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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

Thursday 28th May 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: 27 May 2020

Arts Council Chief Executive gives Covid-19 update to Communities Committee, Stormont

The Arts Council of NI (ACNI) was invited to apprise the Communities Committee of the NI Assembly today (Wednesday 27th May 2020) of the impact of Covid-19 on the Arts in NI. In both a written submission, and an opening statement  Roisín Mc Donough, Chief Executive, outlined the severe impact of Covid-19 on an arts sector that previously generated £53 million in income and employed an estimated 7,500 people - income and jobs which had been seriously damaged by the pandemic. She evidenced sectoral surveys undertaken during Covid-19 lockdown which revealed significant loss of earnings to both organisations and artists, the majority of whom are self-employed in a gig economy and most vulnerable of all.

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Updated: 26 May 2020

Creative Support Fund announced for Small to Medium sized organisations

Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA, has announced a new Creative Support Fund worth £500,000 of public funding to support Small to Medium sized arts organisations in Northern Ireland during the Coronavirus crisis.

The fund will open for applications on Monday.

More information will be available on June 1st 2020 from

Updated: 14 May 2020

Arts Council of Northern Ireland - Box-Office Survey

The sector wide survey carried out by the Arts Council in March established the immediate impacts of Covid-19 on the whole sector.  It found that a number of organisations were heavily reliant on box-office sales, an income stream which has been hit hard since the lockdown.

To demonstrate the vital role they play in the sector and the wider Northern Ireland economy, in 2018/19, core funded organisations combined to generate £12.3m through box-office income, by far the largest since source of income.

It is important we find out more about the scale and nature of box-office losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus, so we can engage with government and the philanthropic sector in an informed way.

We invite all organisations generating income through their box-office to complete this survey which is targeted at venues (run independently or via local authorities), producing and touring theatre companies, festivals, non-venue based organisation and organisations providing courses for educational activity.

The Arts Council will publish findings in an aggregated and anonymised form to avoid disclosure and respect the commercial confidentiality of participating organisations.  The survey will be open until Monday 1st June.

Updated: 12 May 2020

The Artists Emergency Fund is temporarily closed due to a high level of interest.

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application. The response to date is significant; we received over 300 applications requesting over £1.2m of funding. The Arts Council is currently moderating round 1 of eligible applications received and hopes to respond to all requests within a two to four-weeks timeframe.

The second round of AEP applications will be assessed before the end of May. The Arts Council continues to work with Minister Hargey to determine the level of need within the sector and we aim to offer as much support as possible to individual artists and creative practitioners at this stressful time.

Updated: 6 May 2020

Arts Council publishes final report on the impact of Coronavirus on NI Arts sector.

  • financial impact on NI artists is ‘severe and immediate’
  • average anticipated loss of earnings for NI artists over 3-month period (March-May) is £3,756
  • average anticipated loss of earnings for NI arts organisations over 3-month period is £36,714
  • total anticipated loss of earnings to NI arts organisations over 3-month period is £3.97 million
  • immediate and direct impact on provision of all arts services. 

Updated: 27 April 2020

Emergency Funding announced for NI Artists and Arts Organisations 

Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA, today (Monday 27th April 2020) announced a new Creative Support Fund totaling £1.5 million to support the arts sector in Northern Ireland during the Coronavirus crisis. 

The Department for Communities is contributing £1 million to support arts organisations and the Arts Council is contributing £500,000 from its National Lottery Fund to support freelance artists, creative practitioners and performers. 

The Creative Support funding package comprises two strands. Both funds will be administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

  • The Artists Emergency Programme OPENS TODAY.
  • The Organisations Emergency Programme is scheduled to open for applications in May 2020.

Read the Arts Council news release here

Read the Minister's news release here.

Artists Emergency Programme

  • £500,000 Arts Council National Lottery funds to support artists and freelancers
  • Individual grants of up-to £5,000
  • This programme supports the research, design and future presentation of events, performances and other artistic projects, including resources to help artists develop their artistic practice.
  • AEP will buy artists creative time to develop their skills and practice during these difficult times, for future presentation of work.
  • This is a rolling programme, opening today until further notice, for proposals ending March 2021.

Application forms and Guidance Notes for the Artists Emergency Programme are now available from the Arts Council here.

Organisations Emergency Programme

  • £500,000 to support small- to medium-sized arts organisations with individual grants of up-to £25,000
  • £500,000 held to monitor demand across the Organisations and Artists Emergency Programmes and allocated as projects develop.
  • This is a rolling programme, co-designed by the Arts Council and DfC.
  • Programme opens: May 2020

Application forms and Guidance Notes for the Organisations Emergency Fund will be available from the Arts Council in May. Please watch Arts Council website and social media for application opening announcement.

Updated: 16 April 2020

Arts Council publishes key findings of survey on financial impact of Coronavirus on NI Arts sector. 

  • Financial impact on NI artists is ‘severe and immediate’
  • average anticipated loss of earnings for NI artists over 3-month period (March-May) is £3,756
  • average anticipated loss of earnings for NI arts organisations over 3-month period is £36,714
  • total anticipated loss of earnings to NI arts organisations over 3-month period is £3.97 million
  • immediate and direct impact on provision of all arts services. This includes arts-led community engagement work, placing at greater risk vulnerable groups in NI society, such as older people with dementia and young people with poor mental health and well-being, and potentially compromising important peace-building work.

Updated: 3 April 2020

UK Government Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

Each individual arts organisation and its board must decide how and whether to apply for the JRS furlough funding. Organisations funded by ACNI may do so; however, they must follow the government's advice. There will be variations across funded organisations with regard to the levels of ACNI funding of core staff.

Please note:

  • organisations must ensure that JRS financial support must not duplicate public grant funding (there can be no double funding)
  • organisations will be eligible for JRS so long as you do not receive public funding that is explicitly designed to cover the costs now being claimed for
  • in addition, payments received as a result of the JRS must not, when combined with your existing public funding, mean that you are receiving total public funding that exceeds your anticipated level of income for this period (the total of grants and JRSA payments should not represent more than 100% of your level of total income which you would have expected to receive during this period in a non-Covid-19 scenario).


Updated: 3rd April 2020

The Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland posted a video message today to the arts sector. Roisin McDonough said she wanted to let people know that she and her staff are doing their utmost to bring as much support as possible, as quickly as possible to those who need it most.

She stated she was very aware of how much individual artists and creative practitioners in particular, were hurting in these uncertain times. Her reading of initial returns from the Arts Council's recent online survey asking how artists are dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, made 'a bleak picture'.

Support for Northern Ireland's hard-pressed artists and creative practitioners is absolutely essential and the Arts Council is working on a quick response to their needs. The Artists' Emergency Programme will be a flexible and 'light touch' scheme with an emphasis on making a speedy and flexible response to the hardship many are under; the programme should open by mid-April. The Council is also planning to reprofile existing budgets which will augment the work of those same artists in the months ahead.

Flexibility and liquidity are key to the whole sector at the moment; flexibility in how funding is deployed and used this year, and the use of upfront payments and support for the sector as they manage cash flow.   

Finally, Ms McDonough reiterated the work that her staff were undertaking alongside the Department for Communities to ensure the Minister's recent announcement of £1m of aid would make a difference to the wider cultural sector in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, including those working with museums, libraries and languages.

For further information on these support measures please continue to visit the Arts Council's website where updates will be regularly posted.


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

Equality Commission NI - advice for employers

Creative Industries Federation - summary of available government support

ACAS - advice for employers and employees

Arts Professional - CovidCulture - articles relating to the COVID-19 crisis and the arts



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