern, Holy Evangelists’ and Wheatfield, which all lie within areas of marked social deprivation. Currently reaching all children in P1-5, as well as some in P6 & P7, the programme aims to give pupils access to high quality music education throughout their primary school careers. 

Despite the many challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Learning and Community Engagement team at the Ulster Orchestra quickly adapted and provided weekly recorded workshops for all students.  Videos were sent via schools to students during home-learning, with parents encouraged to join the workshops with their children. Keyworker and vulnerable children participated alongside their teachers in school and just last week, one of the Crescendo associates was able to give outdoor lessons at two participating schools, meeting some of her pupils for the very first time.

Jonathan Simmance, Ulster Orchestra Animateur and Crescendo Creative Lead, says;

"It is an enormous privilege for all involved in Crescendo to be a key part of the education of so many children, and at no time more so than the present. We are all passionate about the creative arts, and particularly music, and the role that they play in the development of our young people. To have been a constant presence in the lives of the schools, their pupils and their families during the pandemic has been challenging, but incredibly rewarding."

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Crescendo is an impressive outreach programme that has benefitted hundreds of primary school children, instilling in them a great love of music from a young age.  The Arts Council is committed to making the Arts accessible to everyone and all of our annually funded organisations, like the Ulster Orchestra, have outreach programmes in place designed to reach people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to engage with the Arts.   

It’s crucial that our young people get meaningful opportunities to learn and participate in high quality arts and music making.  Research shows it’s good for their wellbeing and confidence, it improves their mental health and academic performance, and it’s just good fun too.  Congratulations to everyone involved.”

To learn more about the outreach work of the Ulster Orchestra visit www.ulsterorchestra.co.uk

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Vocal Competition Finalists Announced for the 11th Glenarm Festival of Voice

Tuesday 15th June 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

This year’s finalists are Caroline Behan (soprano), Amy Conneely (mezzo-soprano), Cerys MacAllister (soprano), Matthew Mannion (bass- baritone) Ellen Mawhinney (soprano), and Katie Richardson McCrea (mezzo-soprano). Image: This year’s finalists are Caroline Behan (soprano), Amy Conneely (mezzo-soprano), Cerys MacAllister (soprano), Matthew Mannion (bass- baritone) Ellen Mawhinney (soprano), and Katie Richardson McCrea (mezzo-soprano).

Following a record entry, Northern Ireland Opera is pleased to announce the six finalists for the 11th Glenarm Festival of Voice Competition Finale.

The finalists will have the opportunity to work with prestigious vocal coaches across the weekend in the build-up to our annual Competition Finale which will take place on 29th August 2021 and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Classical Connections’ with John Toal.  During the live competition, the six finalists will compete for the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize and the Audience Prize in a series of live performances including solos, ensembles and Irish song in front of an audience and our judging panel of opera experts, hosted by our Patron, Sean Rafferty.

This year’s finalists are Caroline Behan (soprano), Amy Conneely (mezzo-soprano), Cerys MacAllister (soprano), Matthew Mannion (bass- baritone) Ellen Mawhinney (soprano), and Katie Richardson McCrea (mezzo-soprano).

Each Festival we also select a Peter Rankin Piano Intern who will work with the singers during the festival and perform with them in the Irish Song section of the Competition Finale.  We are delighted to announce that this year’s Peter Rankin Piano Intern is Brendan Kennedy who recently graduated from RIAM with first class honours.

The Glenarm Festival of Voice is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Mid and East Antrim Council, the Esmé Mitchell Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

More details about all the finalists can be found via this link: https://www.niopera.com/our-work/festival-of-voice

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Curtain Up on £12.2 million Grand Opera House Restoration

Monday 14th June 2021 at 8am 0 Comments

The Auditorium, Grand Opera House Belfast Image: The Auditorium, Grand Opera House Belfast

The £12.2 million restoration and development of the Grand Opera House in Belfast has been completed, allowing the Grand Opera House Trust and its Chief Executive to plan for its full reopening in line with the recovery from the covid-19 pandemic. The results of the restoration project were unveiled to key stakeholders and media on Thursday 10 June, and the Theatre will reopen to the public with bookable Theatre Tours in July. These tours will precede the full reopening of the Theatre for performances later in the year, subject to the covid-19 public health guidance at that time.

The restoration project, which is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Communities, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation, has seen the auditorium’s paintings and decorative and ornate plasterwork painstakingly restored and conserved, as well as new seating, carpets, curtains and drapes installed. The design of the foyer and public spaces has been totally reimagined, with a new bar installed in the restored 1980 glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street, as well as beautifully refurbished stalls and circle bars. As part of the project, the Theatre’s technical infrastructure has been upgraded and a permanent heritage exhibition installed telling the fascinating story of the Theatre’s 125-year history. Facilities for those customers with access needs have also been greatly enhanced throughout.

Speaking about the completion of the project Colin Loughran, Chairman of the Grand Opera House Trust, said:

“Today is a momentous day in the long and proud history of the Grand Opera House and represents a significant ray of light in the darkness of the last year. The ambitious restoration project has delivered fantastic results and we are hugely confident that it will ensure the Theatre remains on the world stage as a centre for theatregoing and as a Belfast visitor and tourist attraction. We would like to thank our funding partners for their unwavering support which has helped to secure the Theatre for generations to come.”

Welcoming the project completion, Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“We are delighted to support the Grand Opera House with the restoration of this historic Grade A listed building in the heart of Belfast, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

“This is a significant project which will help to protect the heritage of the Theatre, as well as provide opportunities for people to explore its history for many years to come.

“The work to conserve the building’s unique architectural features and paintings has also been undertaken by local conservationists and tradespeople, which emphasises the value that heritage brings to the economy, people and wider community.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, heritage has a vital role to play in our recovery and venues like the Grand Opera House will be instrumental in helping the sector to thrive once again.”

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

“The Arts Council is very pleased to see work completed on this important historic building and we very much look forward to the day when it can reopen fully and once again welcome back audiences to enjoy shows in this beautiful Theatre.

“The Arts Council has funded the Grand Opera House for many years, and we recognise its value as one of the city’s most important cultural assets and the enormous contribution it makes to the local economy. This vital restoration work will ensure the Theatre’s place for future generations of audiences, actors and theatre makers, protecting one of our most celebrated and treasured cultural landmarks for many years to come.”

The project was delivered by specialist construction firm, Tracey Brothers Ltd, and more than 60 sub-contractors. John Tracey, Director of Tracey Brothers, said:

“The project was unusual as it was made up of two separate sites. The focus of the work was the extensive restoration of the 1895 listed building and the installation of state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems to meet modern-day theatregoer expectations. Alongside this was the reimagination of the 2006 extension to make it more sympathetic to the Matcham building, complete with a stunning helical staircase, enhanced bar and hospitality facilities, and the installation of new interpretative spaces telling the story of the Grand Opera House.

“Tracey Brothers are delighted to have been involved in the project and the quality of the final result is testament to all involved. We hope that the Grand Opera House continues, not only as a source of great entertainment for young and old alike, but also as a landmark Belfast venue to visit for many years to come.”

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House added:

“The Grand Opera House was last restored 40 years ago, and we are delighted that this vital project for the Belfast arts scene has been completed.

“The restoration of the iconic and unique 1895 auditorium is stunning and maximises the beauty of the original architecture. Alongside the transformation of the public areas and facilities within the building, theatregoers will have a much-improved experience from the minute they walk through our doors. The installation of the first ever permanent heritage exhibition to tell the Theatre’s story over its 125-year history is also a welcome addition and is expected to attract thousands of visitors each year. After being closed for well over a year, the whole team are very excited to be planning for the full reopening with an exciting programme of performances. In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming visitors to the public Theatre Tours which will begin in July”.

As well as Tracey Brothers as main contractor, the project team included architects Consarc Design Group, interior design by Sundara Design, project management WH Stephens, special theatre consultants Charcoalblue, M&E by Semple & McKillop, and structural engineering by Albert Fry Associates.

The Grand Opera House was designed by the leading Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened on 23 December 1895. Many of the world’s leading actors, singers, dancers and entertainers have appeared on its stage, including Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Vera Lynn, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell and Laurel and Hardy.

Theatre Tours are now available for booking on the Theatre’s website at goh.co.uk and will be subject to the latest covid public health guidance and social distancing rules at all times.

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Stage Beyond Theatre Company begin work on new film about memory;  supported by National Lottery

Wednesday 9th June 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments Drama , Community Arts

Stage Beyond Image: Stage Beyond

Stage Beyond, a theatre company for adults with learning difficulties, based in Derry-Londonderry, is set to begin a new production, Mind the Time, a film themed around memory, supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Members of Stage Beyond will act in the film Mind the Time which will also feature some instantly recognisable locations, in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, including Doagh Famine Village in Donegal, where they’ll capture the spectacular surroundings and the beautifully preserved cottages.  The film will be released to the public later this year.  

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, every member of Stage Beyond is dedicated to creating this new work and has been rehearsing extensively both remotely and in person.  The production has challenged the actors to draw on their own personal memories with the help of their mentors, using the Proustian concept of ‘involuntary memory’.  One of the highlights during a recent recording was on set in Culmore Point, where one of Stage Beyond’s members revealed a very distinct memory of the 1969 Derry Fancy Dress competition, where he won first prize as The Milky Bar Kid! 

Ruairi Conaghan, Actor/Writer/Director with Stage Beyond, said,

“Not only has Mind the Time been a welcome opportunity for all of us to be creative again, but it has truly highlighted an immense amount of talent in our actors; we are rewarded every day to be working with such highly gifted individuals.
Any theatre company will be aware that lack of accessibility has been detrimental to the mental health and morale of all of their members during such an uncertain and stressful time. Stage Beyond, as a theatre company for adults with learning disabilities, functions as a crucial structure, support, and creative outlet for our members. Therefore it has been imperative for us to continue our process throughout the pandemic. We could not be more proud of our team, who have dedicated so much time and commitment to developing our lessons and productions, which in turn have kept the spirits up immensely.”

With the help of funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery fund and Children in Need, Stage Beyond has been able to employ a team of four writer/directors and seven cameramen to create the production, work that is most welcome during a time when a lot of creatives have lost work as a result of the on-going pandemic. 

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.   Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Participation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Stage Beyond is a remarkable theatre company and is vital, not least because it provides opportunities for adults with learning disabilities to access and participate in theatre, but also because it provides a platform for people to make friends, to learn new skills and to increase confidence and self-esteem.  Thanks to National Lottery players, Stage Beyond is creating inspiring new work with their members and creating employment opportunities for creatives, and I look forward to watching Mind the

Time later this year.”
Learn more about the impressive work of Stage Beyond at www.stagebeyond.com

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Northern Ireland Opera Studio announce their new creative and technical members for 2021 to 2022

Wednesday 9th June 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Top Row L-R: Andrea Ferran; Theatre and Opera Director, Zara Jackson; Stage Manager, Bethan McDonnell; Costume Designer Bottom Row L-R: Michael McEvoy; Choreographer, Matthew Quinn; Conductor, Roisin Whelan; Choreographer. Image: Top Row L-R: Andrea Ferran; Theatre and Opera Director, Zara Jackson; Stage Manager, Bethan McDonnell; Costume Designer Bottom Row L-R: Michael McEvoy; Choreographer, Matthew Quinn; Conductor, Roisin Whelan; Choreographer.

The Northern Ireland Opera Studio is a programme for emerging artists which is a cornerstone of Northern Ireland Opera’s mission to develop talent.  This year for the first time Northern Ireland Opera will take in two cadres of talented professionals working on the island of Ireland.  Previously limited to opera singers, the Studio will now also provide professional development and paid training opportunities in the creative and technical disciplines which are key to bringing an opera to life on stage.

These Studio members will be able to experience working on main stage productions, masterclasses, mentoring and will work with the Studio’s opera singers, who will be announced in July, to create a range of events and smaller productions across the year of their Studio membership. Northern Ireland Opera is grateful to interview panelists Choreographer Jennifer Rooney and Designer Leslie Travers for bringing their vast expertise to the panel and to helping Northern Ireland Opera make this year’s Studio selection from the many impressive candidate interviews and presentations.

Cameron Menzies, Artistic Director of Northern Ireland Opera comments,

“Northern Ireland Opera is very proud to offer these brand-new paid training opportunities for creative and technical young artists through our NI Opera Studio programme.  Creating these opportunities is a cornerstone in our commitment to developing and maintaining our local artists and the arts sector.   These creative and technical practitioners will have the opportunity of working across all of the NI Opera programming, from our main stage work, recital and concert work, our Associate Artists programme, Outreach projects, our film content and they will also have the opportunity to produce work of their own in collaboration with the NI Opera Studio’s opera singers: the new intake will be announced in July.  We are very proud to include these six remarkable artists as part of the NI Opera Studio and we look forward to being about the showcase their extraordinary work for you in the next year.”

Northern Ireland Opera is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said,

“The Arts Council is immensely proud to support Northern Ireland Opera and the NI Opera Studio Programme, thanks to National Lottery players.  As a development agency for the arts in the region, we are committed to providing valuable and meaningful opportunities for artists, musicians and creative practitioners to develop their professional careers.  The NI Opera Studio offers an incredible opportunity for creatives to take that all important next step in their career and we wish everyone involved every success.”

Full biography details available at www.niopera.com/our-work/nio-studio

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Letter to Arts Council from Joe Lindsay, TV and Radio Broadcaster and DJ

Tuesday 8th June 2021 at 8am 0 Comments

Joe Lindsay, TV and Radio Broadcaster and DJ Image: Joe Lindsay, TV and Radio Broadcaster and DJ

"I first of all would like to thank the Arts Council for its much needed and appreciated support for not just myself but for the whole of the arts and culture community in what was, and for many still is, a very uncertain and worrying time as we have seen many arts organisations, individuals and venues struggle to survive what was a pretty brutal year. The support helped many like myself stay in this industry, keep going at a skill and passion nurtured and constructed around many years of dedication and hard work.

There are still those who think of arts and culture as non-essential, an indulgence, a triviality, that those involved in the creative industries are dilettantes, not doing real work. "The Art Life" as David Lynch described it, requires many years of honing skills, dedication, commitment and passion and a desire to inspire, express, educate, entertain and enrich. For many, myself included, it is a freelance world which brings with it a certain level of uncertainty. It requires a thick skin, a level of self-belief that can often be hard to find, an unwavering vision and determination that again, can be hard to find and maintain for the long-haul. We are business people. This is our business. We have mortgages, kids, bills; same financial responsibilities as any other businessperson. To quote David Bowie "It ain't easy".

As a teenager I never dreamt in my wildest imagination, that we'd have back-to-back festivals dedicated to film, theatre, music; that we'd have huge outdoor gigs, venues that nurture local talent. And the results speak for themselves with NI's success stories. We do punch above our weight.

But it's more often than not due, in no small part, to the support of ACNI that culture thrives here. 2020/21 was a harsh but hopeful demonstration of just how much. And i can only imagine the level of hard work it required of its staff to make it happen.

At the start of Lockdown I literally lost all of my work in one day. No DJing, gigs cancelled, everything I do involves public performance with artists and audience. It all vanished in a day.

I am so terribly grateful to the Arts Council on many levels, but mainly that I can be optimistic that all my hard work over the years is not for nothing, that I can book and provide work for artists and performers and that I can make great cultural events for audiences. Something I think we all need more than ever now.

I thank you again for your support.

Joe Lindsay"

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Northern Ireland Opera commissions an ambitious new teen/young adult opera

Thursday 3rd June 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Fionnuala Kennedy and Neil Martin, writer and composer for NI Opera's teen and young adult opera commission Image: Fionnuala Kennedy and Neil Martin, writer and composer for NI Opera's teen and young adult opera commission

Northern Ireland Opera has commissioned a new teen/young adult opera which is being created in collaboration with campaign groups led by young people experiencing housing stress across Northern Ireland and will be performed by Northern Ireland Opera and the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2022 with workshop versions of the piece being performed at the Belfast Children’s Festival in 2022.

Fionnuala Kennedy commented,

‘This new opera is inspired by the difficult situations faced by families in housing stress here and the incredible activism from these young people to speak their truth to power, expose the issues and offer solutions to transform the potential for housing and equal rights here. I will have a front row seat to a number of campaign groups led by young people looking at housing rights and housing provision (or lack thereof) in the north of Ireland. These young people include those living in sheltered accommodation, refugees and those seeking asylum and those in housing stress, not only campaigning for housing rights locally but supporting and working with other housing and human rights activists in Cork, Galway, Edinburgh, London, Cape Town and Johannesburg.  I’m always grateful to get the opportunity to be inspired by and create work for and about young people - this bold new opera celebrates the resilience, activism and power of a generation trying to change our world for the better.'

Composer Neil Martin said,

‘To be now engaging in the first steps of writing this new opera is exhilarating beyond words - collaborating with new partners in production, outreach and performance, addressing essential subject matter…the potential to challenge both young people and society as whole through this opera is limitless.’

Northern Ireland Opera have been able to commission this new opera with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Resilience and Stability Fund.  The opera is being written and composed by Fionnuala Kennedy and Neil Martin in collaboration with campaigners who are mostly between the ages of 13 and 19. Northern Ireland Opera will perform this opera with the young musicians of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, which is another unique element to this project.  As the piece is being created specifically for the 13-19 year old age group, it is important for this audience to see themselves reflected on stage in all facets of theatre-making.

This is a piece created by and speaking for teens and young adults from Northern Ireland who are of a similar age, but whose different life experiences can, we hope, enhance each other’s understanding and engagement with the creative and performance process, amplifying their message and music to a wide audience.

We are currently working with opera singer and educator Emma Morwood, who is writing and creating outreach programmes linked to this production, both during the creating and the presentation stages of the work.  These programmes will be open to all participants involved with the production, including collaborators, youth orchestra players and Northern Ireland Opera’s outreach partners in Belfast and beyond. We are also working closely with the Welcome Organisation to ensure that our interactions with young people experiencing housing stress are appropriately and sensitively managed.

Paula Klein, General Manager of UYO said,

"The Ulster Youth Orchestra is thrilled to be a partner in Northern Ireland Opera's new youth opera commission.  Collaborating with writer Fionnuala Kennedy and composer Neil Martin will be a wonderful experience for our young players and we are so excited to be able to offer them this unique opportunity after such a long time in musical hibernation. We’re very much looking forward to being a part of it!"

Cameron Menzies, AD of NIO said

“For a long while now I have noticed the lack of work designed specifically for the teen/young adult age groups in relation to music and storytelling through opera.   Opera companies generally focus a lot of outreach attention on very young and early school age children.  These programs are designed to open up young people’s experiences within the arts and with storytelling through music so I feel we must look at how we develop these programs to also include and engage with the ages of 13 – 19.  Our new commission will deal with this directly, by including these age groups in the creation of an opera that is designed specifically with them in mind.   We are delighted to be working with the unique and powerful talents of Fionnuala Kennedy (Libretto) and Neil Martin (Composer). While this opera will be based very much within the young voices of Northern Ireland, we know that an opera like this will also have a far-reaching global impact”
.

Jo Wright, ACNI added,

‘This new commission is supported through our Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, a vital emergency funding scheme funded by the Department for Communities, to help arts and cultural organisations respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work and plan for recovery.  This funding has enabled Northern Ireland Opera to gather together a wealth of talent to develop a brand new work that gives voice to young people who are facing extremely difficult circumstances.  This important work demonstrates the power of collaboration and in using the arts as a tool to open discussion around challenging subjects and stimulate change for the better.  Congratulations to everyone involved and we look forward to experiencing this new opera in the future.’

For further information, please visit https://www.niopera.com/events/northern-songs/

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Arts Council of Northern Ireland awards £13 million in core grants to sustain key arts organisations

Monday 24th May 2021 at 5pm 0 Comments

Northern Ireland Opera (L-R Norman Bowman, Melle Stewart, Jayne Wisener, Jack McCann) Image: Northern Ireland Opera (L-R Norman Bowman, Melle Stewart, Jayne Wisener, Jack McCann)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) today (24 May 2021) announced annual funding of £13,005,025 for key arts organisations from its exchequer and National Lottery resources.

The Department for Communities has provided the Arts Council with an opening resource budget of more than £10m and £1.1m for capital projects for 2021/22.

The Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme (AFP) is the most significant allocation of public funding for the arts in Northern Ireland each year.  Today the majority of Northern Ireland’s key arts organisations received standstill funding, primarily covering their core costs and programming costs, with seven arts organisations receiving strategic uplifts. 

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council is making offers of annual funding to arts organisations across Northern Ireland, after one of the toughest years on record. I wish to recognise, with gratitude, the emergency financial support offered by the Minister for Communities, and distributed by the Arts Council, that helped sustain the arts and cultural sectors over the last 14 months.

“This year’s annual allocation of exchequer and National Lottery funding is largely standstill for most of our key arts organisations. In order to mitigate the continuing impact of Covid-19, we have already released upfront payments of 50% of last year’s grant to 97 applicants. This offers an element of stability to many amidst current programming and strategic uncertainty, as the sector prepares to reopen.

“I wish to congratulate all those who made successful applications.  The annual funding from the Arts Council is essential to the survival of the entire arts ecosystem in NI. Indeed the arts organisations we fund are supporting the livelihoods of many individual artists, technicians, and creatives who work within and around the entire arts sector.”

Looking ahead, the Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Roisín McDonough said,

“The challenge ahead is to help reopen the arts in NI, and to bring audiences back to live and in-person performances as soon as it’s safe to do so. We will support our partners in government to bid for additional funding and resources so that we can welcome people back to safe, live arts and to full, creative lives again.”

Commenting on the Department’s funding allocation to ACNI, Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, said,

“The Annual Funding awards being made today are an important part of the foundations on which the work of our vital arts and creative sector is built.   These awards come at a point where the Executive has agreed a series of important relaxations that will make a real difference for participation in the arts and with the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce beginning its work.  Taken together these represent an important contribution to supporting the people and organisations who work across the arts to be able to do their important work.

“I recognise the pressure that continues to be felt financially, creatively and at a personal level across the creative community, even as we begin the process of reopening and recovery.  I also recognise that more support will be needed this year and so I was particularly pleased to welcome the Executive’s decision last week to allocate a further round of £13m Covid funding to Arts, Culture and Heritage to support the social recovery.”

A list of organisations offered Annual Funding in 2021/22 can be viewed on request, please contact awarren@artscouncil-ni.org or lmagee@artscouncil-ni.org

The annual funding of £13,005,025 awarded can be broken down as follows:

  • Exchequer: £8,599,955
  • National Lottery: £4,405,070
  • Total 2021/22: £13,005,025

 

Some of those organisations offered funding include the following:

Organisation 2021/22 AFP funding offered (£)
Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA), Derry-Londonderry 123,565
VOID, Derry-Londonderry 193,130
Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, Fermanagh 47,415
The Armagh Rhymers, Armagh 55,290
Seacourt Print Workshop, Bangor 60,266
Theatre and Dance NI, Belfast 136,388
Grand Opera House, Belfast 375,880
Dún Uladh, Tyrone 32,722
Drake Music Project, Newry 51,224

 

Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA), Derry-Londonderry
AFP funding offer: £123,565

Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) is a community organisation based in Derry-Londonderry and their aim is to provide direct access to the arts for those living in disadvantaged communities. The key objective of GSCA is to bring arts and cultural activity to areas of significant marginalisation and deprivation and address complex social issues like social exclusion, isolation, lack of opportunity and poverty. They are a trusted partner delivering key services to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in their community. GSCA is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which enables the organisation to offer a year-round programme of creative activities benefitting over 1400 people every week, delivered from their purpose-built, high-quality community arts centre, 'Studio 2'.

Greater Shantallow Community Arts has been offered an uplift in Arts Council AFP funding to support the employment of a dance officer to develop their dance offering within their three dance studios.

VOID, Derry-Londonderry
AFP funding offer: £193,130

Void is a contemporary art gallery, in Derry-Londonderry, that commissions and produces a visual arts programme that aims to challenge and promote the arts to new and existing audiences.

The programme supports a diverse range of artistic practices of national and international artists.  Void’s programme focuses on the collaborative nature of art and its ability to add to artistic discourse through exhibitions, events, discussions and partnerships. Through their commissions they work with a network of arts organisations both nationally and internationally to create specific projects.

Another key element of the gallery’s work is Void Engage, their learning and outreach programme, which places participation and engagement at the heart of Void, making contemporary visual art accessible to visitors of all ages.

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, Fermanagh
AFP funding offer: £47,415

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre supports the development of dance and is the only professional and participatory dance organisation in Northern Ireland that is based in a rural location in Fermanagh.  The company has three primary areas of work including; professional dance performance locally and internationally, a programme of participatory and community development and a schools education programme that runs in conjunction with curriculum needs.  In response to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company moved its participatory dance programme online and created two online festivals, Inside Out which took place in May and November 2020.  They also created an online movement programme for older people with limited movement.  The company is run by award-winning Artistic Director, Dylan Quinn.

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre has been offered an uplift in Arts Council AFP funding to support the employment of a freelance dance administrator.

The Armagh Rhymers, Armagh
AFP funding offer: £55,290

The Armagh Rhymers deliver quality art to a variety of sectors in society, many from the most deprived backgrounds. A lot of their work takes place in schools providing quality storytelling & bespoke interactive plays using music, song, dance, puppets and masks.  They also take part in a wide range of events and festivals such as the Belfast Mela, Halloween in Derry-Londonderry and the Big Arts Festival in Ballycastle.  The Armagh Rhymers have also toured internationally in USA, China and Europe.

Seacourt Print Workshop, Bangor
AFP funding offer: £60,266

Seacourt Print Workshop is an open access printmaking studio in Bangor with fantastic resources, courses and workshops.  Users of the studio includes master printmakers, multidisciplinary artists, amateurs and those who print to improve their wellbeing.  Seacourt Print Workshop offers membership, courses and resources for all, as well as their self-arranged residency programme.  They also have a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme as well as an educational resource for schools.

Theatre and Dance NI, Belfast
AFP funding offer: £136,388

Theatre and Dance NI is a support agency for theatre and dance in Northern Ireland. The organisation is the product of a successful merger of Theatre NI and Dance Resource Base in 2020.  The organisation’s primary objectives are, to champion the theatre, dance and performing arts sectors, to support and champion all their members, and to work with their partners to advocate for a thriving theatre, dance and performing arts ecology in Northern Ireland and beyond. 

Theatre and Dance NI has been offered an uplift in Arts Council AFP funding to support the delivery of their mentorship, professional development and freelancer support programming. 

Grand Opera House, Belfast
AFP funding offer: £375,880

Belfast’s majestic Grand Opera House is a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland’s arts scene and has been delivering laughter, tears and applause since 1895. Since opening its doors to the public for the first time more than a century ago, this beloved theatre has played host to some of the biggest names from the world of entertainment.  The Grand Opera House is currently closed for restoration and is scheduled to re-open in autumn 2021. 

Dún Uladh, Tyrone
AFP funding offer: £32,722

Dún Uladh is Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s Regional Resource Centre for the Meitheal Uladh Region. This region incorporates Counties Antrim, Derry-Londonderry, Donegal, Down & Tyrone. Dún Uladh, along with the 6 other Meitheal Regional Centres across Ireland, makes the Comhaltas vision to “give people genuine access to the traditional arts” a reality. This is a unique centre for authentic Irish traditions, promoting Irish music, song, dance, drama and other native art forms, situated in the heart of Ulster.

The centre provides facilities for Comhaltas members from across the region and across the Country. It hosts performances ranging from professionally produced concerts to informal sessions. The Centre also hosts music classes, seminars and workshops for musicians. 

Dún Uladh has been offered an uplift in Arts Council AFP funding to support an increase to full-time hours for a music and events officer.

Drake Music Project, Newry
AFP funding offer: £51,224

Drake Music Project Ireland provides access to independent music making for children and adults with complex disabilities. Workshops in composition and performance skills are afforded by the provision of adapted computer interfacing technology allowing people with disabilities the opportunity to express their creativity in an independent and controllable environment.

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In Memoriam Seán Corcoran (1946-2021)

Monday 24th May 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Seán Corcoran filming for ‘Na Bailitheoirí Ceoil’, 2008 Image: Seán Corcoran filming for ‘Na Bailitheoirí Ceoil’, 2008

Seán Corcoran, singer and collector of tradition song and music since the 1960s, died on 3rd May 2021, aged 74. He was based in Belfast from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s, where he worked with Ciaran Carson for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, recording song and music across Northern Ireland and editing three audio collections of field recordings for the Council, beginning with ‘Here’s a Health’ (1986).

Reproduced with the kind permission of Nicholas Carolan and the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Operating on his own initiative, Seán organised and recorded over 70 sessions on audio or video throughout the country, and he has been the main collector for ITMA of field recordings from Northern Ireland. A contributor also to ITMA’s PW Joyce Microsite, he can be seen singing songs from the Joyce collections here.

Seán had an extremely varied life in Irish traditional music. A much-admired singer and bouzouki player with an ear for a good song, he was also a collector and researcher, writer and editor, recording artist and lecturer, maker of radio and television programmes, and club and festival organiser. A native of Drogheda, Co. Louth, with a family background in traditional music and trained as a choirboy, he began his traditional singing career in the early 1960s in Carberry’s pub there, which would become the centre for traditional music in the town for decades, and he went on to sing professionally and non-professionally at intervals for the rest of his life. Known in time internationally, there was not a singing festival in Ireland at which he did not feature, and he also a frequent performer on radio and television. In 1976 he made his first commercial recording with the vocal group The Press Gang and from 1993 to 2014 recorded extensively as a member of the group Cran with flute player Desi Wilkinson and uilleann piper Ronan Browne, with a particular following in the Netherlands. As the solo unaccompanied singer he essentially was, he first recorded in America for a 1977 LP Sailing into Walpole’s March while part of an Irish contingent appearing at a Festival of American Folklife in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and he would feature solo on various other recordings until the 2012 CD Louth Mouths from Drogheda with Gerry Cullen and Dónal Maguire.

While still a teenager Seán discovered that older Louth traditional song still survived in pockets of town and county, and with Caitlín Bean Uí Chairbre he began to collect in 1964 under the aegis of the Old Drogheda Society, of which he was a co-founder, from local singers such as Bridget Cumiskey of Simcock’s Lane and Mary Ann Carolan of Tinure (the subject of a Topic LP of 1982). In 1970 he was engaged by Breandán Breathnach as a song collector in Louth for a Department of Education pilot project which also employed Dubliner Tom Munnelly. He was the director of the still-remembered initial Féile na Bóinne traditional music festivals of 1976 and 1977 in Drogheda, and a driving force in several folk clubs in the town. Based in Belfast from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s, Seán worked there with Ciaran Carson for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, recording song and music across the north and editing three audio collections of field recordings for the Council, beginning with Here’s a Health (1986).

When attending university in Dublin from 1964, Seán became immersed in the folk scene there, singing and researching songs which he passed on to fellow singers, and organising with others the Ninety-Five Club in Harcourt Street in the 1960s and the Tradition Club in Capel Street in the 1970s. On graduation he worked at periods as a teacher and later studied ethnomusicology in Queen’s University. He was the author of articles and sleeve notes, writing at first for Breandán Breathnach’s journal Ceol in the 1960s. From 1984 to 1987 he wrote a folk column for the Belfast journal Fortnight and another later for Hot Press, and he was a contributor to the published proceedings of the 1995 UL conference ‘Blas: The Local Accent’ and the 1996 and 2003 ‘Crosbhealach an Cheoil‘ conferences. Having published local songs of his collecting in Drogheda newspapers, he brought them together with online access in 2008 in the volume Sing Out: Learn Irish Traditional Song. In 2009 he scripted and presented on TG4 Na Bailitheoirí Ceoil, three television documentaries on the collectors Edward Bunting, George Petrie and Francis O’Neill. In 2012 and 2013 he received BAI funding for the making of four radio documentaries for Louth and Waterford local radio on, respectively, the Drogheda weaver songwriter John Shiel, the Irish Folklore Commission Schools Collection, Daniel O’Connell and his monster meetings, and the Waterford music theorist Rev. Richard Henebry. He lectured frequently at festivals and in third-level institutions and in recent years conducted singing workshops as Traditional Singer in Residence for Drogheda Borough Council and at the Willie Clancy Summer School with Seán Garvey. From 2007 to 2020 he taught an annual module on Irish traditional music at Mary Immaculate college of education in Limerick.

Seán’s local history interests and political activism led to the setting up of the 'Dúchas / Drogheda Voices' oral history audio and video project in 1995, and to articles for the Journal of the Old Drogheda Society, of which he became chairperson. Under his stewardship the local Millmount Museum became in 2013 the first voluntary museum in the country to receive full Heritage Council accreditation.

Nicholas Carolan, 7 May 2021

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Derry Choir Festival announces exciting plans for Festival 2021 this October

Friday 21st May 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Grammy Award-winning American a cappella ensemble Chanticleer Image: Grammy Award-winning American a cappella ensemble Chanticleer

The City of Derry International Choir Festival has announced plans for a ninth edition of the much-loved and anticipated annual autumn festival, due to take place from 20 – 24 October 2021.

Acknowledging the most recent announcements regarding Covid-19 guidelines, the Festival is excited to plan for October 2021 and looks forward to further easing of restrictions in the summer and autumn months. Following a hugely successful online festival in 2020, which racked up over 250,000 views from 50 countries worldwide, organisers are hopeful this year’s event will feature a programme of both live and digital concerts, performances, workshops, podcasts and events.

Internationally-renowned guest artists will include the Grammy Award-winning American a cappella ensemble Chanticleer, described as the “world’s reigning male chorus” by The New Yorker, and known across the globe as the “orchestra of voices”. The Festival will also welcome acclaimed conductor and composer Bob Chilcott, award-winning Derry chamber choir Codetta, and the Ulster Orchestra, for a programme of live and live-streamed concerts during Festival week.

The Festival has commissioned four brand-new pieces of choral music that will have their world premieres at the October Festival. Catalan conductor and composer (and former adjudicator at the festival) Josep Vila i Casañas has composed two new works for local primary and post-primary school choirs, with texts by Irish poets Enda Wyley and Catherine Ann Cullen. Northern Ireland creative production company Dumbworld will premiere the third part in a series of new works for the Festival entitled A Topography of Love and the festival will also feature a brand-new work for choir and cello as part of the Colmcille 1500 celebrations, with Derry cellist Kim Vaughan.

International choirs from across the world will be invited to participate in a Virtual Choral Trail by submitting video performances of sacred, gospel, pop, jazz and barbershop music, to feature throughout the festival’s digital programme from 20 - 24 October.  The festival will also present a large-scale community programme of performances and workshops for local singing groups.

Dónal Doherty, Artistic Director of the Festival, said,

“We could not be more excited about this year's festival. Voices have been silent for too long now and this is the re-awakening that we've all been looking forward to over the past 15 months. We are very conscious of the pain and suffering that many have experienced as a result of the pandemic and we recognise this in our programming; but we also recognise the joy and happiness associated with singing together or the excitement we get from listening to live music, so Festival 2021 will be both reflective and celebratory. We are very hopeful that Derry and the whole north west region will once again come alive with the sound of singing.”

For more information and updates visit www.derrychoirfest.com or follow the City of Derry International Choir Festival on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.

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Open House Announces Programme for August Walled Garden Festival

Thursday 20th May 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

Open House Festival has announced its initial line-up for the 2021 August festival in Bangor Image: Open House Festival has announced its initial line-up for the 2021 August festival in Bangor

Open House Festival has announced its initial line-up for the 2021 August festival in Bangor, with three weeks of music, comedy, spoken word and classic cinema in the beautiful surroundings of Bangor Castle Walled Garden.

While it will look a lot different to the trademark 140+ events in 40-odd venues festival that audiences have come to associate with Bangor in August, the Open House team are delighted to be back delivering live events once again. All events will be open air, fully seated and Covid-compliant, and there’ll be no need to worry about the weather as audiences will be protected under a stretch canvas cover.

Headline acts include internationally acclaimed Irish musician, Mary Coughlan, comedian, former doctor and author of the bestselling memoir This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay, and bestselling Irish author, Marian Keyes. However, the bulk of performers and artists come from Northern Ireland, with comedians Shane Todd and Paddy Raff, and musicians Duke Special and Dana Masters featured in the programme.

“If there is one thing the past year has taught us, it’s to appreciate what we have on our own doorsteps,” says Festival Director Kieran Gilmore.

“We have all been very active in supporting our local shops, businesses and restaurants, and we believe that ethos should include the championing of local artists and performers.”

These past fourteen months have been a challenging time for the arts sector, and while there is still uncertainty around future restrictions for live events, the team has taken a leap of faith.

“Organising this year’s festival has been extremely difficult, and we have been working blind to a large degree,” says Kieran. “Obviously, the situation has affected every element of our planning – from audience numbers, to staging, to ticket prices, but our team has worked tirelessly to create a safe space and deliver a dynamic programme of events. We firmly believe people will be so happy to be back at live events that they will work with us to ensure we deliver them safely, and within the law.”

The Walled Garden is just a short walk from Bangor station and the town centre, and with free parking, toilets, and a café, it makes the perfect location for this year’s festival, given all the constraints. “It’s one of our favourite venues anyway,” says Kieran. “We love it, and our audiences do too.”

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to see Open House launch their August festival.  Despite the huge challenges presented in programming a festival due to the ongoing pandemic, the team at Open House has curated an impressive programme that truly celebrates Northern Irish talent.  As the arts sector slowly and safely reopens, it’s heartening to see live events return for audiences to enjoy.  Congratulations to all.”

Meanwhile, The Chief Executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Stephen Reid, said:

“I am delighted that organisers have managed to secure a superb line-up of live events for this year’s Open House Festival. The Festival always attracts an exciting mix of artists to the Borough and our beautiful Bangor Castle Walled Garden will provide a perfect open-air location where everyone can remain socially distanced under a protective weatherproof covering. The Festival is one of the highlights of our local arts calendar and it will give everyone something to look forward to this August.”

The familiar Open House Festival printed programme won’t be making an appearance this year, so the organisers are encouraging people to follow updates and announcements via email, social media and the festival website – and to spread the word to friends and family who aren’t online, so they don’t miss out. There’s a new official festival bookseller this year too, with Belfast’s independent book shop No Alibis offering a 10% discount on all books featured in the programme. Books can be bought online or in person at the Botanic Avenue shop.

The ticketing system will also be different to allow for social distancing.

“Ticketing has probably posed the biggest challenge for us,” says Kieran. “We need to ensure we can seat the maximum number of people in a socially distanced setting and have created a bubble system. It isn’t at all what audiences will be used to, but we would ask for their patience and co-operation – and as capacity is dramatically reduced, we advise people to book early to avoid disappointment.”

Additional dates, events and even locations may be added to the programme over the coming months, if restrictions allow.

You can see the full festival line-up now at www.openhousefestival.com and tickets will go on sale on Thursday 27th May at 10am

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Echo Echo Dance launch their Digital Programme this summer

Tuesday 18th May 2021 at 5pm 0 Comments Dance

Echo Echo Dance launch their Digital Programme this summer Image: Echo Echo Dance launch their Digital Programme this summer

This summer Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company launch their Digital Programme supported by the ACNI Stability and Renewal Fund. This series of online bite-sized courses have been designed to encourage the exploration of creativity in movement in the comfort of your own home.

The courses are aimed at different age groups and are all led by the highly experienced artist-teachers of the Echo Echo Ensemble. Each course consists of 8 easy to follow videos of roughly 15-20 minutes long which include a variety of playful warm ups and exercises, some technical instruction and much guidance for the development of improvised and choreographed solo movement.

Echo Echo Ensemble Artist Ayesha Mailey says:

“The focus of our Digital Programme is to stimulate individual creativity and imagination in movement and dance whatever your age or previous experience. At Echo Echo we believe that everyone can be poetic in their movement and we hope that our Digital Programme offers an opportunity for the whole family to get involved.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support Echo Echo’s new Digital Programme through our Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, funded by the Department for Communities. This vital emergency funding scheme was designed to help organisations respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work and plan for recovery in the long-term. This funding has enabled Echo Echo to adapt and develop a high quality online programme which helps to bring great art to people in the comfort of their homes whilst we await a time when it’s safe to return to in-person workshops and performances. Well done to all involved.”

If the Echo Echo Digital Programme sounds like something you or a family member might like to try, you can sign up here for free: https://forms.gle/9LUDBDo9zR98dmfn9or visit their website www.echoechodance.com to find out more. Once you have completed the sign-up form you will receive links for the programmes directly to your email address and its all completely free of charge!

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Belfast Photo Festival presents a bold vision of the future

Tuesday 18th May 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Davion Alston - Stepping on The Ant Bed Image: Davion Alston - Stepping on The Ant Bed

Belfast Photo Festival, Northern Ireland’s premier visual arts festival, is set to return next month with a vibrant online and offline programme of immersive exhibitions and large-scale outdoor art works to be showcased in galleries and public spaces throughout Belfast.

Running from 3 – 30 June, the festival will be one of the first of its kind to facilitate a largely in-person festival experience following the recent easing of lockdown restrictions.

Alongside its physical exhibitions, the festival will also host an extensive programme of online talks and events exploring the role of photography in imagining new visions of the future.

Taking “Future(s)” as its theme, this year’s festival tackles issues as diverse as climate change, migration, the advancement of technology, government surveillance and the power of protest, to explore how the future is shaped by our actions in the present. Rather than presenting a singular vision of what this future might be or look like, the festival instead offers up a speculative, imaginative glimpse into the myriad possibilities of what might lie ahead.

Change making, activism and social justice feature heavily in a number of festival projects. In American artist Davion Alston’s works, shown at public sites across Belfast, images from Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer are collaged and adapted to posit protest as a form of world-making and a means of imagining better futures in times of trauma, chaos and violence.

The festival will also present the first solo exhibition of renowned artist Zanele Muholi on the island of Ireland. One of the most acclaimed photographers working today, this spectacular outdoor exhibition at Queens University presents work from Muholi’s ongoing project, Somnyama Ngonyama (translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’). These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, and continue Muholi’s engagement around the rights and representation of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa and globally.

Other festival highlights include a number of projects exploring what is perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind today: climate change and human impact on the planet. Mandy Barker’s impressive LUNASEA, imagines a parallel planet made from plastic waste. Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thymann’s ‘Shroud’, exhibited in the dramatic setting of Belfast’s Riddel’s Warehouse, presents a tragic and impactful document of global warming, while at Belfast Exposed Gallery, Swiss artist Marcel Rickli asks how we might warn future generations about sites of toxic nuclear waste, when the material itself is likely to outlive existing modes of communication, including current forms of language.

Technology and its inevitable impact on our future is also explored throughout the festival. David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher’s exhibition on transhumanism, at University of Atypical, explores a community who aim to adapt and even transcend their mortal flesh through technology. Finnish artist Maija Tammi, on the other hand, presents us with Androids who appear to be flesh and bone in her work ‘One of them is Human’. At a time when our species is, in many senses, facing the very real prospect of technological replacement, Tammi’s uncanny robot portraits, presented at large scale in Belfast’s Writer’s Square, challenges our conceptions of what it is to be ‘alive’.

In our era of pandemics, global migration, political upheaval and technological connection –when perhaps the future has never felt so unclear – the 2021 Belfast Photo Festival offers up a refreshing and provocative programme of exhibitions and events that urge us all to question: What kind of world do we want to collectively create?

Alongside the exhibition programme, Belfast Photo Festival is hosting a month-long programme of online talks and events. Each week will explore a key element of the festival theme: Environmental Futures (week 1); Social Futures (week 2); Photographic Futures (week 3); Technological Futures (week 4).

Commenting on the festival’s return, its Director, Michael Weir, says:

“In recent years our festival has focused on bringing visual art to the public, pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, making it accessible and engaging. We’re very pleased to play our part in rejuvenating public spaces and galleries throughout Belfast with our 2021 programme. Arts and culture played a hugely important role in all of our lives in the past year and will continue to do so as restrictions are lifted.”

On this year’s programme, he adds:

“Many of the exhibitions in this year’s festival are underpinned by the particular urgency of rethinking our future in light of events of the past year, which have not only altered the course of humanity, but have also deepened and illuminated stark inequalities in society at large.”

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, comments:

“We are very much looking forward to this year’s Belfast Photo Festival which will use a range of public spaces, galleries and online platforms to showcase local artists alongside renowned international photographers.  This year’s programme will also include exciting opportunities for those with an interest in photography to engage and take part in online events and talks, building skills and giving inspiration to a future generation of photographers and artists.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey says:

“We’re delighted to support this year’s Belfast Photo Festival, one of our Cultural Multi-Annual Grant recipients. These grants support local arts and heritage organisations and cultural festivals and events, which play a vital role in our 10-year cultural strategy, A City Imagining. It’s exciting to see the Belfast Photo Festival combine online activity with some in-person events as restrictions start to ease and we emerge from what has been a very challenging lockdown period for our local arts sector. The organisers are promising a diverse range of activities to celebrate and showcase local photography talent. And the theme of “future(s)” ties in with our own focus of reimaging a vibrant cultural city and working with partners to lead a sustainable recovery.”

Belfast Photo Festival takes place online, in public spaces across Belfast and in partner institutions: Belfast Exposed, Golden Thread Gallery, Cultúrlann, University of Atypical, and The Naughton Gallery at Queens University.

The 2021 programme officially launched online on Friday 14th May, following the announcement of the 2021 Belfast Photo Festival Spotlight Award winner Alexandra Lethbridge for her project The Archive of Gesture.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up to date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Belfast Exposed Reopen with Three Showstopper Exhibitions

Monday 17th May 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Image © Marcel Rickli Image: Image © Marcel Rickli

After being closed for most of last year, Belfast Exposed reopens the doors to the public with a visual feast of three showstopping exhibitions that promise to both excite and challenge audiences.

The three exhibitions – Aeon, A Lightness of Touch and Street View: Yan Wang Preston - celebrate both international and local artists. Rickli’s and Preston’s work are underpinned by a concern and reverence for the environment and affirms Belfast Exposed’s commitment to show work that focuses on, and highlights, environment issues. Belfast Exposed, despite the covid-19 pandemic and multiple lockdowns, has spent the last year supporting and promoting new talent and the exhibition ‘A Lightness of Touch’ is a continuation of that commitment and essential work for the development of the photographic and art infrastructure of Northern Ireland.

Gallery 1: AEON – Marcel Rickli
Gallery 2: A LIGHTNESS OF TOUCH – MFA Photography Graduates
Street View: YAN WANG PRESTON
3rd June – 17th July

Aeon
‘Aeon’, is a solo exhibition by Swiss international photographer and artist Marcel Rickli, who combines conceptual and documentary photography that explores radioactive waste repositories and questions how they will affect humanity for future generations. In Rickli’s investigations he examines the use of signs, symbols and language as a communicator capable of warning of the dangers of these sites for thousands of years to come. The exhibition is a striking representation of these inquiries with high visual content in large scale photography and sculptural elements enhanced by a subtle sound installation.

A Lightness of Touch
Celebrating photography’s rising stars of the future, ‘A Lightness of Touch’, is the end-of-year degree show for the MFA Photography graduates at Ulster University, which connects a broad range of thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The content is far-reaching and diverse with works by national and international artists. What bind the artists of this show together is not the subject of their work, but their sensitive and tender approach towards capturing their subjects; a particular lightness of touch.

Street View: Yan Wang Preston
Yan Wang Preston is an award-winning practicing artist whose exhibition on Street View is a combination of renowned bodies of work – ‘Hé – River Together’, ‘Mother River’ and ‘Forest’. These photographic based works have been made over the past 10 years and includes images, performance art, videos and books. Presented in a multi-media digital format, audiences will get a holistic view of the artist practice investigating relationships between people and place with long-term interests in contested definitions, myths, politics and ideologies of nature incontemporary societies. They are stunning examples of endurance photography which are as compelling as they are ambitious. A prime example of this is ‘Mother River’, on one level anmodern-day adventure, where the photographer faced hazards from altitude sickness to mudslides. Preston used a large-format field camera, which produces huge negatives, offering images with astonishing detail and resolution. The images generated from the process form the most systematic photographic documentation of the Yangtze River made by one person since 1842.

“Supporting emerging talent is ever more important as we ease out of Lockdown and each and every one of these MFA graduates demonstrates talent in their respective genres. Within the show, there is evidence of a very human approach that deals with topics that are considered challenging. The works are profound with a tenderness not often seen in group shows and the sensitivity embraces the audiences into new ways of seeing.” – Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive, Belfast Exposed.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Belfast Exposed’s galleries will operate with a one-way system, and based on government guidelines, a maximum number of people will be allowed in the gallery at any given time. Visitors to the gallery can expect a meeter-and-greeter to instruct them through the gallery spaces and inform them about the exhibitions on show.

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BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac unveils debut novel at Belfast Book Festival 2021

Thursday 13th May 2021 at 6pm 0 Comments Literature

BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Macmanus, who will unveil her debut novel 'Mother, Mother' at Belfast Book Festival 2021.  Picture credit: Stephanie Sian Smith. Image: BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Macmanus, who will unveil her debut novel 'Mother, Mother' at Belfast Book Festival 2021. Picture credit: Stephanie Sian Smith.

Belfast Book Festival makes a welcome return from 10 - 13 June with an online programme of live events for book lovers, covering everything from love and politics to Cinderella as a zombie!

Presented by the Crescent Arts Centre, highlights of the festival include Annie Macmanus (BBC Radio 1) unveiling her debut novel ‘Mother, Mother’ which is set in Belfast; Ian McElhinney (‘Derry Girls’) and literary biographer Roy Foster exploring the work of Seamus Heaney; Glenn Patterson (‘The Northern Bank Job’) in conversation with author Conor O’Callaghan; Colm Tóibín (‘Brooklyn’), reading from ‘Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction’ and a special recorded performance from the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, Lemn Sissay. 

For up and coming writers and poets, there will be discussions with industry professionals from the worlds of poetry, prose and publishing about how to get your work seen and heard, and the lucky winners of the Mairtín Crawford Awards for Poetry and Short Story 2021 will also be announced.

This year’s festival covers a wide variety of themes - including feminism, grief, family, disability, sexuality, body image and the care system - and features writers based in Ireland, the UK, Germany, France and the United States.

Setting the scene for this year’s Belfast Book Festival, Sophie Hayles, Chief Executive of the Crescent Arts Centre which programmes and manages the event, said:

“One of the silver linings of the past year is that many people have rediscovered a love of reading in lockdown.  This year’s Belfast Book Festival embraces that spirit with a superb line-up of writers, poets, authors, thinkers and doers.

This year’s event will have a really open and interactive feel, with tickets being priced at either £3 or free and audience members being able to ask questions of their favourite writers.  Our guests will join us virtually while our event hosts will stream their discussions live from the Crescent.”

Multi-award winning author and Belfast Book Festival patron Lucy Caldwell returns with short stories of love, loss and exile in her new collection, ‘Intimacies’, in the company of fellow author Louise Kennedy (‘The End of the World is a Cul de Sac’) and actor and journalist Mira Sethi (‘Are You Enjoying’). 

Offering an enthralling dissection of love, commitment, power and privilege in contemporary Hong Kong, Naoise Dolan will discuss her debut novel ‘Exciting Times’ in the company of author Joanna Walsh (‘Seed’) and chair, journalist John Self.

Over 90 poets, authors and playwrights - established, emerging and first-time - have come together to create ‘Her Other Language: Northern Irish Women Writers Address Domestic Violence and Abuse’, an anthology which aims to raise the ongoing issue of domestic violence and abuse, and shine a spotlight on women’s writing. Editors Ruth Carr and Natasha Cuddington will introduce the project and host readings from six of the contributors.

Born in County Longford, but now based in Berlin, Adrian Duncan is a visual artist who originally trained as an engineer.  This man of many talents will join author Wendy Erskine to discuss his debut collection of short stories, ‘Midfield Dynamo’. 

In Northern Ireland’s centenary year and in a turbulent time for unionism, two of our most respected political journalists - Susan McKay and Amanda Ferguson - come together to discuss Susan’s new book, ‘Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground’.  Featuring over 100 new interviews with people including Toni Ogle, Dawn Purvis and Sammy Wilson,  the book covers a range of social justice issues and campaigns, particularly the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

If you’d like a little bit of escape after all that reality, ‘Magical Realism in Modern Literature’, a partnership with Dublin Book Festival, features an enviable line-up of panellists including Jan Carson (‘The Fire Starters’), Deirdre Sullivan (winner of the An Post Irish Book Award for Young Adults 2020) and Cathy Sweeney (‘Modern Times’), with writer, spoken word performer, journalist and broadcaster Peter Murphy in the chair.

Our stories about ourselves are one of the main things that define us, but what about the stories of children in care?  In partnership with Barnardo’s NI, ‘Understanding Our Stories, Understanding Ourselves’ looks at the psychological nature of storytelling, with guests who have either personal or professional experience of the care system: poet Lemn Sissay, journalist Alex Kane and psychologist Dr William Coman.

There are events for younger audiences too, with children’s author and poet Joseph Coelho reading from his deliciously creepy take on Cinderella - ‘Zombierella’ - while the team from Young Adult literary journal ‘Paper Lanterns’ will discuss ‘Writing the Teen Voice’.

Best-selling author Elizabeth McCracken (‘Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry’) has been a great influence on poet and essayist Molly McCully Brown and her new work ‘Places I’ve Taken My Body’, so we thought we would bring them together to have a chat about it, with chair, broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir.

Women’s bodies in Ireland have been a topic of debate for generations.  Author and poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa (‘A Ghost in the Throat’) and writer and podcaster Sophie White (‘Corpsing: My Body and Other Horror Shows’) write about the subject with aching honesty and humour and join chair, journalist Aine Toner, to share their experiences.

In addition to the June event, Belfast Book Festival is also planning a number of year-round events, featuring artists including author Bernard MacLaverty, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and Elizabeth Day, presenter of the hugely popular podcast, ‘How to Fail’. Further details of these events will be announced soon.

For full Belfast Book Festival programme details and to book tickets - priced either £3 or free - visit www.belfastbookfestival.com

The Belfast Book Festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.

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Seamus Deane, Writer and Critic (b. Derry-Londonderry, 1940-2021)

Thursday 13th May 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland notes with regret the death of Seamus Deane, one of the giants of 20th Century Irish literature, who, as a creative artist in poetry and prose, and as a critic of world standing ranking alongside Edward Said and Frederic Jameson, helped shape the intellectual life of Ireland for fifty years.

As a founding member of Field Day with his schoolfriend Seamus Heaney and ally Brian Friel, his critical acuity became the guiding spirit of a perspective on Irish history and letters which still, though contested, influences academic and popular thinking today. The concept of the imagination itself as the ‘fifth province’ of Ireland proved an enduring idea which Deane and Field Day developed and helped locate as a meeting place for politics, theatre, history and poetry for some of the greatest writers of the century. He was the principal critic and force behind the extraordinary catalogue which was the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1990 etc). An authority on Edmund Burke, the Celtic Twilight and the French Enlightenment, the range of his scholarship was infrequently recognised. His multi-prizewinning novel Reading in the Dark (1996) established itself immediately as a modern classic of both fiction and memoir. His work is represented in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Troubles Anthology. Rarely has a thinker of his powers and range enjoyed such a visible and immediate impact on the culture of his country.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, paid tribute:

“It’s a rare thing to excel as a poet, or a novelist, a critic or an editor, a teacher or a scholar. Seamus Deane was all of these; a remarkable individual, gifted with creativity and intelligence, who lived a significant life in the arts and who will long be remembered for his contribution to the culture of these islands.”

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BBC & UK Arts Councils celebrate the work of disabled artists with Culture in Quarantine commissions

Thursday 13th May 2021 at 9am 0 Comments Arts & Disability

Pictured Left - right: Earth to Alice - Alice McCullough, The Cat, The Mouse and The Sausage - Joel Simon, Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium - Shannon Yee Image: Pictured Left - right: Earth to Alice - Alice McCullough, The Cat, The Mouse and The Sausage - Joel Simon, Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium - Shannon Yee

Twelve D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists based in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have been commissioned to produce new film and audio works for BBC platforms this summer.

The commissioning programme is part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative, which has brought the arts into people’s homes during lockdown. The twelve new commissions will champion the work of disabled artists by helping them produce work when some may have been self-isolating, and provide a platform to explore their experiences of living through Covid-19.

The programme was established in a partnership between BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act into law, forming part of wider disability programming across the BBC.

The film and audio works commissioned include performance dramas, dance, comedy, spoken word poetry and animation, with the majority of artists highlighting aspects of the disabled experience of living through the pandemic.

Commissions were selected by a panel including representatives from BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Unlimited and the UK Disability Arts Alliance.

Lamia Dabboussy, BBC Head of Arts said:

“This batch of commissions from artists across the country showcases the breadth of inspiring work we’ve all missed experiencing over this past lockdown year. I’m thrilled that, as part of Culture in Quarantine, these pieces will be brought to life across BBC platforms. It’s imperative that D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists are supported to carry on making brilliant work, as the constraints and continuing effects of this pandemic threaten to silence their vital creative voice.”

The new commissions are:-

  • SILENT WORLD, a short music film by Deaf musician Signkid, using rap, spoken word and Signkid’s innovative ‘sign-slang’ to creatively explore how living in a silent world has intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Hen Night, a short film by award winning theatre and screen writer/director Vici Wreford-Sinnott, inspired by the writing of award-winning journalist Frances Ryan. Jessica has just had her hen night - a last night of freedom but not in the ways she, or any of us, might have imagined.
  • Arising out of lockdown, Spectrum Sounds by Andrew Hugill, a collection of seven short pieces of music, associated with the colours of the autistic spectrum.
  • Face It, filmed comedy drama monologues by writer Miranda Walker about two women exploring how they feel about their faces in the modern swipe-right world, and the impact of wearing face masks to protect against Covid-19. Produced by Michaela Hennessy-Vass.
  • How to Thrive in 2050! 8 Tentacular Workouts for a Tantalising Future!  Film by artist Kai Syng Tan. A call for action for a more creative, equitable and neuro-fantastic future by a ‘human-octopussy’.
  • Film adapted from her one-woman show Earth to Alice, written and performed by Belfast poet and stand-up comedian Alice McCullough, about navigating the twists and turns of bipolar disorder during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium, dance theatre film by Irish playwright Shannon Yee, exploring the unique challenges for parents of newly born and young children during lockdown.
  • The Cat, The Mouse and The Sausage, an animation of a Grimm’s Brothers fairy tale by award-winning filmmaker Joel Simon.
  • Film adaptation of stage show Louder is Not Always Clearer, created by Mr and Mrs Clark and performed by Deaf artist Jonny Cotsen, an honest portrayal of the vulnerability of a Deaf man in a hearing world.
  • Complexity of Skin, a dance film co-directed, written, choreographed and performed by Matthew Gough and Krystal S. Lowe, exploring touch in periods of isolation and set in a flat during lockdown.
  • Blind-sided, a radio comedy-drama of a day in the lockdown life of blind comedian Jamie MacDonald as he leaves the familiarity of his home in Glasgow.
  • AISLE by Ellen Renton and Jess Fig, a short film combining poetry and illustration exploring the disabled experience of going to the supermarket during the pandemic.

 

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said:

“Culture and creativity have been lifelines for many of us throughout the pandemic, so we’re excited to support these commissions, which will encourage D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists to explore their experiences of lockdown, and ensure audiences can continue to enjoy even more brilliant cultural work across BBC platforms.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to partner with BBC Arts and The Space to offer three artists from Northern Ireland the opportunity to create new work as part of BBC Arts’ Culture In Quarantine initiative.  Alice McCullough, Shannon Yee and Joel Simon are hugely talented voices in the arts sector here in Northern Ireland and we’re delighted that their work will be championed on a UK-wide platform, offering a significant increase in profile for these artists.”

Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA, Department for Communities, NI Executive said:

“This is a very important project and a great opportunity to support our D/deaf disabled artists to develop professionally and create new work that can be showcased locally, nationally and internationally.”

Diane Hebb, Director of Arts Engagement, Arts Council of Wales said:

“In this extraordinary year when the impact of the pandemic has had such a disruptive and alarming impact on so many lives, particularly the lives of our most vulnerable people, it’s more important than ever to support and showcase the work of our inspirational creative artists. We are delighted to see our own Wales based artists included in this programme of sensitive and provocative work and hope that audiences across the UK will be inspired by their resilience, creativity and incredible talent.”

Iain Munro, CEO, Creative Scotland commented:

"Creative Scotland is thrilled to support this incredible range of talented artists and inspiring commissions as part of our partnership with BBC Arts and The Space, bringing the work of talented D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled artists to BBC platforms. We celebrate the way diversity of thought and a diversity of experience feeds innovation and creativity and are delighted that thanks to National lottery players, audiences will enjoy and be inspired by the wide range of stories, perspectives and experiences supported through this initiative."

Each of the commissioned artists will be assigned an Executive Producer from digital support agency The Space, in partnership with Unlimited, an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences. The Executive Producer will mentor and support the artists throughout production and delivery of their work to BBC platforms this summer.

These commissions build on the success of BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine artists’ commissioning strand, launched in April 2020 by BBC Arts and Arts Council England, which invited artists to give a creative response to the challenges of lockdown. A total of 25 commissions were produced, which achieved audiences in the millions across BBC and social platforms.

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Arts Care deliver arts training to promote positive mental health in vulnerable older people

Wednesday 12th May 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments Arts & Health , Arts and Older People

Pictured outside Bradley Manor Nursing Home are (L-R),  Jenny Elliott, CEO of Arts Care, Gillian Mason of Bradley Manor Nursing Home, who took part in the training, Grainne Kielty, Arts Care’s Artist in Residence and Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Council of N Image: Pictured outside Bradley Manor Nursing Home are (L-R), Jenny Elliott, CEO of Arts Care, Gillian Mason of Bradley Manor Nursing Home, who took part in the training, Grainne Kielty, Arts Care’s Artist in Residence and Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Council of N

Arts Care, one of the leading arts, health and well-being organisations based in Northern Ireland, has been providing an online arts training programme to healthcare workers with the aim of upskilling staff and giving them the confidence to deliver arts activities to vulnerable older people in residential care settings.  To date 150 healthcare staff have signed up to take part in the training which is funded by The National Lottery, Baring Foundation and Public Health Agency, through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Arts and Older People Programme.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Arts Care were no longer able to deliver their work in person so quickly adapted and developed an online resource, Arts Care 4U,a  jam-packed channel on YouTube featuring lots of engaging and interactive videos covering, music, singing, dancing, drawing, painting, exercise, writing, poetry, story-telling and much more.  In addition to this, Arts Care has been physically delivering Art Boxes to residential and nursing care homes across the five Health and Social Care Trust areas.  The Art Boxes are designed to complement the online resources and includes all the materials needed to enjoy taking part in the various arts activities on offer.

The arts training programme empowers healthcare workers to use both the Art Boxes and the online resource, Arts Care 4U, to bring the joy of the arts to the older people they care for.  The overall aim is for staff to use the arts as a tool to promote positive mental, emotional and physical health at a time when many residents are suffering greatly from isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic restrictions.

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.  Lorraine Calderwood, Community Arts Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how the Arts and Older People’s Programme is making a difference to the lives of older people across the region,

"Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving isolation and loneliness for older people. The Arts and Older People Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. 

The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, thus promoting positive physical and mental health.  The Arts Council is hugely proud to support this terrific training programme from Arts Care, one of 196 projects the Arts and Older People Programme has supported throughout the past 12 years.” 

Jenny Elliott, CEO and Artistic Director at Arts Care, commented,

“The Arts Training Programme has been designed and delivered by a team of professional artists as part of a response to the emergency needs of older people in residential and nursing care.  The need was very much there for continued access to arts activities during the pandemic to support their mental health and well-being.

A huge outcome as a result of the training is that healthcare staff are now integrating creativity into their everyday care practice which has had great benefits for the older people they care for.”

For further information on the work of Arts Care visit www.artscare.co.uk

To find out more about the Arts and Older People Programme visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/the-arts/participatory-arts1/arts-and-older-people

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Arts Council Survey will evaluate impact of Emergency Funding on Sector

Tuesday 11th May 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments

AVA Festival and Conference was one of 150 organisations to receive funding from the Arts Council's Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP) Image: AVA Festival and Conference was one of 150 organisations to receive funding from the Arts Council's Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is asking artists and organisations that received emergency funding in the last 12 months to complete a short online survey to evaluate its impact on the sector.

With the support of the Department for Communities, the Arts Council has invested over £26m over the past year to support artist and arts organisations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the crisis, over 3,000 grants were awarded to artists and arts organisations including arts venues, galleries, and community arts groups, as well as individual practitioners and freelance workers, whose work had been cancelled or postponed as a result of the pandemic.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development and Partnerships, commented:

“We are acutely aware of the need to monitor the impact of this funding, with a view to gathering firm evidence to support a case for future investment in the sector.”

“With this in mind, we are asking all organisations and individual artists in receipt of funding under one of our emergency COVID-19 programmes to complete a short on-line survey. It’s vital that we hear directly from artists and arts organisations if we are to build a full picture on the current stability of the sector.”

The online survey is being managed independently on behalf of the Arts Council by Social Market Research, a Northern Ireland based company with over 20 years’ experience of delivering high quality research services, locally.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete.  Artists and arts organisations in receipt of emergency funding will receive a unique link to the survey via a dedicated e-mail from Social Market Research inviting them to complete the survey.

Respondents have until the 31 May to complete their survey.

If you have any queries about any aspect of this survey, please contact Donal McDade at SMR in the first instance (02890 923362).  Alternatively, please feel free to contact the Arts Council’s Strategic Development Team at  strategy@artscouncil-ni.org.

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East Belfast community hub Walkway smiles better with Specsavers book donation

Tuesday 11th May 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

East Belfast author Glenn Patterson dips into short stories collection Stories to Make You Smile along with Walkway’s Rebekah Hamilton (right) and Lynsey Caldwell (left) from Connswater Specsavers. Image: East Belfast author Glenn Patterson dips into short stories collection Stories to Make You Smile along with Walkway’s Rebekah Hamilton (right) and Lynsey Caldwell (left) from Connswater Specsavers.

Women’s groups from Newtownards Road based Walkway Community Association are benefiting from a Specsavers ‘Stories to Make You Smile’ book donation as a follow-on from this year’s highly successful World Book Night celebration of reading and books initiative.
 

Members of Walkway’s crochet club, the Happy Hookers, a young mums and a local women’s group have received 20 copies of a collection of short stories entitled, ‘Stories to Make You Smile’ courtesy of the team at Specsavers in Connswater Shopping complex to share the joy and power of reading with each other.

The book which features uplifting tales by bestselling authors including well-known television names Richard Madeley, Jenny Éclair and Helen Lederer, was co-commissioned by Specsavers and The Reading Agency to mark this year’s 10th World Book Night extravaganza held on 23 April.

A thriving hub for local people in the Holywood Arches, Connswater and Lewis Square area of East Belfast, Walkway is looking forward to a new £1.5 million purpose built facility set to open in Spring 2022 when the local community organization marks its 30th birthday.

Walkway centre manager Rachael Davison said,

‘As a locally focused group we’re thrilled to partner and forge links with our business and retail neighbours. This book donation from Connswater Specsavers will be shared and enjoyed by members, many of whom are avid readers. We deliver an extensive of range of programmes for local people to help benefit and develop opportunities for everyone in the area.

‘Our new enlarged centre will be second to none and will enable us to support so many more families, individuals, local business people and other community groups. No doubt our Specsavers ‘Stories to Make Your Smile’ books will have a special place on the shelves in one of our chill-out rooms in the new building.

Like Walkway Community Association, Connswater Specsavers has been an integral part of the area for the past 20 years looking after the eye and hearing health of local people from across East Belfast.

Lynsey Caldwell, dispensing optician and co-owner of Specsavers in Connswater said,

‘It was a pleasure to donate these specially written books to members of Walkway Community Association. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life and allows us to delve into other worlds as well improve our ability to think, write and challenge ourselves and of course it helps our overall health and wellbeing. We look forward to seeing the new Walkway Centre when it is finished. It will certainly be a fabulous asset for local people and the locality generally.’

Established by UK wide charity The Reading Agency, World Book Night aims to bring people together and inspire others to read more. Top names involved in this year’s celebrations which included a series on livestreamed and online events and activities were broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, Remains of the Day author Kazuo Ishiguro, screenwriter and novelist David Nicholls and Labyrinth writer Kate Mosse.

East Belfast author Glenn Patterson’s latest novel Where Are We Now was one of 22 books chosen to be part of this year’s official World Book Night reading list. The book is a moving, funny and topical story about lost love and growing older, set against a backdrop of modern day Belfast. Glenn joined Walkway community officer Rebekah Hamilton and Lynsey Caldwell from Specsavers to celebrate Walkway’s literary windfall.

In Northern Ireland World Book Night was supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the MAC and Libraries NI who came together to encourage everyone to settle down and curl up with a book and enjoy the annual reading celebration. The Arts Council and the MAC gifted 160 free copies of Glenn Patterson’s featured book to community groups, book clubs and members of the public.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented,

“Experiencing the joy of reading is something that we can benefit from and this year, more than ever, reading and having a story to escape into has taken on a renewed importance in so many of our lives.

“We had a fantastic response to World Book Night in Northern Ireland and it is wonderful to see another local community group benefitting from the initiative, thanks to Specsavers.”

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Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16 May 2021

Monday 10th May 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Arts & Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 Image: Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, 10-16 May, 2021, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has rounded up just some of the many amazing arts organisations that use the arts as a tool to improve mental health and wellbeing for people across the region, supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Communities.

Discussing the value of arts upon mental health, Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Participation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“I am delighted to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of arts and culture on mental health and wellbeing during Mental Health Awareness Week.  The Arts Council’s mission is to ‘place the arts at the heart of our social, economic and creative life’ and we work to achieve this by championing, developing and investing in arts and cultural experiences that enrich people's lives.

We recognise the contribution culture and the arts can bring to a healthy society and actively encourage the artists and organisations we fund to work within this important area.  Arts and culture plays a hugely important role in helping people to stay well, recover faster, and meet major challenges facing health and social care, including mental health. 

Thanks to the Department for Communities and The National Lottery players, the Arts Council is able to support hundreds of organisations and individual artists every year who are working to improve mental health and wellbeing, by bringing great art to people of all ages, across Northern Ireland.”

Each week, The National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.  Some of the Northern Ireland arts organisations working in mental health that are supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Communities, are outlined below:

Northern Ireland Mental Health Festival
The NI Mental Health Arts Festival sparks inspiring and challenging conversations about mental health issues, fighting stigma and promoting wellbeing via active creativity.  This year’s festival will run from 10th-16th May 2021 (to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week) with a  programme of varied, vivid arts events that aim to create a platform for high-quality artwork that deals compassionately and intelligently with mental health.  As a response to the call for a Loneliness Strategy in Northern Ireland, this year’s festival will include a specially commissioned publication on the theme of 'Loneliness' which will link to artworks, soundscapes and dance pieces on the NIMHAF website.

In this video, we hear from the Arts Council’s, Head of Community Arts, Gilly Campbell, talking about the importance of the arts and mental health. https://youtu.be/Uq1Psm8xGW0  

Outburst Arts 
Outburst Arts is all about making space for exciting artists who aren't afraid to explore the highs and lows of queer experiences through work we can all relate to.  The impacts of homophobia, transphobia, exclusion and invisibility mean that LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland are six times more likely to live with depression and poor mental health. 

The arts are a brilliant antidote to the things that bring us down. When you see your experiences explored on stage, or can laugh along with someone satirising the things that oppress you, or can read a book with a character you identify with, that can mean everything. Folks who come to Outburst often tell us that they are thinking about things they see and experience at the festival weeks and even months later. Visibility matters, storytelling matters, seeing your life experience given attention and respect in all its complexity and nuance really matters. That's what the arts does for queer people. It is vital, expansive and joyful. Visit www.outburstarts.com to learn more about this impressive organisation. 

Arts Care
Arts Care, one of the leading arts, health and well-being organisations based in Northern Ireland, has been providing an online arts training programme to nurses and healthcare workers, with the aim of upskilling staff and giving them the confidence to deliver arts activities to vulnerable older people in residential care settings.  To date 150 healthcare staff have signed up to take part in the training which is funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Arts & Older People Programme.  

The arts training programme empowers healthcare workers to use both the Art Boxes and the online resource, Arts Care 4U, to bring the joy of the arts to the older people they care for.  The overall aim is for staff to use the arts as a tool to promote positive mental, emotional and physical health at a time when many residents are suffering greatly from isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic restrictions.  This is just one example of the great work that Arts Care do.  Visit www.artscare.co.uk and Arts Care 4U - YouTube to discover more about this remarkable organisation that do such impactful work. 

Kids in Control (KIC)
KIC firmly believe that Art is about everything and for everyone.  KIC is a professional theatre company that values children and young people of all abilities and backgrounds and is the foremost professional physical theatre company working with young people in Northern Ireland. They are profoundly inclusive and cut through traditional divisions of physical and learning ability, religion and social background.  Skill sharing and empathy between participants are the cornerstones of KIC’s artistic practice, which ensures diversity, tolerance and creative generosity among all of their participants.

For more information of this terrific organisation visit www.kidsincontrol.co.uk

You can watch the film, PILLS, on Belfast Live at https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/belfast-youth-group-win-ea-20431744

ArtsEkta
ArtEkta is a multi-award winning cultural organisation that works to develop intercultural relationships at the heart of the community and is home to the Belfast Mela – the largest celebration of cultural diversity on the island of Ireland.  The brainchild of Indian-native Nisha Tandon, ArtsEkta was founded in 2006 on the principles of inclusivity, creativity and openness in all aspects of society – Ekta means ‘uniting’ in the Indian language.  Bringing together communities of Belfast and beyond, they create projects that inspire audiences to engage with the diversity, tastes, rhythms and sights that make up the multicultural life of Northern Ireland.

Arts Ekta’s recent, Seasons of Wonder, project explored the seasons of nature through a series of arts and crafts workshops to promote mindfulness, positive mental health and wellbeing among women.  Participants were aged between22-65 and included the Global Crescents Women’s Group and the South Belfast Indian Women’s Group in partnership with Belfast Alternatives. These were all women who had to remain at home during the pandemic, either due to self-isolating, being furloughed from work or due to family commitments.  Together they worked with artists online to enhance their connection to nature, recall special memories, dates and celebrations within various seasons, and created new artworks in stained glass and ceramics that represented each season.

Learn more about ArtsEkta at www.artsekta.org.uk 

Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA)
GSCA is a community arts organisation aiming to provide direct access to the arts within disadvantaged communities in the Greater Shantallow area of Derry-Londonderry.  They work with people of all in ages throughout the community.  One of their recent mental health video projects, 13 Reasons to Not, looked at the issue of youth suicide.  It was created at their arts centre, Studio 2, and is the work of their young volunteers.  The video represents the young participants’ response to suicide, the surrounding issues and where support can be obtained throughout the city.  To learn more about the important and impressive work of GSCA visit www.studio2derry.com

Watch the powerful video, 13 Reasons to Not, at https://youtu.be/tLnkIocoEJk

Armstrong Storytelling
Armstrong Storytelling Trust is a current recipient of the Arts Council’s Arts & Older People’s Programme which aims to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in older people through engagement with the arts. 

Their storytelling project aims to bring the traditional art of storytelling, music and reminiscence sessions to older people, aged 70+, across Northern Ireland who are experiencing dementia and isolation.  It is anticipated that Armstrong Storytelling will have delivered 40 sessions to individuals in their own homes digitally through Zoom, between January and May 2021.  Armstrong Storytelling have created strong working partnerships with Dementia NI, DEED (Dementia, Engaged and Empowered Derry) and Alzheimer’s Society to identify suitable participants.

The project is led by Liz Weir, who is also the Storyteller in Residence at Libraries NI.  Why not take some time out from your busy day to enjoy listening to Liz telling a story here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4-YvYrn9HM

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Play Resource Warehouse to merge with Bryson

Thursday 6th May 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Community Arts

Bryson Charity Group Image: Bryson Charity Group

Two leading local charities, Bryson and Play Resource Warehouse, have announced they are to merge.

The news, which has been welcomed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was released jointly by both charities today.

Bryson Chief Executive, Shane Logan, said the merger had the potential to have a dramatic impact on the work of both organisations as there were strong synergies and complementarity between them.

Play Resource Warehouse has been in operation for 38 years and, as one of the largest and most well-used resource centres in the UK and Ireland, benefits more than 300,000 people each year, mostly children and young people.

It plays an important role in the re-purposing of non-toxic waste materials from large manufacturers, shops, offices and warehouses throughout Northern Ireland that are subsequently used in creative activities and educational projects.

He continued,

A core part of Play Resource’s work is focused on increasing young people’s self-esteem, confidence, creative and intellectual abilities as well as raising levels of environmental awareness by re-using non-toxic waste materials in an imaginative and artistic way.  We are very much looking forward to working together to fulfil the potential of so many more of our children, young people and community groups, whilst growing their appreciation of environmental stewardship through the re-purposing of non-toxic waste.

Matt Flenley, Chair of Play Resource described the coming together of the two charities as a perfect fit. The combined strengths would provide Play Resource with a fantastic opportunity to thrive and grow.

By linking our expertise we will be able to reach and benefit so many more people.  Bryson has a comprehensive infrastructure and strong financial base. It has been doing excellent charitable work for more than a century. I and my fellow Trustees are confident that this new collaboration will pave the way for a dynamic new era for both parties. Our name will remain unchanged and our multitude of loyal members can enjoy business as usual. An exciting future lies ahead, and we look forward to bringing Play Resource’s inspiring work to more and more communities across NI.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcome this merger between Play Resource Warehouse and Bryson.  The merger will ensure greater sustainability and growth for the organisation and most importantly, it will provide more positive impact for its beneficiaries.  We are pleased to see an organisation take such measures to both strengthen its operations and vision, as well as provide enhanced opportunities for its members and the general public.  Well done to all involved.

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National Lottery Project Funding Opens for Applications

Tuesday 4th May 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

Last year C21 Theatre Company received Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Project funding for their ‘Through the Glass’ Reminiscence project. Image: Last year C21 Theatre Company received Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Project funding for their ‘Through the Glass’ Reminiscence project.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is now inviting applications to its National Lottery Project Funding Programme. The annual programme is designed to support organisations to develop and deliver future arts projects.

Successful applicants will create arts projects which contribute to the growth of arts in the community for new and existing audiences and which reflect the diversity of Northern Ireland’s society and culture.

The minimum grant available under this programme is normally £10,001 and the maximum grant available will be £50,000. Last year awards were presented to organisations working across all areas of the arts including, drama, dance, community arts, literature and music.

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

“The National Lottery is playing a critical role in supporting people, projects and communities during these challenging times and thanks to money raised for good causes from National Lottery players, the Arts Council is able to open this fund to support high quality arts programming right across Northern Ireland.

“ACNI encourages applications from under-represented groups, including those from black and ethnic minority (BAME) communities and projects that are pertinent to those communities.”

Only projects that take place between 9 July 2021 and 30 June 2022 are eligible for the scheme.  Applicants will need to find a minimum of 10% partnership funding from non-lottery, non-Arts Council sources. For statutory bodies the minimum partnership funding needed is 50% of the costs.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon, Tuesday 1st June, 2021. Applicants are advised to consult the programme Guidance Notes, Introduction Notes and Commitment statements before submitting their application. You must apply using the Arts Council’s online system. The Arts Council will not accept applications in hard copy or by email.

Full details of the programme, eligibility and what you can apply for can be found on the Project Funding Programme webpage at: http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/lottery-project-funding-2021-2022

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Duncairn’s exciting new series of online classes, supported by The National Lottery

Friday 30th April 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments Community Arts

Pictured launching the new programme is, Ray Giffen, Creative Director at the Duncairn with printmaker, Lucy Turner. Image: Pictured launching the new programme is, Ray Giffen, Creative Director at the Duncairn with printmaker, Lucy Turner.

The Duncairn arts centre in north Belfast, has launched their latest programme of workshops and classes, including some that are free for families, supported by public and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play the traditional Celtic harp or make beautiful pictures using felt, now’s your chance as the Duncairn releases details of their latest programme of participatory workshops and classes. 

Rolling out over May and June, the Duncairn participatory programme offers a wide range of creative activities with all levels, from beginner to advanced, catered for.  As they await a date for re-opening, all classes will be delivered via Zoom so you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home.

Workshops include printmaking with artist, Lucy Turner, and new this year is the beautiful art of Wycinanki (decorative paper cutting) with Kasia Kochanska.  You can also craft the skills needed to write your own short play with Denis Burke or join harpist, Alannah Thornburgh, known to many as the enchanting harpist from the band, Alfi, as she leads an four-week course and complimentary masterclass in traditional Celtic harp.

Families will enjoy making hand puppets for little ones or join the multi award-winning children’s theatre company, Cahoots NI, for their interactive, online magical show, The University of Wonder and Imagination.  Both of these events are free to access but tickets are limited and registration on the Duncairn’s website is essential. 

Ray Giffen, Creative Director, the Duncairn, said,

“The Duncairn is very much invested in engagement with the local community and our participatory programmes are always really popular.  With restrictions still in place at the moment, we have designed our new programme for online delivery and have assembled a wonderful collection of artists to lead the classes.  There’s never been a better time to learn something new or revisit an old passion, so don’t miss out!”

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.  Lizzie Devlin, Community Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“Thanks to National Lottery players, the Duncairn has developed a terrific new programme of classes which can be easily accessed online.  Arts and creativity is for everyone and has enormous benefits for our wellbeing, so I’m particularly delighted to see some free workshops included for families to enjoy.  The Duncairn’s participatory programme offers high-quality creative engagement and I would encourage everyone to get involved and enjoy!”   

To find out more and book classes, visit www.theduncairn.com

 

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POETRY DAY IRELAND 2021

Thursday 29th April 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments Literature

Poetry Day Ireland 2021 Image: Poetry Day Ireland 2021

Today, Thursday 29th April, marks the seventh annual Poetry Day Ireland– a day to show that the power of poetry can bring us together even though we may be apart.

The day-long annual celebration of the crafted word, spoken and written, is presented by Poetry Ireland and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and An Chomhairle Ealaíon, in partnership with poetry lovers the length and breadth of the island. This year’s hopeful theme is ‘New Directions: Maps and Journeys’, thinking about the paths we’ve taken and looking forward to being able to plan and travel further afield soon.

In line with current restrictions, everyone is encouraged to take part in this year’s celebrations online from the safety of their own home. Poetry Day Ireland has details of events happening across the country listed on its website, simply search for events in your local area or mark the day in your own way by taking five minutes to sit and enjoy a poem by yourself.

Niamh O’Donnell, Director of Poetry Ireland, said that the past year has shown us just how undeniably powerful poetry is and how it can sustain us through difficult times.

“This year, Poetry Day Ireland takes place again as a virtual festival, and we’re delighted it gives everyone, no matter where they are, the opportunity to participate and engage with others.

“Poetry Day offers an opportunity whether online or not, to take a moment to enjoy, appreciate and celebrate poetry. Our theme this year of ‘New Directions: Maps and Journeys’ is a hopeful one as we can review the paths we’ve taken and we can finally look forward to being able to plan travelling further afield again, in reality or in our imaginations.”

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

“This past year more, perhaps more than ever, poetry and literature have taken on a renewed importance in our lives, to offer words of comfort, as well as a place to escape from it all.

“Poetry Day Ireland is an opportunity to celebrate this important artform, to rediscover some much loved favourites and now, with hope of better days ahead, the perfect time to begin to explore new writing.”

Poetry Ireland will be releasing Pocket Poems, to read, download and keep, via social media and at poetryday.ie. They will also be sharing short videos of well-known faces reading their favourite poems on social media.

Northern Ireland events happening today include:

A Suitcase of Poetry

For #PoetryDayIreland2021, poets from all over the world living in Ireland and/or connected to Ireland will unpack their well-travelled suitcases and share their poems with us. 'A Suitcase of Poetry', is a special showcase event of poetry and music, on Thursday 29 April at 6.00 pm.

Dr Lucy Collins will be introducing the event and bringing some sparkle to the proceedings. Organised by Fióna Bolger, Ayeshah Émon and Viviana Fiorentino, promoted by Poetry Ireland, 'A Suitcase of Poetry' celebrates the diversity of Ireland and poetry as a way of mapping a person's place of shelter. The poets will bring you to unexpected places, beyond the borders, barriers and travel restrictions of the present moment to the warmth and richness of many cultures, lands, languages, and music.
Join the free Facebook Live session, 2021, 1800-19:30 GMT at https://www.facebook.com/asuitcaseofpoetry

Songs to stay awake to: Launch of poetry based album by Una Lee

Una Lee's album, Songs to Stay Awake To, showcases nine songs, each matching music to a poem by one of a diverse group of poets chosen from an open call with the support of Quotidian- Word on the Street, a Northern Ireland based arts production company dedicated to putting literature, especially poetry into public spaces.
In the manner of spoken-song, Lee uses a mixture of spoken and sung voice, and many in-between inflections and combinations to musicalise the poems. Songs from this album have been featured on BBC Radio 3 and podcasts, and as part of Poetry Day Ireland 20

The poems from the project engage with themes ranging from personal memory, space, and cycles of power structures, attempting to point towards things that keep us up at night. Involved poets are Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, Chris Murray, Darren Donohue, David Butler, Gabriel Rosenstock, Lind Grant-Oyeye, Liska Pleines, Siobhan Campbell and Maria McManus.

Event begins at 8pm Thursday 6th May. Register on Eventbrite and you’ll be sent a Zoom link closer to the event https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/songs-to-stay-awake-to-launch-of-poetry-based-album-by-una-lee-tickets-150031455121

Discovering Freda Laughton, 1907-1995

This Zoom event will dive into the thrilling archive of the poet Freda Laughton. Discover new poems, collections and diaries in the presence of Laughton's family.
The event will be a mirror of Poetry Ireland’s archival discovery process, and Laughton's family will offer exciting insights that bring the archive to life and extend our reading of Laughton's poetry. Laughton, whose death date went unknown until just last year, and whose poetry responds to both WWII and to the Troubles, stands out as a unique poetic voice whose work traverses these two conflicts.

This online event will be held on Zoom. Visit the PoetryIreland.ie for further details.

Lime Square Poets featuring Elizabeth McGeown

To mark Poetry Day Ireland 2021, the Lime Street poets in Cork are hosting a special zoom session featuring Elizabeth McGeown, followed by an open mic session.

Elizabeth McGeown is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by iambapoet and has featured in publications including Banshee, Abridged, Boyne Berries, The Blue Nib and Riggwelter. As a spoken word artist she is the winner of the 2019 Cursed Murphy Spoken Word Prize, the 2019 Cuirt Literary Festival Spoken Word Platform, an All-Ulster Poetry Slam champion, has been a finalist in the All-Ireland Poetry Slam, and represented Northern Ireland at the 2019 Hammer & Tongue UK Slam Finals in the Royal Albert Hall. She has received funding from University of Atypical, Arts Council Northern Ireland and The National Lottery to work on her first pamphlet and full-length spoken word show.

For further details and for the Zoom link, please visit the Lime Street Poets Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/437558500682820. Event begins at 7.45pm.

Poetry Day Ireland with the QUB MA in Poetry

Students of the MA in Poetry at QUB present new work in an online reading. Featuring poetry by Caitlin Phenix, Rachel Mahwinney, John Reid, Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh, Madeline Kinkead, Leah Taylor, Matthew Rice, Saakshi Patel, Jamie Field, Elizabeth McIntosh and Tiegan Johnston.
Book free tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/poetry-day-ireland-with-the-qub-ma-in-poetry-tickets-146421587911

Poetry Cacheing

Camphill Community Glencraig, Holywood, Co Down, is a 110 acre estate providing support to children and adults with complex needs.  For Poetry Day Ireland, the Art and Craft Workshop have prepared a Poetry Cacheing Event - directions and clues will be given to instruct the residents and their helpers to locate specific features in the estate and uncover poems cached there relating to that place. Old maps with poetry quotes as guides will provide a helping breadcrumbed trail. This event won't be open to the public but look out for photos on social media.

Let us know how you are marking the day at home yourself using #PoetryDayIRL and tag @ArtsCouncilNI

Full programme details can be found at poetryday.ie

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Community Groups gifted free books in celebration of World Book Night 2021

Friday 23rd April 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is Elisha Gormley from the MAC and Gillian Carr and Aisling Doherty from Action Mental Health, one of the community groups to benefit here from the scheme. Image: Pictured is Elisha Gormley from the MAC and Gillian Carr and Aisling Doherty from Action Mental Health, one of the community groups to benefit here from the scheme.

The MAC, in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, has gifted 110 books to community groups in celebration of World Book Night 2021 which takes place today, Friday 23rd April 2021.

The UK-wide annual celebration of reading is organised by The Reading Agency and this year’s theme is ‘Books to Make You Smile’. To mark its 10th anniversary, World Book Night is donating millions of books to organisations and individuals across the country, encouraging people to reconnect with the written word and share the pleasure of reading.

Belfast author, Glenn Patterson’s latest novel Where Are We Now? is one of 22 books on the official World Book Night reading list this year and the MAC is working with its community partners to distribute copies of the book to groups across Northern Ireland.

Elisha Gormley from the MAC, said,

“At the MAC, we believe that the arts have the power to change lives, shift perspective and cultivate better mental and emotional wellbeing. On World Book Night 2021 we are celebrating the power of literature, with ACNI and Libraries NI, by delivering copies of Glenn Patterson's fantastic book, Where Are We Now?, to our local communities and book groups. Working with our Associate Partners, including Action Mental Health and The Rainbow Project, we hope Glenn's story, which speaks to the experiences of many Northern Irish people, will spark imaginations and in reading together, foster better wellbeing.”

Among the groups which the MAC is gifting copies to is Action Mental Health.

Gillian Carr from Action Mental Health, commented,

“We want to say a huge thank you for the very kind donation. It will make a huge impact to so many of our clients who are isolated and alone during lockdown. Having a good book to read will help to make their day more enjoyable and we will also be using it for discussion at our book clubs. The donated books have been shared across several Action Mental Health New Horizons services including Fermanagh, Foyle, Belfast, Newtownards, Antrim, and Downpatrick. Thank you to the MAC for all they do to support AMH Services and our clients.”

Aisling Doherty from Action Mental Health continued:

“Our Book Club members are thrilled to receive copies of Glenn Patterson’s new novel and are so looking forward to reading it. Reading forms such a huge part of mental health recovery. It is a way of connecting with others even though we have had to be physically disconnected during recent lockdowns. Thank you to the MAC, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Libraries NI.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, thanks to The Reading Agency, has also gifted books to reading groups and members of the public, while Libraries NI have made copies of Where Are We Now? available in its branches across Northern Ireland for readers to borrow through its Book and Collect service.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, said,

“World Book Night is all about celebrating the joy of reading and the many benefits that it brings into our lives - whether that’s through trying something brand new or rediscovering an old favourite.

“All of the books chosen for this year’s official World Book Night reading list are based around the theme of Books To Make You Smile and we are very pleased to see a book from Northern Ireland writer Glenn Patterson – one of our most celebrated contemporary authors - included as a recommended read.

“This is a fantastic initiative and we are delighted that so many community groups here will benefit from it through free books.  We’d encourage everyone to get involved in tonight’s celebrations, whether that’s taking time out to spend with a good book or reading together as a family.”

Celebrations on World Book Night will include a virtual event hosted by The British Library, featuring Nobel Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Kate Mosse, bestselling author of The City of Tears and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (6-7pm). Ishiguro, who was a World Book Night author in 2012, will be discussing his new novel Klara and the Sun as well as the wider impact of his writing on readers.

The Reading Agency is also inviting the whole nation to join in #ReadingHour (7-8pm), when everyone is encouraged to read, in any format they want, wherever they like.

Over the last ten years, The Reading Agency has distributed over 2,800,000 books to help spread the joy of reading, with 245 titles by 205 authors distributed by over 90,000 volunteers and organisations across the UK.

To mark its 10th anniversary this year World Book Night will be hosting a number of virtual events, book giveaways, online activities and promotions, calling for the whole nation to celebrate reading for pleasure. To find out more go to www.artscouncil-ni.org or visit the World Book Night website https://worldbooknight.org/

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Latest artists to receive support from PRS Foundation’s PPL Momentum Music Fund

Thursday 22nd April 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

PPL Momentum Music Fund Image: PPL Momentum Music Fund

PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, together with PPL, Creative Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland and Spotify reveal the next artists who will receive support from the pioneering PPL Momentum Music Fund.

The artists, who have been selected by a network of industry experts, are:

Abi Sampa – recording and marketing
Arborist – recording
Death of Guitar Pop – marketing
GOAT GIRL – touring and marketing
Molly Payton – recording
Mystry – recording, marketing and touring
Santino Le Saint – marketing
Sŵnami – recording, marketing and promotion
Yard Act – recording and promotion


PPL Momentum supported Sŵnami said, “As a band, we are chuffed to receive PPL Momentum support from PRS Foundation. It will help us realise our aims and goals and push our music further than ever before.”

Kwame Safo, Grants & Programmes Manager (Industry Funds) at PRS Foundation said: “During these incredibly uncertain times it has become more important than ever that talented UK based music creators at crucial tipping points still have access to this type of vital and timely support to progress their careers. Congratulations to everyone that has been supported in this latest round.”

Sarah Mitchell, Director of Membership and Communications at PPL said: “In 2020 the PPL Momentum Fund helped 55 acts continue to develop their careers during an extremely challenging time for the industry. Paying out an average of just under £10,000 to each act, the fund did a great job of adapting its support to the needs of those building their careers in music. This year will be no different. PPL is proud to continue offering this funding opportunity to artists at a tipping point in their careers and we wish the latest recipients all the best for the future.”

Jo Wright, Music Officer , Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to partner with PRS Foundation on PPL Momentum Music Fund, a vital initiative which enables our artists to take that all important next step in the development of their professional music careers.  We are committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop and this funding programme offers artists not only the opportunity to connect with the UK-wide industry, but also to showcase the tremendous talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland on an international stage.  Congratulations to all the artists taking part in this round and to Northern Ireland’s, Mark McCambridge (Arborist), who will benefit greatly from this opportunity to record his new album.”

The next deadline to apply for PPL Momentum support is 24th May 2021 at 6pm.  The application portal is open for application submissions now and can be accessed via prsfoundation.com.

Managed by PRS Foundation, the PPL Momentum Music Fund awards grants of £5,000-£15,000 using funds from PRS Foundation, PPL, Creative Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland. Spotify, the official digital partner on the fund, contributes additional funding and a reward package containing exciting promotional opportunities and a close working relationship between Momentum artists and the Spotify team.

PPL became headline sponsors of the Momentum Music Fund in February 2020. Since then 55 talented music creators at tipping points in their careers have received this vital support to break through to the next level. This type of support is crucial for both music creators’ careers and the wider industry as the 5 Years of Momentum Report (2013-18) found the fund had generated over £18m for the UK music industry and UK economy.

PRS Foundation and Arts Council England initiated The Momentum Music Fund in 2013. Arts Council England originally established the need for this specific fund and supported the programme from 2013-18.

For a full rundown of all the artists supported so far see: http://prsfoundation.com/funding/momentum-music-fund/momentum-artists.

Listen to the latest PPL Momentum Music Fund supported artists on the Spotify Momentum playlist here.

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The National Lottery’s UK campaign marks Earth Day with Environmental Arts Project by NI artist

Thursday 22nd April 2021 at 8am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Robin Price, Air of the Anthropocene Image: Robin Price, Air of the Anthropocene

The National Lottery is encouraging the public to learn how they can be greener following recent research that found 7 in 10 of us believe we aren’t doing enough to protect the environment.  To highlight this, the National Lottery and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are showcasing the work of NI artist, Robin Price, this Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd as part of the week-long campaign.

Robin’s amazing photographic work shows us actual environmental pollution, Air of the Anthropocene. It is an on-going National Lottery supported documentary project using a custom built LED light painter that translates particulate pollution levels into the density of light dots in a long exposure photograph.  The effect is to illuminate the pollution, shedding light on the invisible particles around us in the air. Photography for the project has been taken in cities across the world including the UK, Ireland, India, Mexico and Africa. 

The project has been used to raise awareness of growing pollution levels in East Africa and to help advocate for positive change to local legislators in Addis Ababa.  Air of the Anthropocene is currently being re-worked into a toolkit for schools to help effect positive change through image based campaigning.

Since 2011, The National Lottery has invested more than £2.2bn in green projects and initiatives across heritage, art, community and sport. Everything from community groups preserving natural habitats to art installations educating young people on climate change.

Artist and creator of Air of the Anthropocene, Robin Price, commented,

“Various measurements of air pollution improved in a lot of cities worldwide under the COVID-19 lockdowns. While as a lifestyle lockdown is clearly unsustainable what it demonstrated was that co-ordinated efforts by governments really can achieve positive change. We should keep that in mind as we slowly start to come back out into the world.”

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 

“This Arts Council of Northern is hugely proud to support this tremendous photographic project from artist Robin Price through The National Lottery.  The project not only raises awareness of the growing pollution problem in the world but it also creates open discussion for potential government backed interventions.  We are also delighted to see that the project is being reworked into a toolkit for young people in schools, a terrific legacy!

“The National Lottery has given a staggering amount of funding to help communities at a local and regional level tackle climate change and it’s thanks to National Lottery players- who raise £30 million a week for good causes- that this work can happen.  If we do want to make the future a greener- and greater- place for future generations, we do really need to start changing our behaviour today.”

The National Lottery is encouraging the public to make a vital contribution to the future of our planet by making a #PlanetaryPromise on social media all this week. The #PlanetaryPromise is a chance for you to do your bit for the environment by making a conscious commitment to either start or stop something that could be helping or harming our planet. The Arts Council has pledged support for The National Lottery’s #PlanetaryPromise, to support the journey to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To learn more about what type of promise you can make, comedian and podcast star Rosie Ramsay met with some of the projects and organisations that have received National Lottery funding towards green initiatives over the last 10 years. The series of films can be viewed at @lottogoodcauses on Instagram and Twitter.

 

 

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Almost 70% admit they are not doing enough to protect the environment

Monday 19th April 2021 at 9am 0 Comments

Since 2011, The National Lottery has invested more than £2.2bn in green projects and initiatives across heritage, art, community and sport. Image: Since 2011, The National Lottery has invested more than £2.2bn in green projects and initiatives across heritage, art, community and sport.

Naturalist and environmental campaigner Chris Packham is encouraging the public to learn how they can be greener, following research published today from the National Lottery that has found 7 in 10 of us believe we aren’t doing enough to protect the environment.

The pandemic and working from home haven’t helped the situation with so many of us being stuck indoors, we are turning to technology for entertainment which in turn is having a negative impact on the environment. A total of 73% admit to using more electricity due to increased watching of TV and using computers, while a third (34%) said they have the heating on more throughout the day than ever before.

Despite these stats, almost half (47%) of those surveyed are confident that the world will be a greener place for future generations to grow up in. Many admitted that after lockdown they will change their habits for the better with walking more (40%) topping the list, followed by using public transport over the car and holidaying locally coming in joint second (27%).

Since 2011, The National Lottery has invested more than £2.2bn in green projects and initiatives across heritage, art, community and sport. Everything from community groups preserving natural habitats to art installations educating young people on climate change.

Chris Packham, said: “It’s good that the public is being so honest about not doing enough to be environmentally friendly but it does surprise me the figure is so high, especially when it’s so easy to be green- it starts in our own homes and with our own behaviour.

‘The National Lottery has given a staggering amount of funding to help communities at a local and regional level to tackle climate change and its thanks to National Lottery players- who raise £30 million a week for good causes- that this work can happen.

‘If we do want to make the future a greener- and greater- place for future generations, we do really need to start changing our behaviour today.’

The National Lottery is encouraging the public to make a vital contribution to the future of our planet by making a #PlanetaryPromise on social media between Monday 19th April – 23rd April. The #PlanetaryPromise is a chance for you to do your bit for the environment by making a conscious commitment to either start or stop something that could be helping or harming our planet.

To learn more about what type of promise you can make, comedian and podcast star Rosie Ramsay met with some of the projects and organisations that have received National Lottery funding towards green initiatives over the last 10 years. The series of films will be released every day throughout the week of 19th April on Rosie’s social media channels as well as through @lottogoodcauses on Instagram and Twitter.

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Belfast TradFest presents Traditional Music Postcards from Belfast

Wednesday 14th April 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Martin and Christine Dowling Image: Martin and Christine Dowling

Belfast TradFest launched a series of Traditional Music Postcards from Belfast on Tuesday 13th April, and will release one a week on Facebook /Vimeo / You Tube until the 1st of June.

Shining a spotlight on some local musical heroes as they perform in some of Belfast’s most iconic cultural locations, we get a glimpse into the musical wallpaper and the curious world of traditional music in this city, a place of smoky entries, dusky pubs and vibrant sessions.

Belfast TradFest Operations Director Patricia Murray says

“We had hoped to run a winter festival this year and when it became apparent that it wasn’t possible, we set about trying to find a way to create something during lockdown that would leave a positive legacy for the city and showcase the strength in depth we have here, in terms of traditional musicians and the music scene in general.”

Giving a gritty and colourful insight into the sometimes-hidden world of traditional music, in Ireland’s second city, this series imbibes the spirit of Belfast's raw bar, with solo performances and duets from local musicians, as they describe their traditional music journey through locations, stories, music and song.
 
Artistic Director Dónal O’Connor adds

“We wanted to take a snapshot in time of some of the characters and stories in Belfast’s traditional music community and to share their brilliance with others around the world and for generations to come.” He adds “We sometimes take for granted the cultural wealth we’re surrounded by, and I think these postcards are a nice way to reflect all that is good about the vibrant and organic community of traditional musicians that add to the fabric of this city.”

In a city where the great poet Ciaran Carson once said, ‘The same tune should never be played the same way twice’, this eclectic series features;

13/04/2021 - Martin & Christine Dowling - Fiddle & Flute 
20/04/2021 - Harry Bradley - Flute
27/04/2021 - Méabh Meir - Traditional Singing
04/05/2021 - Francis McIlduff - Uilleann Pipes
11/05/2021 - Caoimhe Ní Chathail - Singing
18/05/2021 - Conor Caldwell – Fiddle 
25/05/2021 - Willie Hill – Fife & Drum
01/06/2021 - Úna Monaghan – Harp

Martin and Christine Dowling, both originally from Chicago, have been playing music together since the early 1980s, and have lived in Belfast since 1994.  Christine is a singer and flute player, whose first influences were Tara Diamond and P.J. Crotty at Scoil Samraidh Willie Clancy in County Clare. Martin’s early fiddle playing was guided by the example of great Chicago players Johnny McGreevy and Liz Carroll.  As a duet, Martin and Christine gravitated towards the musicians, past and present, around Martin’s mother’s home village of Gurteen, in South Sligo, where the flute and fiddle combination predominates.   As the years passed, musical influences from north Leitrim, Fermanagh, and Donegal have mixed in to their style, and they have thrived in the vibrant scene in Belfast, home to a swarm of great fluterers, pipers, and fiddlers.  Both are deeply involved in traditional music education, serving on the management committee and as instructors for BelfastTrad Traditional Music Society (www.belfasttrad.com), and Martin as a lecturer in Irish Traditional Music in Queen’s University of Belfast (2007-2015), and teacher at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy (since 1998).

Harry Bradley is from the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast. He has travelled extensively in Ireland and overseas both as a flute teacher and as a performer with groups such as Cran, Altan and The Taproom Trio. His distinctive rhythmic playing style is influenced by early recordings of Irish music, and by the great flute players of counties Galway, Sligo and Leitrim. In 2014 he received the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Musician of the Year award for his contribution to traditional music.

Méabh Meir is a traditional singer and member of four-part harmony traditional vocal group Landless. Her interest in traditional song has been inspired and nurtured by family, friends, and singers across Ireland and the U.K. She is also a member of HIVE choir and co-founder of Belfast Singing Circle.

Francis McIlduff is one of the legendary McPeake family from Belfast, and like the others was exposed to traditional Irish music from an early age. He debuted with the family band Clann McPeake, and since then has gone to play in a variety of outfits including Alias Ron Kavana, Afterhours, Sin É and At First Light. He has also guested with traditional supergroup, Lunasa, performed with Michael McGoldrick and is in great demand as a session musician across Europe. The flair for piping running through his family has certainly not passed him by, Francis also plays whistles, guitar, bodhrán and other percussion. He recently launched his first solo album 'Theodore Street'.

Caoimhe Ní Chathail is a singer, born and raised in west Belfast. She is also a broadcaster of the weekly traditional music show Blas Ceoil on BBC Radio Ulster.  Inspired by her trips to the Donegal Gaeltacht she performs Irish language songs and in January 2020 released an album with the band Ériu, Maidin Fhómhair.

Conor Caldwell is a fiddler, researcher and teacher of traditional music. Born in Belfast he has spent many years studying and learning the music of southwest Donegal where he served his time with some of the masters of the tradition including James Byrne and Danny Meehan. Conor has formed a formidable duet partnership with his friend Danny Diamond and also performed for more than a decade with the group Craobh Rua. In the last number of years, he has worked closely with Ray Giffen at Belfast's Duncairn Centre where he has helped to programme various concert series including The Duncairn Cabaret and Club 100. Conor also works in broadcast media and has contributed research and performances to more than a dozen television series across BBC NI's, TG4's and RTÉ's outputs. Also, an experienced teacher of traditional music at third-level, schools and community levels, Conor's research inspired performance carves out a unique space in the traditional music world, bridging the gaps between today's repertoire and those of bygone eras.

Willie Hill is originally from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, his interest in music began in the local silver band. Having studied trumpet at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music he played with a number of Scottish Championship section bands. He began a teaching career in music, where he spent 35 years as music teacher. Willie was a member of the 55th Old Boys Band, Belfast for many years and was appointed as the conductor of Ballyduff Silver Band in 1987 where he has had a very successful period achieving many winning performances over the years, the latest being the Festival of Brass in Queen's University, Belfast. In 2008 he became conductor of the Murley Silver Band from Fivemiletown, leading them to NIBA Championships and to represent N Ireland at the European Brass Band Championships in Belgium and France. Willie continues to teach Lambeg Drum, Fife and Tin Whistle with the Ulster Scots Agency and also as Instructor with Carrickfergus Drumming Club.

Úna Monaghan is a harper, composer, researcher and sound engineer from Belfast. Her recent work has combined traditional music with bronze sculpture, sound art and movement sensors. She performs with harp and electronics, and released an album of her compositions, named “For” in 2018. She collaborates, improvises and performs with poets, visual artists, computers, writers, musicians, and others. In 2019 she received the inaugural Liam O’Flynn Award from the Arts Council of Ireland and the National Concert Hall Dublin, and in 2020 a BAN BAM award from Moving On Music and Improvised Music Company.

This project was made possible with funding from Arts Council NI’s Organisations Emergency Programme.

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Digital Arts Studios announces new Future Labs programme of workshops to upskill artists

Wednesday 14th April 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music , Film & TV , Visual Arts

Composer and sound artist Aidan Deery presents 'Field Recording Theory and Practice' as part of Future Labs from Digital Arts Studios. Image: Composer and sound artist Aidan Deery presents 'Field Recording Theory and Practice' as part of Future Labs from Digital Arts Studios.

Digital Arts Studios (DAS) has announced an innovative new series of video workshops which will help to upskill everyone from musicians and filmmakers, to sound artists, sculptors, illustrators and animators.

Now in its third year, Future Labs is a creative programme that provides training and technical support for artists who wish to experiment with new and emerging technologies, as well as to enhance their skills with more commonly used video and audio equipment and software.

Richard Davis, DAS Creative Technician and Future Labs Programmer said:

“With digital technologies evolving at such speed, it’s so important for artists to upskill in order to broaden their practice and help them to create and generate new work, especially during the pandemic.

Future Labs is not just for digital artists, it’s open to anyone working across a wide range of art forms, who would like some help and support with exploring various digital technologies, equipment and software to benefit themselves and their work.

This new online collection of workshops is geared towards those who want to learn more about sound recording and editing, animation and 3D modelling, streaming live video, how to get started in podcasting, projection mapping, creating interactive installations and how to best use online platforms for promoting creative work.”

The themes of this year’s Future Labs workshops include: taking your illustrations into new 2D and 3D dimensions with artist and illustrator Will Scobie; creating unique, site-specific, sound walks with artist and QUB lecturer John D’Arcy and learning to use SonoBus, an app for streaming high-quality, low-latency peer-to-peer audio between devices over the internet, with musician Adam Pultz-Melbye.

Performing artists can learn how to create interactive installations for their work using Max/MSP software with artist Richard Davis and sound artists can learn the art of fIeld recording with composer and sound artist Aidan Deery.

Access to each of the six Future Labs workshops costs £5 for 30 days, with all proceeds going to fund the work of Digital Arts Studios.

In addition to the video workshops, Future Labs has also launched a mini podcast where DAS Creative Technician, Richard Davis, chats to each of the workshop facilitators about their content, their own artistic practice and their experiences working throughout the pandemic.  Listen to our podcast on Anchor.fm or Spotify.

For further information on all Future Labs workshops, visit digitalartsstudios.com/events

Digital Arts Studios is kindly supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

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Young Women in Afghanistan & Northern Ireland ‘Choose To Challenge’ Through Music

Tuesday 13th April 2021 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music , Community Arts

Young musicians in Afghanistan & Northern Ireland have united to produce a music video based on a popular Afghan song ‘In Gham-e-be Haya’ meaning Audacious Sorrow composed by Ustad Salim Sarmast. Image: Young musicians in Afghanistan & Northern Ireland have united to produce a music video based on a popular Afghan song ‘In Gham-e-be Haya’ meaning Audacious Sorrow composed by Ustad Salim Sarmast.

Young musicians in Afghanistan & Northern Ireland have united to produce a music video based on a popular Afghan song ‘In Gham-e-be Haya’ meaning Audacious Sorrow composed by Ustad Salim Sarmast. This collaboration focuses on the International Women’s Day 2021 theme ‘Choose to Challenge’,  and uses music to challenge the recent statement issued in Afghanistan banning girls from singing in school from age 12 years upwards.

This song is the follow up to ‘Arsala Khan’ released last year and the second shared production in the trilogy as part of a social action programme building relations between young musicians in Northern Ireland & Afghan Women’s Orchestra led by Beyond Skin and Afghanistan National Institute of Music. The project is supported by WOMAD Foundation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Factor Law, Community Relations Council and Natali Márquez Foundation.

Anne Goldsworthy, Trustee, WOMAD Foundation said,

“The WOMAD Foundation supports many projects that harness the power of music and the arts to bring about collaboration between communities and to change opinions. This outstanding project excels in these areas. That they managed to achieve this during the pandemic, speaks volumes about the commitment of all concerned and their belief in the power of music to inspire, to build bridges and to promote understanding.  It is impossible to watch their videos without being truly moved.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Beyond Skin with this wonderful international, musical collaboration project, thanks to National Lottery players. We know that music and the arts bring people and communities closer together and I’d like to congratulate everyone involved and encourage all to tune in and enjoy this very special piece of music.”

Only two days after the world celebrated International Women’s Day 2021 with the theme Choose to Challenge, the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan issued a statement banning  girls 12 years old and up from singing in public arenas — this would include being able to participate in singing their National Anthem of Afghanistan. This decision was immediately challenged by Dr Ahmad Sarmast – founder and director of Afghanistan National Institute of Music who launched the campaign #IAmMySong. The campaign not only set out to reverse the decision but to also to improve human rights, child rights, women’s rights, musical rights, and the universal right to freedom of expression.

Dr Ahmad Sarmast said,

“I am very pleased to see the continuation of collaboration and partnership between young musicians of Afghanistan and Northern Ireland especially in a time that there was an attempt to silence Afghan girls singing in schools. This collaboration serves as a beautiful symbol of solidarity between young musicians through singing and music making in such a difficult time.”

‘In Gham-e-be Haya’ released on 13th April 2021, features singing with passionate powerful lyrics and is very much referencing #IAmMyVoice. The song is a global anthem of equality and a call for peace adding strength to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace & Security and 2030 UN Youth Strategy.

Charlotte Davidi, Comms. & Protection Coordinator at United Network of Young Peacebuilders said,

“There is little more powerful than the united voice of young people from different corners of the world facing the same challenges. In this case the voice is delivered in song, as a symbolic, creative, and bold stand against attempts to silence and violate young people’s rights.”

Behind this collaboration of inspiring musicianship is a professional production, logistics and management team who together have navigated through the pandemic restrictions, production challenges and security issues to enable the collaboration to happen.

Talia Smulian - Video Producer & Recording Artist said

“Being a woman in the music industry it is great to be a part of this powerful and empowering movement by young female musicians from across the world to have their voices heard”.

In 1996, the Taliban banned music in Afghanistan. Those found playing or selling it were imprisoned and tortured with many musicians fleeing the country. During the 30-year civil war, cultural institutions were decimated. The Afghan Women’s Orchestra (also known as Ensemble Zohra) is the first ever all – female ensemble in the history of Afghanistan.

The musicians performing on "In Gham-e-be Haya" from Afghanistan are Gulmina Khoshdil, Sevinch Majidi, Mina Karimi, Maram Abdulla, Alina Isari, Elyas Nabizada, Murtaza Khalili and Anita Alimi

From the Northern Ireland side, the musicians are Cara Monaghan, Kaya Lewandowska and seven members from the Traditional Arts Partnership South Armagh. Eadaoin Murphy, Edythe Qua, Enya Toner, Eimear Hand, Ciara Grant, Niamh Byrne & Claire Casey.

Elaine O'Sullivan – Music teacher / director. Traditional Arts Partnership said,

“The musicians from Traditional Arts Partnership have thoroughly enjoyed working on this second piece, "In Gham-e-be Haya". On both a musical and cultural level they have been educated and inspired and they have thoroughly enjoyed the journey with the musicians from Afghanistan so far.”

The wider vision is for members of the Afghan Women’s Orchestra to visit Northern Ireland for a series of concerts and recording sessions. Supporting partners on the programme include Unique New Adventure and Yallaa.”

"In Gham-e-be Haya" will be premiered on YouTube 13th April 2021  https://youtu.be/iFQIuGsDu4c

Visit:  www.anim-music.org  www.beyondskin.net/zohra

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World Book Night 2021

Monday 12th April 2021 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

World Book Night 2021 Image: World Book Night 2021

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the MAC and Libraries NI have come together to encourage bona fide bookworms, families and occasional readers, to settle down, curl up and enjoy this year’s World Book Night celebrations; the annual celebration of reading campaign by The Reading Agency on Friday 23rd April 2021.

To mark the occasion, the Arts Council and the MAC will be gifting 160 free copies of East Belfast-author Glenn Patterson’s latest novel, Where Are We Now?  to community groups, book clubs and members of the public. In addition Libraries NI will have copies of the book available in its branches across Northern Ireland for readers to borrow through its Book and Collect service.

One of 22 books chosen to be part of this year’s official UK World Book Night reading list, Where Are we Now?  is a moving, funny and topical story about lost love and growing older, set against a backdrop of modern day Belfast.

Keep an eye on this page for details of competitions and news on World Book Night events and activities.

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Randox Grand National 2021 trophy pays tribute to COVID pandemic key workers

Thursday 8th April 2021 at 4pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Randox Grand National 2021 trophy has been designed for the second year by Silversmith Cara Murphy from Northern Ireland. Image: Randox Grand National 2021 trophy has been designed for the second year by Silversmith Cara Murphy from Northern Ireland.

The headline sponsor of the Randox Grand National has unveiled the trophy for the 2021 event with a tribute to key workers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shown to the public for the first time on Saturday 3rd April during ITV Racing’s Opening Show, the 2021 trophy has been designed for the second year by Silversmith Cara Murphy from Northern Ireland.

The unique design of the silver and gold trophy, which includes illustrations of the COVID-19 virus on its base, acknowledges a historic year and the collective efforts of all key workers during this time.

Cara has been supported throughout her career by the Arts Council. Her silver tableware is represented in many national and international public and private collections including: The Silver Trust Collection at Downing Street; the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; the Ulster Museum; the National Museum of Ireland; the Shipley Art Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne; Aberdeen Art Gallery; the Arts Council an Chomhairle Ealaoin; the Irish Embassy Collection and the Royal College of Art, London.

Dr Peter FitzGerald, Randox Managing Director, said;

“It is only fitting that the trophy for the 2021 Randox Grand National recognises the momentous impact COVID-19 has had on all of our lives, and we pay tribute to the incredible dedication and sacrifice of all key workers in fighting the coronavirus.

“In establishing and running the largest throughput COVID-19 laboratory in the UK, Randox staff have stood shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the NHS and elsewhere, and we salute their commitment and achievements.

“As we reflect on the year gone by, and importantly, look ahead to the future, it will be vital that we take forward the lessons we have learnt from the pandemic – the importance of early and accurate testing and the role diagnostic technology can play in meeting future health challenges.

“I believe the 2021 Randox Grand National trophy will serve as a reminder of this message, and of the truly important things in life – our friends, our family, and our health.”

In recognition of Randox’s role in the UK National Testing Programme, the 2021 Randox Grand National trophy features an intricate stem made of the DNA double helix that forms the basis of the testing methods used to detect COVID-19.

At the head of the stem is a striking sphere to signify the circle of Randox’s corporate logo that has become synonymous with a blood drop on which so many of the company’s health tests, including those within Randox Health’s world-leading health checks, are conducted.

Silversmith Cara Murphy commented;

“This has been a tough year for everyone and it has been an honour to work with Randox to create the 2021 Randox Grand National trophy to commemorate the incredible and dedicated efforts of Randox staff in the UK’s National COVID-19 Testing Programme.

“Whilst we are unable to meet together in person for the 2021 Randox Grand National, their hard work has played such a key role in bringing us to a more positive place and one step closer to normality.

“In years to come the winner of this year’s trophy will look at the COVID virus engraving on its base and be able to reflect not only on their success in the Randox Grand National, but on the incredible challenges and achievements of these times.”

Another popular element returning for the 2021 Randox Grand National are the team trophies. In their first year as sponsor, Randox introduced the concept of presenting the entire winning team with individual trophies, to celebrate the combined effort that goes in to achieving such a special victory.

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Five talented writers announced for Lyric’s New Playwrights Programme

Thursday 1st April 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments Drama

Five talented writers announced for Lyric’s New Playwrights Programme. Pictured: Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, Caoimhe Farren, Rose Coogan, Paul Mallon and Eléonore Maudet. Image: Five talented writers announced for Lyric’s New Playwrights Programme. Pictured: Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, Caoimhe Farren, Rose Coogan, Paul Mallon and Eléonore Maudet.

The Lyric Theatre and Arts Council for Northern Ireland are delighted to announce this year’s recipients of the 2021 New Playwrights Programme. Now in its fourth year, the programme is a six-month writing development programme aimed at new and early career playwrights to create new work.  This year saw highest number of applicants with 330 submissions resulting in a shortlist of 29.  The five writers awarded places on the programme are:  Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, Caoimhe Farren, Rose Coogan, Paul Mallon and Eléonore Maudet.

As part of the Lyric’s continued commitment to supporting and developing talent, the writers will develop their ideas over the next six months with the support of Lyric’s Literary Manager, Rebecca Mairs.  The new works will be brought to life on stage (subject to Covid restrictions) at the Lyric Theatre in Autumn 2021 by professional actors and directors.

The 2021 programme is important more now than ever as it supports local freelance creatives.  Recently the Lyric announced it had employed over 310 freelancers in the past year despite the closure of the theatre due to the pandemic.

Rebecca Mairs, Literary Manager, Lyric Theatre, commented:

“We’re thrilled and deeply honoured that so many writers wanted to develop their work with us, despite the challenges of the past year.  The array of talent, originality and ingenuity across the submissions was remarkable and fills us with hope for the future.  Whilst the reading and selection process was a long and considered one, it clearly emerged that there were four projects which had the edge (including a husband-and-wife writing team), and we’re so excited to be working with this super talented group.”

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to partner with the Lyric Theatre on the New Playwright’s Programme, supported by our National Lottery and public funds.  This important programme ensures that emerging writers get dedicated, bespoke mentorship support over a six-month period to create and showcase new work.  This year’s line-up of five new playwrights – all from or based in NI – is really exciting. Two young writers with urgent, unique voices and stories to tell; and two established actors starting on their writing journeys with thrilling projects born from lived experience. A really dynamic host of artists, and I very much look forward to seeing their work on the Lyric Theatre stage later this year.”

For further details on the Lyric’s new writing work, please see lyrictheatre.co.uk/new-writing-lyric/  Follow the Lyric Theatre on social media @LyricBelfast.

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World Book Night’s 10th Anniversary

Thursday 1st April 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

World Book Night 2021 Image: World Book Night 2021

World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading, will take place on Friday 23rd April 2021. This year’s theme, “Books To Make You Smile” is a response to the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, highlighting the proven power of reading and the benefits it brings to well-being. This also coincides with the launch of “Stories to Make You Smile” – a new collection of short stories compiled by The Reading Agency together with Specsavers.

To mark its 10th anniversary this year World Book Night will be hosting a number of virtual events, book giveaways, online activities, exclusive releases and promotions, calling for the whole nation to celebrate reading for pleasure. Over the last ten years, The Reading Agency has distributed over 2,800,000 books to help spread the joy of reading, with 245 titles by 205 authors distributed by over 90,000 volunteers and organisations across the UK. As lockdown gradually eases, The Reading Agency encourages everyone to share the pleasure of reading whether virtually or safely in person, as bookshops and libraries are due to re-open from Monday 12th April, and book clubs will be able to meet again outdoors.

Celebrations on World Book Night itself will be marked by a livestreamed event in partnership with The British Library, hosted by World Book Night Ambassador Sandi Toksvig and featuring best-selling authors David Nicholls and Bolu Babalola, and World Book Night founder and Canongate CEO Jamie Byng (8-9pm).

Prior to the event, The Reading Agency is inviting the whole nation to join the #ReadingHour (7-8pm), when everyone is encouraged to spend time with a good book, alone or with others, reading in any format they want and wherever they like. Last year, the estimated social media reach of #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour was 14.3 million.

Celebrations on the night itself will also include a virtual event hosted by The British Library, featuring Nobel Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Kate Mosse, bestselling author of The City of Tears and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (6-7pm). Ishiguro, who was a World Book Night author in 2012, will be discussing his new novel Klara and the Sun as well as the wider impact of his writing on readers.

Sandi Toksvig, World Book Night 2021 Ambassador, said:

“I am so excited to be the lead ambassador for The Reading Agency’s World Book Night 2021 campaign, bringing the nation together to celebrate the power of books and reading on Friday 23rd April. This year marks the campaign’s 10th anniversary, and it feels more important than ever to celebrate the power of reading to inspire, entertain and challenge. We all could do with some light relief from reality which is why this year’s theme "Books to Make You Smile" is so perfect. It’s great to have the support of Specsavers on this vital campaign, who have teamed up with The Reading Agency as they pursue their mission to improve lives through reading."

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:

“We’re hugely excited to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of World Book Night with such a fantastic array of events. Given the challenges of the past year, our theme feels particularly resonant, and we're immensely grateful for the support from authors, publishers, bookshops and libraries to help spread the proven power of reading. We plan for this year’s World Book Night to be the biggest and best yet, and look forward to celebrating the Reading Hour with people across the country, ahead of what we’re sure will be a brilliant livestreamed event at The British Library – which is sure to make us all smile!”

As well as online activities, The Reading Agency has commissioned a new collection of short stories exclusively for World Book Night 2021, Stories to Make You Smile (published by Simon & Schuster). The commissioned book is edited by writer, former Costa Book Award judge and Quick Reads editor Fanny Blake, and featuring contributions from high-profile comedians and authors Richard Madeley, Jenny Éclair, Helen Lederer, Mark Watson, Eva Verde, Vaseem Khan and more.

Now available for pre-order in various formats, Stories to Make You Smile will be released on World Book Night, with 3,000 copies of the book being given out to customers through Specsavers competitions and giveaways, a free e-book version available to download on the day, and the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill), Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton, Doctor Who) and Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey, James Bond) available for pre-order now ahead of release on World Book Night.

Dame Mary Perkins, Co-founder of Specsavers, said:

“Reading is such a popular past-time with so many people and is certainly a passion of mine. This year, more than ever, being able to escape with a good book has been a lifeline and having something to smile about, particularly during these challenging times, is essential. Which is why Specsavers is delighted to be working with The Reading Agency to help make that possible by bringing you, not only good vision, but Stories to Make You Smile.”

On World Book Night, The Reading Agency will be giving away 100,000 books in various formats – twice as many as last year. The Reading Agency’s mission is to spread the joy of reading to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books, by distributing books to organisations such as prisons, hospitals, food banks, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups. Organisations receiving books this year include UNISON, Citizens Advice, Women’s Aid, Sanctuary Housing, Home-Start and many more. With a focus on well-being and mental health, the 2021 WBN booklist features Pam Ayres, Stephen King, Jack Monroe, Nina Stibbe, Jane Fallon, gal-dem, Kit de Waal, and many more. In addition to the booklist, The Reading Agency and Canongate will be distributing 10,000 copies of The Midnight Library, by international best-selling author and mental health advocate Matt Haig, to 10 library authorities. 

In addition to print books, The Reading Agency is giving away 6,000 free audiobooks, as part of their efforts to make reading available to the widest possible audience. This year’s audiobooks include Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Tanya Reynolds, BBC Audio’s Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, narrated by David Tennant and Samantha Spiro and Shahroo Izadi’s The Kindness Method. Anyone can apply online to receive an exclusive download code for an audiobook of their choice. 

For World Book Night, The Reading Agency is planning a Bookshop.org partnership, with authors sharing their reading recommendations for World Book Night (and beyond) on the online platform supporting independent bookshops. Waterstones will also be partnering up with The Reading Agency, supporting the #ReadingHour on social media and offering prize giveaways.

To find out how the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is celebrating World Book Night 2021, visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/world-book-night-2021 

Follow the latest developments on social media:

@WorldBookNight / @ReadingAgency / @Specsavers / @ArtsCouncilNI
#WorldBookNight / #ReadingHour / #BooksToMakeYouSmile 

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UTV Life tunes up for a local Music Special

Monday 29th March 2021 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

ROE Image: ROE

UTV’s weekly magazine programme ‘UTV Life’ is hitting the right notes, with a special hour long programme showcasing some of the best of the local music scene, to be transmitted on Tuesday 30th March at 8pm.

The programme will give local artists a chance to chat to presenter Pamela Ballantine and update their fans on what they’ve been up to during lockdown, their future projects, and more importantly a platform to share their latest music, given how artists haven’t been able to perform live for over a year now due to the pandemic.

Pamela said, “Whilst all industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, the arts and music sectors which rely so much on live performances, quite literally disappeared overnight because of COVID-19. I’m delighted to be able to catch up with some familiar faces, and some new ones too and more importantly give them a chance to showcase their talents by sharing their classic tracks and new music as well.”

Pamela first chats to music expert Ralph McClean who gives his own take on the local music scene, how it has been affected in the past year, and how important he feels it is to give local groups a platform to perform.

The line-up of guests includes singer songwriters Gareth Dunlop and Dom Martin; pop and country singer Lisa McHugh; singer songwriter from Derry / Londonderry, Roe; Jordan Adetunji, a hip hop rapper from Belfast; singer songwriter, and winner of the last NI Music Awards, Sasha Samara; veteran blues and jazz guitarist, Ronnie Greer and Indie Rock Band, The Minnows

Reporter Rita Fitzgerald also caught up with Belfast rock trio, Dea Matrona, who went back to their roots and performed one of their most recent songs outdoors in Belfast, where they rose to fame while busking in the city’s streets.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to see UTV create this one-hour music special which offers a vital platform to showcase musical talent from across the region.  The show features a number of musicians that have recently been supported by the Arts Council’s emergency funding programmes, designed to provide much-needed financial support at a time when essential elements of the arts sector have been decimated due to venue closures, festival and event cancellations and the disappearance of live audiences, as a result of the pandemic.

“TV shows like this one are absolutely critical in helping to support our artists as we emerge out of lockdown and wait for a time when we can all get safely back into venues to enjoy live music together once again. Congratulations to all involved!”

Join Pamela on Tuesday 30th March 8pm on UTV. Viewers can join in the conversation on Twitter @UTVLife.

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The Oh Yeah Music Centre presents New Talent with New Music

Friday 26th March 2021 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Scratch My Progress Image: Scratch My Progress

The Oh Yeah Music Centre is delighted to announce the release of this year's showcase EP from its annual talent development programme Scratch My Progress.

The five fresh new acts which Oh Yeah took on board in September 2020 under the restrictions of the pandemic, have each written, recorded and released very different tracks in a year that has been like no other for the project or the artists.

The acts on the programme include Riley Holland, Gilmore, Gender Chores, Vivamagnolia and Lemonade Shoelace and since March 2020 none of them have had an opportunity to play live or trial their sound in front of a live audience. Access to safe practice has been difficult too, but earlier this year they rose to the challenge and recorded a live performance under the guidance of Oh Yeah. In light of there being no opportunity for the usual live showcase these performances were pre-recorded and can instead be viewed on the Oh Yeah YouTube Channel.

Talent Development Manager Charlene Hegarty who has guided the participants through the last 7 months said:

“2020 delivered the toughest conditions in living memory for the creative arts. I am so proud of the 5 acts featured on this release - they rose to the challenge, remained committed throughout and have delivered the most accomplished and diverse range of new sounds. Dive in, surround yourself in the music, support these young local artists and the arts. This is just the start”

Scratch My Progress is a mentoring, showcase and practical support programme for new music. The dedicated talent development programme, now in its 9th year, is supported by the PRS Foundation, Help Musicians and YouTube Music. Oh Yeah also gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.

Please support these new acts and listen to, download and buy the tracks from HERE

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Books to be gifted ahead of World Book Night 2021

Friday 26th March 2021 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is author Glenn Patterson with Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council. Image: Pictured is author Glenn Patterson with Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the MAC and Libraries NI have come together to encourage bona fide bookworms, families and occasional readers, to settle down, curl up and enjoy this year’s World Book Night celebrations; the annual celebration of reading campaign by The Reading Agency on Friday 23rd April 2021.

To mark the occasion, the Arts Council and the MAC will be gifting 160 free copies of East Belfast-author Glenn Patterson’s latest novel, Where Are We Now?  to community groups, book clubs and members of the public. In addition Libraries NI will have copies of the book available in its branches across Northern Ireland for readers to borrow through its Book and Collect service.

One of 22 books chosen to be part of this year’s official UK World Book Night reading list, Where Are we Now?  is a moving, funny and topical story about lost love and growing older, set against a backdrop of modern day Belfast.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“World Book Night is open to everyone and is all about celebrating the joy of reading. In a year like no other, so many of us over the last 12 months have reconnected with books and stories, finding precious moments to escape through the page into other places and times.

“All of the books chosen for this year’s official World Book Night reading list are based around the theme of Books To Make You Smile and we are very pleased to see a book from Northern Ireland writer Glenn Patterson – one of our most celebrated contemporary authors - included as a recommended read. On World Book Night itself, there will be online activities happening across the UK as well as Reading Hour at 7pm, so there really is an opportunity for everyone to get involved.”

Over next number of weeks the MAC will be gifting copies of Where Are We Now? through their Associate Partners, reaching out to people who don’t regularly read for pleasure of have access to books.

Simon Magill, Creative Director at the MAC explained:

"We are delighted to be taking part in this year’s World Book Night celebrations.

“At the MAC, we believe that the arts have the power to change lives, impact people positively - especially around mental and emotional wellbeing. We’re really pleased to be able to share Glenn Patterson's work with the communities we support – a local writer whose books speak to the experiences of Northern Irish people. Working with our Associate Partners, including Action Mental Health and Extern, we hope that imaginations will be sparked, and connections will be made with Glenn's story."

Members of the public will also be able to borrow a copy of Where Are We Now? from their local library, with ebooks and audio book versions also available.

Julie Reid, Deputy Head of Service at Libraries NI added:

“So many people have rediscovered books during the COVID pandemic and all the potential benefits of reading including reduced stress, keeping our brains active and increased life satisfaction. 

“We want to encourage as many people as possible to take part in World Book Night this year so please call your local library to borrow a copy of Where Are We Now?”

For more information go to www.worldbooknight.org and follow the Arts Council online on Twitter @ArtsCouncilNI and Facebook facebook.com/ArtsCouncilNI.

To borrow a copy of Glenn Patterson’s Where Are We Now?, contact your local library or visit www.librariesni.org.uk

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Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcomes significant announcement by BBC

Thursday 18th March 2021 at 8pm 0 Comments

BBC Director General, Tim Davie Image: BBC Director General, Tim Davie

BBC to devolve more programming to nations and regions outside London

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today welcomed news from the BBC’s Director General, Tim Davie, of plans to enhance its creative presence across the UK and ensure that BBC programmes and services more fully reflect the needs and diversity of audiences, wherever they live.

This is good news for the arts and creative sectors in Northern Ireland and the Arts Council is committed to strengthening its collaborations with BBC NI and the wider arts sector.

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “We welcome the BBC’s announcement of an increase in devolved production and we want to see more high quality, locally created, arts content on BBC platforms - the successful Culture in Quarantine Series of short films in 2020,  built from collaboration between BBC NI, the Lyric Theatre and many of our talented NI writers, actors and dramaturgs, is just one recent example of a top-class partnership that we’d like to see more of. We look forward to working with our colleagues in BBC NI on these exciting initiatives”.

For further information on today’s Across the UK plan, relevant developments and initiatives, including some important benefits for the BBC’s work in Northern Ireland and the region’s arts and creative sectors, please take a look at:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-56433109.
 

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Countdown to First NI Writers Day

Wednesday 17th March 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Award-winning poet and Chair of the RSL, Daljit Nagra Image: Award-winning poet and Chair of the RSL, Daljit Nagra

Booklovers and budding writers have just a few days left to secure a place at the first NI Writers Day on Tuesday 23rd March. The free online day of events hosted by the Royal Society of Literature and the Arts Council will celebrate Northern Ireland writers and writing.
 

Linked to RSL Open -in which the RSL is seeking public recommendations of excellent UK writers who are underrepresented in the literary culture - NI Writers Day will shine a spotlight on our acclaimed poets, playwrights and authors.

NI Writers Day is part of a UK wide drive by the Royal Society of Literature to broaden its reach and celebrate diversity in literature.  Founded in 1820, RSL is a long-established and respected voice for writers and champion for the arts. Through its RSL Open Fellowship Programme, 60 new fellows will be elected this year, from communities under-represented in UK literature - particularly working class writers, writers outside of London, writers of colour, and LGBTQ+ writers.

This is the first time that the RSL has joined with the Arts Council to host an event like this in Northern Ireland and the planned programme has been designed to appeal to both readers and writers.

The day’s proceedings will be hosted by award-winning Belfast-born writer Paul McVeigh. In conversation with Director of the RSL Molly Rosenberg, they will discuss the RSL Open Fellowship Programme, why a community of writers is important, and how to recommend a writer to the programme.

At lunchtime, award-winning poet and Chair of the RSL, Daljit Nagra, will deliver a free hour-long workshop. Open to all, whether you have recently started writing or are regularly performing work, Daljit’s writing exercises and infectious energy will encourage writers to experiment with form and imagination.

Events will come to a close with a very special panel discussion featuring some of the finest Northern Irish writers working across form and genre today. Short-story writer Wendy Erskine, novelist Glenn Patterson, playwright Shannon Yee and poet and Chair of the RSL, Daljit Nagra, will discuss their work, routes into writing and the Northern Irish literary scene.

Director of the RSL Molly Rosenberg, explained: “The RSL and Arts Council believe that literature is at its best when it includes voices from the greatest breadth of backgrounds and experiences from across the UK. I’m thrilled to be working with ACNI on this day-long programme to celebrate the great writing and writers of Northern Ireland, and am excited to see our relationship only deepen into the future with the RSL Open Fellowship programme."

Head of Drama and Literature at the Arts Council, Damian Smyth said: “We are delighted to work in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature to help raise the profile of writers from NI. This will be a great day of discussion, showcasing and promotion, where all varieties of literature, from flash to poetry to performance, fiction, non-fiction and memoir, across the genres and ages, engaging with diversity in every sense, can be recognised. It marks a key moment in the visibility of writers as a whole and we can’t wait!”

At the heart of the RSL is its Fellowship, which encompasses around 600 of the most eminent authors working in the English language in the UK. The RSL’s Fellows inform all their activities —from judging prizes to writing new work for our young people’s outreach programme, from speaking at events to leading new initiatives to bring literature to the greatest possible number of people across the UK. Guided by your recommendations, RSL seek to celebrate the great diversity of the UK’s literary writing and writers in our Fellowship.

To read more about RSL Open and how you can nominate your favourite NI author visit https://rsliterature.org/rsl-open/

Tickets for NI Writers Day are free and can be booked via the RSL website. Numbers are strictly limited for the poetry workshop with Daljit Nagra. Go to www.rsliterature.org/whats-on/.

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Digital Arts Studios announces Home Residency Online for UK and Ireland artists

Tuesday 16th March 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Digital Arts Studios announces Home Residency Online for UK and Ireland artists Image: Digital Arts Studios announces Home Residency Online for UK and Ireland artists

From dancers and sculptors, to photographers and filmmakers, over 200 artists have participated in Digital Arts Studios (DAS) residencies since it opened its doors in 2003. 
Taking place remotely this year for the first time, DAS Home Residency Online offers artists from the UK and Ireland four months to work on a specific project of their choice, developing their skills and artistic practice.

Successful applicants to the DAS Home Residency Online will have access to specialist audio-visual equipment and support, a series of online workshops by creative professionals, artists’ talks, seminars with peer reviews and a profile on the DAS website.  They will also have their work featured in a dedicated DAS online exhibition.

Dr. Angela Halliday, DAS Manager, looks ahead to plans for this year’s programme, which runs from April to July:

“Being a practicing artist can be an isolating experience at the best of times, but this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  One of the benefits of the DAS Home Residency Online is that it gives artists from a wide range of fields the chance to focus on their practice and a particular project for a four month period, while networking with other artists and accessing our specialist equipment and technical support. 

DAS Home Residency Online welcomes proposals from UK and Ireland artists from any background who engage with digital technologies to push the boundaries of their own practice and of the cultural world around us.”

Belfast artist Gerard Carson works in sculpture, 3D animation and drawing.  He took part in the DAS Home Residency in 2019 and says of the experience:

“I was interested in taking part in the DAS Home Residency as I felt it would be a good opportunity to work with other artists from Northern Ireland and to make use of the excellent facilities at DAS to produce a new body of work.

I came onto the DAS Home Residency with the specific goal of focusing on my skill in using 3D animation and modelling software, such as Blender and Z-Brush. The residency allowed me the time to learn and explore the possibilities of these programmes and to integrate these aspects into my broader practice.

I would encourage artists to apply for the DAS residency as it is a great opportunity to meet other artists working in digital media and to learn more about your own methodologies. DAS also has an excellent range of equipment available that would otherwise be tricky to source.”

DAS Home Residency Online will run from April to July 2021 and the deadline for applications for artists based in Ireland and the UK is 26 March.

To apply now, visit https://digitalartsstudios.com/residencies or for queries about the programme email catherine@digitalartsstudios.com 

Digital Arts Studios is kindly supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

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Tumble Circus fairytale film selected for Circus International Film Festival 2021

Monday 15th March 2021 at 11am 0 Comments Circus & Carnival Arts

Tumble Circus, Wood Trap Image: Tumble Circus, Wood Trap

Wood Trap, a film by the award-winning Belfast based circus company, Tumble Circus, has been chosen to feature at the prestigious Circus International Film Festival, dedicated to showcasing and supporting the art of circus through the medium of film.  The film is supported by the Department for Communities and Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the Organisations Emergency Programme.

Tumble Circus was founded in 1998 by Ken Fanning and Tina Segner, and is the only non-traditional big top touring circus on the island of Ireland.  In their 21st year they were proud headliners at the Glastonbury Festival.  Their exciting, new film, Wood Trap, was created during lockdown with Covid-19 safety measures in place at Belfast Circus School.  The film is a circus fairytale, set in a magical forest, where a women flies through eterial shadows and colour’s and is suitable for all ages to view and enjoy.

Founding member of Tumble Circus and writer/director of Wood Trap, Ken Fanning, commented: 

“Wood Trap was part of Tumble Circus, Winter Circus the Movie, and is a 45min film celebrating Belfast and a host of local circus artists. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities and it allowed us the time, equipment and space to create circus for the screen. During Covid all live preforming has been impossible and this grant gave us the opportunity to refocus our creativity and continue our practice.  Having all our work cancelled has been devastating for our circus community, this project was a lifeline, keeping us inspired, creative and hopeful.”

Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Gilly Campbell, added,

“Congratulations to the team at Tumble Circus in having their film, Wood Trap, selected for the Circus International Film Festival.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this film through our Organisational Emergency Programme (OEP), a vital funding scheme established to help organisations respond to the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work and plan for recovery in the long-term.”

To view the film visit https://youtu.be/kZt_NAft6Sw

At 10am on Saint Patrick’s Day, join Tumble Circus online when they will reveal another new film, The Mac Carnysons, as part of the national St Patricks Day Festival.  Find out more at https://www.stpatricksfestival.ie/events/tumble-circus-presents-the-maccarnyson

To find out more about Tumble Circus visit www.tumblecircus.com

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Children and Young People encouraged to enjoy, Break-Time, Arts Care’s new mental health programme

Thursday 11th March 2021 at 12pm 0 Comments Arts & Health , Youth Arts

Children and Young People encouraged to enjoy, Break-Time, Arts Care’s new mental health programme supported by National Lottery Image: Children and Young People encouraged to enjoy, Break-Time, Arts Care’s new mental health programme supported by National Lottery

Arts Care has launched Break-Time, a new free online arts programme designed to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people during the Covid-19 pandemic, supported by public and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Believing in the benefits of creativity to well-being Arts Care makes all forms of art accessible to patients, clients, residents and staff in health and social care settings across Northern Ireland.  During the Covid-19 pandemic many children and young people find themselves spending a lot more time at home where they are missing their friends and wider family, so Arts Care has created Break-Time to support them in relieving the associated stress, anxiety and boredom. 

The programme offers a wide range of fun and engaging online workshops covering visual art, music, dance, drama, poetry, storytelling and Clowndoctor TV.  Each workshop has been designed and facilitated by Arts Care’s highly experienced professional artists and are suitable for parents, teachers, play specialists and healthcare staff to enjoy alongside children.  Break-Time releases a new series of creative workshops every week and there are currently over thirty Break-Time workshops to enjoy on the Arts Care website.

Dr Jenny Elliott, Chief Executive/Artistic Director Arts Care added:

“We are thrilled to offer our new Break-Time online arts resource to support children and young people who have been experiencing a real sense of anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Break-Time is one aspect of our wider Arts Programme which is built on the Public Health Agency’s Take 5 Steps to Well-being Campaign which encourages children and young people to think about their health and well-being by getting creative.”

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30million for good causes across the UK.  Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Thanks to National Lottery players, Arts Care has created this terrific new resource which can be easily accessed online.  We know that the Arts have a huge role to play in supporting positive mental health and well-being, in people of all ages, and the Arts Council is proud to support this important initiative by Arts Care which supports children and young people at a time in their lives when they are facing unprecedented challenges on their mental health as a result of the pandemic.  The workshops offer high-quality creative engagement and I would encourage all young people to get involved and enjoy!”   

To access Break-Time visit www.artscare.co.uk/breaktime

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