Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Funding and Development Agency
for The Arts in Northern Ireland

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

Tuesday 31st March 2020 at 10am 0 Comments


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: 30 March 2020

A message from the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, welcoming £1m emergency Creative Support Fund, announced on Friday by Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA. Plus our update on COVID-19 -

Updated: 27 March 2020

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today welcomed the announcement by the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to put in place funding of £1m to support the arts sector in Northern Ireland.

The Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Roisin McDonough said,

"The arts sector in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure at the moment. The Council has moved quickly to distribute year-end funding earlier than usual to our core arts organisations but we knew more resources were needed to support the high number of individual artists and freelancers in our sector.  After much discussion last week with the Department for Communities we submitted a bid to the Minister for extra support and we welcome her announcement today. Minister Hargey has stepped in with an initial package to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland worth £1m of much-needed support for creatives and individual artists working here. It is a bit of good news in the midst of the Corona Virus epidemic  which has caused the near decimation of many livelihoods within the arts and culture sectors in a short period of time."


UK government has announced that it will pay the self-employed or a member of a partnership, who have suffered loss of income due to the conronavirus outbreak, a taxable grant of 80% of their profits, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 and with a full year of accounts. Payments through the scheme will begin in June.
Further details here

Updated: 26 March 2020

We have designed a short survey designed to collect information about the financial and human impacts that the spread of coronavirus have had on artists and arts organisations in Northern Ireland.

We will work closely with colleagues in Government to share the impacts arising and make the case for additional resources to help mitigate against the short, medium and long-term effects of this situation.

Complete the survey -

Updated: 25 March 2020

The Arts Council has been in productive discussions with Minister For Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA about an emergency rescue funding package for local artists and arts organisations. Details to be announced in the coming days.

Updated: 23 March 2020

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a package of support measures for businesses and employees on Friday 20th March. This package includes support for businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where HMRC will reimburse 80% of workers wage cost, up to £2,500 per month
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses to reclaim pay for sickness absence due to COVID-19

Visit for more information on eligibility.

The Department for Communities has also published new information on Universal Credit. New claims to Universal Credit can still be made online with additional telephone support available if you need help with a new claim. Visit for more information.

Updated: 21 March 2020

On Friday 20th March, the UK government instructed cafes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close. This applies to Northern Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer simultaneously announced package of support measures for businesses and employees. Full details at

Updated: 19 March 2020

Under the current guidance from the UK Government on COVID-19, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has taken the following steps to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff, clients and their families:

  • No on-site or off-site face-to-face meetings.
  • Our staff will be working from home from 5pm on Thursday March 19th until further notice. We advise that you contact staff by email, using the online staff list, which you can find here:

Our aim is to provide a business as usual response in these difficult times however, it is likely that you, and Arts Council staff, will experience a delay in receiving responses to enquiries and decision-making. We ask for your patience and remind you that not all Arts Council staff will be available by phone, but we hope to have everyone accessible by email; our preferred channel of communication.

Please note if your enquiry is urgent and is about a payment, an application or an administration issue, please contact our main number 028 9262 3555 and your call will be redirected to an appropriate member of staff. If you have an urgent media enquiry outside of working hours only (9am-5pm) please contact one of the media team on (+) 44 07738543593.

Updated: 16 March 2020

UK Government Advice
The current advice from the UK Government is that it is more or less ‘business as usual’. There are no immediate bans on live events or public meetings, although gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled where there is likely to be an implication for the emergency services.

The government’s action plan for Coronavirus (published 3 March 2020) has more information about the stages we are moving through. Population distancing strategies such as school closures, encouraging more home working and reducing the number of large-scale gatherings in order to slow the spread of the disease may be introduced in the future.

The latest information and guidance on the situation in Northern Ireland is available from the Public Health Agency website.

Plan and prepare
However, the Government has raised the risk rating for Coronavirus in the UK to high, and the situation is constantly evolving. We would therefore advise everyone in these very uncertain times to prepare and to consider adjustments to your business plans to take into account the latest guidance and the level of disruption that might be caused.

You may have to cancel planned events, close down for a period of time or take action if staff become ill. This will have serious implications for artists, arts organisations and staff.

Arts Council Support
Our priority is to support people who work in the arts through the challenges they may face over the coming months as a result of Coronavirus.

Existing funding awards:

  • We will honour all grants already made in 2019/20 (including but not limited to: Annually Funded Programme, Lottery Project Funding, Small Grants, Rural Needs and Support for the Individual Artist) and will work flexibly with you should you need to reschedule events and/or tours.
  • We will aim to issue any remaining balance of payments for 2019/20 as a matter of urgency.
  • We will work flexibly with you on contracts for next year, 2020/21 (for example Annually Funded Programme and organisations in receipt of Lottery Programme funding). This may include advancing grant payment to assist with cashflow.
  • Funded arts organisations, in exchange for Arts Council support, are asked to continue as far as possible to honour agreed contracts with artists and freelancers.
  • Our Arts Officers and Assistants are currently talking to arts organisations to ascertain the impacts and cost implications for organisations.
  • We are in discussion with our parent department, the Department for Communities, and we are assessing what additional support might be offered to the arts sector.

Applications currently submitted for assessment:
Applications are currently being assessed following the usual published processes and timeframes. Successful applicants whose activities take place predominantly over the next three months (April, May, June 2020) will be contacted to ascertain how their project may be impacted. We aim to take a pragmatic and flexible approach should plans be required to change due to Coronavirus.

New funding applications:
We would ask all future applicants to ensure that any applications being proposed are not in conflict with the current government advice. For example, projects involving international travel to areas already affected are unlikely to be supported at present.

Keeping you updated
We will continue to update this web page and keep our social media channels updated as and when guidance and information changes.


Useful Links:
Public Health Agency guidance:

UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan:

Independent Arts Projects:
Covid-19 Links to Advice and support for Arts Workers

HM Treasury: Budget 2020 - Support for those affected by COVID-19:

UK Music Advice to Businesses on Coronavirus



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